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The Story of Our Conference Food: The Tradition Continues

Table with sign copy

Amazing food is the underlying pillar of NOFA-NY’s annual conferences. The theme for the 2017 Annual Winter Conference, January 20-22, 2017, is Long Live the Farmer: Diversity & Biodiversity. We are excited to expand this year’s programming to include the Northeast Organic Seed Conference, "Owning our Seed," along with many other new items! Within this ever-changing and evolving conference, new research is shared, farming techniques emerge, friendships begin, collaborations foster, and families grow.

One thing that has remained constant for all of these years is the reason we all come together: to support the cause for delicious, wholesome food grown to support the environment and bring it to consumers. The unique and amazing part of NOFA-NY’s Winter Conference that truly sets us apart is that the food provided for all of the meals, breaks and social gatherings is sourced organically and locally and donated by our farmers and business supporters. Each conference meal is a tribute to the diversity and bounty of New York State’s organic agriculture.

WC food

The generosity with which people are willing to donate is unbelievable; they wholeheartedly want to share the products they know are the healthiest available with their colleagues. They care deeply that the food they grow and produce can be enjoyed while at the same time, participating in an event to strengthen the organic community.

I first came to NOFA-NY as a volunteer to assist in procuring the food for the winter conference when it was still held in Syracuse and boasted an attendance of over 300 farmers. It was honestly the best way to be introduced to New York State’s greater organic community.

 As my responsibilities for NOFA-NY have shifted, I am excited to introduce you to our new Food Coordinator, Paul Loomis. Paul has been our Organic Farmer Marketing Coordinator for more than a year, and works with the education team on field day and winter conference planning. Paul also has assisted on developing the Price Index and provides technical assistance to farmers.  He comes into this position with the experience of organic farming. Paul is the owner/operator of Growing Family Farms, a NOFA-NY certified farm outside of Rochester, NY.  He understands the hard work and dedication it takes to grow clean, healthy food in an environmentally responsible way.

WC food chicken

Paul has a huge job in front of him organizing the food for this great conference which now boasts nearly 1,200 attendees, 100 amazing workshops, keynote speakers and social activities.  This year we will feed over 7,200 meals, provide snacks for more than 900 people on Friday and Sunday and 1,300 on Saturday, not to mention the 500 folks who will attend our receptions. With a farmer’s appetite, that is no small feat!  Curious to know what it takes to feed this hungry bunch? Try 500 pounds of potatoes, 125 gallons of milk, 600 dozen eggs (so get crackin’) and over $3000 worth of locally baked bread, just to name a few. From the salt and pepper on the table to the transportation of the products from across the state, everything is donated. 

The coordination is intense to gauge all the necessary products, solidify the donations, and create the final menus.  We are extremely fortunate that the Saratoga Hilton and Chef Ron are so willing to work with us to make all of these meals possible. From September onwards, there is almost daily back-and-forth communication. Once we arrive, everything is different than the “norm” of hotel food management. This includes listing all the donors and ingredients, leaving products in the packages for folks to see, and asking that they please DO NOT peel the carrots. We are certainly an interesting group!  We come together for the love of food, to support each other and with the realization that everything we do and share today makes for a better tomorrow for our ever-growing community.

WC plateful of food copy

NOFA-NY would like to thank each person in this amazing circle of food for this feast: from the farmers, the transporters, the preparers and servers to the educators who keep us coming back every year to learn more, do more, and of course to eat more amazing organic food!

If you are interested in donating to this great program, please visit our website for a complete list, or contact Paul directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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