NOFA-NY Field Notes

NOFA-NY Field Notes Blog

Our blog is a great way to stay current on organic farming, gardening, certification, policy, and community information and issues that we regularly share. We help you stay on top of everything that relates to technical and practical organic farming and gardening, timely and important legislative policies, field days, conferences, consumer issues, and more.

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Andrianna Natsoulas is the executive director of NOFA-NY.

Our 37th Winter Conference

Our 37th Winter Conference
 

Thank you to all who attended NOFA-NY’s 37th Annual Organic Farming & Gardening Conference! In spite of the weather, you came together to share stories, celebrate seeds, exchange ideas, dance and play trivia. I have heard some wonderful feedback about the quality of the workshops, the keynote speakers, the children’s conference, and the sense of community.

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NOFA-NY’s Action on the Genetically Engineered Diamondback Moth

Last week, NOFA-NY put out an Action Alert asking Governor Cuomo to stop an experiment that would release thousands of genetically modified diamondback moths in Geneva, NY. In the action alert, we raised the issue that consumers could eat GMO larvae with their broccoli. (By the way, we could eat non-GMO larvae in organic broccoli, too.)

Some NOFA-NY members felt we were extreme in our alert and tone, so I wanted to take this opportunity to explain. 

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Protecting Organic Integrity

Protecting Organic Integrity

May has been a busy month for Peter Whoriskey, an investigative reporter at the Washington Post. In two weeks’ time, he published findings from two different cases of organic fraud. One on domestic grounds; the other in the import arena. 

The May 1st article, Why your ‘organic’ milk may not be organic (photo credit: Washington Post/Jorge Ribas) unearthed the lack of compliance by Aurora Organic Dairy in Greenly, CO. Aurora, with over 15,000 cows, provides milk to big-box stores, such as Walmart and Costco. This is not a new situation. Ten years ago, Aurora was not in compliance with the standards and the USDA charged them with “willful violation”, but nothing really changed. The USDA continues to accredit the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the inspector for Aurora Dairy. We at NOFA-NY do not certify factory farms with no access to pasture, and will continue to pressure the USDA to ensure all certifiers are compliant.

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View from the NOFA Interstate Council: We are Part of Something Bigger!

NOFA-NY is one of seven Northeastern state organizations that work together under the umbrella of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). Other states include CT, MA, NH, NJ, RI, and VT. Known as the Interstate Council (IC), members of the IC come together annually to discuss cross-cutting issues that range from policy initiatives to organizational affiliations.

Last week, April 4-6, the IC met in Bourne, MA, a quaint seaside town on the base of Cape Cod. Executive Directors, staff, and Board members came together at Overbrook House. It was my first IC retreat and it was so fulfilling—and fun!— to spend time with such dedicated individuals focused on the organic food and farming movement of the Northeast United States. We learned how each chapter was attending to their membership; providing stellar educational programs; and addressing state policy work. We also had an opportunity to discuss how the new political stage may – or may not – impact the work we do. 

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Snow, Milk and Grains

Two days after the entire state of New York was declared a state of emergency due to a severe snow storm, NOFA-NY held our annual Dairy & Field Crop Conference in Liverpool/Syracuse. Despite up to three feet of snow, hearty dairy farmers, crop farmers, supporters and staff weathered the aftermath of the storm to attend the conference. Once again, I am inspired by the dedication of New York State's farming community.

Jack Lazor, our keynote speaker, provided a stellar speech, weaving personal stories into 40 years of farming. He started Butterworks Farm in 1976, and over the years constantly perfected the journey from small scale production to grass-fed management. Through hard work and commitment, he illustrated that being respectful and taking care of the earth and animals has benefits beyond the pocketbook. As he said so beautifully, "Generosity to Mother Earth doesn't cost, it pays." There is a true personal enlightenment from working with the land and providing food for your community.

Every year, the number of organic dairies in New York state increases. The Dairy and Field Crop Conference is a valuable opportunity to provide support and resources to the growing profession. Our trade show provided an array of business support for dairy and field crop farmers. From Maple Hill Creamery to the USDA to Country Folks, so many people are committed to providing the resources and tools necessary to collaborate and build successful farming businesses...

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Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is complete and we are in the processing stage. It was a whirlwind three days! As my first time at the conference as Executive Director, I was amazed at the enthusiasm of participants, the knowledge of the presenters, and the commitment by the NOFA-NY staff to make the conference successful! I was heartened by the true spirit of cooperation by the Saratoga Springs Hilton and City Center to work with us and ensure it ran as smoothly as possible. The food was outstanding, thanks to all our food donors and chefs. It all left me greatly inspired.

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Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is right around the corner! What a positive way to usher in the New Year! January is a busy month with several NOFA conferences and the Presidential inauguration. You may be deciding whether or not to join the hustle and bustle in Washington, DC or enjoy the activities and festivities of the Winter Conference. For me, that is a very easy decision. The NOFA-NY Winter Conference will offer a range of discussions, workshops and entertainment that not only recognize the changing of the administration, but also arm you with a trove of information and connections to last far beyond the next 4 or 8 or even 12 years! 

CR Lawn Photo Credit Jo JosephsonSpeakers include the eminent CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds, NYS Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard A. Ball, and hundreds of experts in their fields. We will have workshops that improve skills to reduce tillage and increase the biodiversity of our soil. The Hands-on Horse-Powered Demonstration will expand the possibilities of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. A Friday Roundtable Discussion will prepare you for the upcoming Farm Bill and address issues important to the integrity of organics and the vitality of our farmers.

And, of course, the first ever NE Organic Seed Conference within the larger Winter Conference is small_NE_Organic_Seed_Conference_Logo_V.jpgpart of the movement to ensure that the biodiversity of our seeds is saved and protected for generations to come.

Our workshops and discussion groups will delve into what diversity of our farmers looks like. We have “Dismantling Racism” workshop led by Keith McHenry on Saturday morning, as well as discussion groups for women, veterans and LGBTQ farmers and advocates. We aim to recognize our divisions, bridge them, and honor our diversity. Stephen Gabriel of Wellspring Forest Farm will organize a teach-in (or two) for Farmers in Action to prepare for civil leadership in the coming months and years. We will be live streaming the events in Washington, DC so you can stay informed of what is happening in the nation’s capital.

NACL_Theatre.jpgAs far as entertainment, we are thrilled to have a special performance by the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL), a professional, non-profit company that has created more than 20 original ensemble theatre productions and countless public spectacles since 1997. During the breaks on Saturday at 10:15am and 2:45pm, the NACL Theatre will perform a stilt skit to honor crop and human diversity for a healthy world. Our thanks to NACL Artistic Director Tannis Kowalchuk for stepping in and up to make this happen. We also will have a lively Jam session for people to pick up their instrument of choice and find their voice to honor our rich assortment of musical backgrounds and interests.

To follow our theme, all of us at NOFA-NY hope that the halls of the Saratoga Hilton and City Center will be filled with a Diverse group of people committed to nurturing the Biodiversity found on our farms. You won’t want to miss this!

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United We Stand!

United We Stand!

NOFA-NY will soon hold our Annual Membership Meeting. Our membership is like a diversified farm. We have multi-generational dairy farmers, beginning vegetable farmers, urban farmers, gardeners, foodies, chefs . . . We all come together to create a regional food system that's ecologically sound and economically viable. Now more than ever, we must protect the integrity of organics – and we can only do that united.

Every year, we have the opportunity to meet each other face to face. This year, we have five new policy resolutions to vote on:

  • Healthy Soil/Farming Carbon Incentives
  • Just Wages For Farmers and Farmworkers
  • Applying the Precautionary Principle to Genetically Modified Organisms
  • Food Sovereignty/Seed Sovereignty
  • Country of Origin Labeling

Of course, we work on many other policy issues. These are new positions that members proposed we endorse as a whole. The resolutions themselves will soon be distributed to our Members!

During the Membership Meeting, we will vote on new Board Members. Unfortunately, Michelle Hughes from the National Young Farmers Coalition had to step down this year and the term has ended for Robert Hadad of Cornell Cooperative Extension/Chicory Blue Gardens. They will be sorely missed.  We have one other vacancy that needs to be filled. We look forward to new perspectives on the Board.

The Annual Membership Meeting will take place on Saturday, January 21 during our Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs. I am definitely looking forward to meeting our members and continuing to work together to enhance the organic and sustainable farm movement in New York!

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TPP – Bad for Farmers, the Environment and Just About Everyone Else

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Wednesday, September 14 is the National Call-In Day to Say NO to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – known as the TPP! Despite being in a lame duck session, the White House will be pushing for a vote on this enormous trade agreement. Contact your Members of Congress and tell them that the TPP is bad for farmers, the environment and anyone who cares about their food!

What is the TPP? Simply, it is a multi-national trade agreement that would extend restrictions on global intellectual property laws, rewriting international enforcement rules and raising significant concern about citizens’ privacy and freedom of expression, spanning the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Free trade agreements have a track record of displacing people, compromising environment health and jeopardizing the sovereign rights of nations, states and communities. Free trade agreements endorsed and forced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) facilitate agri-businesses monopolies on markets and the commodification of food. Ten years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed, over two million farmers across Mexico, the U.S. and Canada were displaced.

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