NOFA-NY Field Notes

NOFA-NY 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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At our Winter Conference: American Charcuterie & Artisan Cheese - On the World's Stage

At our Winter Conference: American Charcuterie & Artisan Cheese -
On the World's Stage

Americans today are enjoying a renaissance of extraordinary fermented foods from bread to craft beer, and from artisan cheese to pickled vegetables, charcuterie and salami. From local to regional and national markets, a sophisticated demand exists for quality value-added products.

JeffreyRobertsOn Saturday, January 20 from 2:30-3:45 pm at our NOFA-NY Winter Conference, Chelsea Green author Jeffrey Roberts Salted & Cured describes and explains the millennia-long history of fermented foods and, through a tasting, highlights the diversity of New York-made cured meats, artisan cheeses and craft beers. Since we eat with our eyes and often make assumptions about labels, the tasting will be conducted blind. Participants will learn about the history and culture of preserved products and contemporary producers, while enjoying a pairing of meat, cheese and beer. Only 40 spaces are available for this unique opportunity, so don't wait to register at: https://nofany-winterconference.squarespace.com/preregistered-events/

Want to whet your appetite even more? Listen to Vermont Public Radio's interview this past April with Jeffrey Roberts talking about Salted and Cured, which will be available for purchase at our Winter Conference bookstore. http://digital.vpr.net/post/cutting-board-salted-and-cured-meats#stream/0

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Jeff Roberts develops solutions in the areas of agriculture and food policy, conservation, the environment, and community economic development. He was co-founder and principal consultant at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont. His book, The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese (2007), was the first comprehensive survey of small-scale producers. A member of Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, he teaches the history and culture of food at the New England Culinary Institute, is a visiting professor at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Science, provides consulting services to small-scale food producers, and is a frequent speaker in Europe and the United States on artisan food, sustainable agriculture, and the working landscape. His latest book, Salted & Cured: Savoring the Culture, Heritage, and Flavor of America’s Preserved Meats (2017), is a history of dry-curing from 1600 to the present. During his career, Jeff was a meteorologist, museum curator and historian, and associate dean at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. For more than a decade, Jeff was active in Slow Food International and USA, including service as a director and treasurer of the national board. 

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Kids Get Their Own 2018 Children's Winter Conference

Kids Get Their Own 2018 Children's Winter Conference

For anyone thinking about coming to our Winter Conference in January with your children, we wanted to give you an advanced "heads up" on the parallel Children's Conference so you can make your registration plans!

We caught up with Rebekah Rice who runs the Children's Conference to answer some questions you might find helpful.

Q. What kind of activities will there be at this year’s Children’s Conference?

A. Activities include Latin dancing and drumming, social permaculture, skill building for farmers, lots of outdoor time, raw foods preparation, and daily Yoga. Our schedule (which stays a bit flexible) includes plans for lots of fun, games, exercise, and music & arts.  We have a quiet corner for kids who prefer to read or sew or do other solo activities (not including electronic devices)— since not everyone wants to go full tilt all day. What we’ll do out-of-doors will depend on the weather— if there’s snow we’ll take advantage of it.  There are some great nearby hikes for bird and tree identification and more.  Everyone should come prepared for outdoor walks, outdoor play, and outdoor celebration.

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2018 Winter Conference Special Events

2018 Winter Conference Special Events

Now that registration is open for the Winter Conference, we wanted to share a couple of the exciting special events that will be coming your way!

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Cover Crops: Pro Tips for Best Results

Cover Crops: Pro Tips for Best Results
Thank you to Vail Dixon & our friends at Simple Soil Solutions for this awesome post! Make sure to see Vail present some great information at our upcoming Winter Conference! Make sure to check out the special offer below.

Your soil does NOT want to be bare through the winter! If there are spaces between your plants, think of them as holes in your sweater and rain jacket! Any system is only as good as its weakest link, so anywhere that the cold air, rain drops and wind can get to your soil without a carbon blanket (a cover of dead or living plant material) are areas where your system will shut down and cause you problems next year.

In my experience, the better-quality cover you grow, the better-quality feed for soil microbes, and also the better-quality cash crop you will have next season. And yet, all too often, despite best intentions, I see cover crops struggle and fail to provide the benefits they could, because they were not cared for like a cash crop.

 

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Healthy People, Healthy Planet: NOFA-NY’s 36th Annual Winter Conference

Healthy People, Healthy Planet: NOFA-NY’s 36th Annual Winter Conference

We’re so excited that our 36th annual Winter Conference —January 19-21, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, NY—is already up on our website and ready for you to reserve your spot, more than a month earlier than last year! This year’s theme, “Healthy People, Healthy Planet” focuses on the critical relationship between our agricultural health and the health of our planet. 

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Decreasing Erosion Through Innovative No-till Organic Farming at Lakeview Organic Grain with Jan-Hendrik Cropp

Decreasing Erosion Through Innovative No-till Organic Farming at Lakeview Organic Grain with Jan-Hendrik Cropp

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Jan-Hendrik Cropp is an innovative German organic vegetable farmer working on organic no-till and minimal tillage systems. He is also a consultant on soil fertility, and a freelance journalist. He studied organic agricultural science, and has conducted extensive on-farm research, applying his research on a 12-acre organic vegetable farm in Germany.   

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On Monday Sept 11, Jan-Hendrik Cropp will give a field day presentation at Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens’ farm -- Lakeview Organic Grain -- in Penn Yan, NY.  NOFA-NY is happy to be involved in this field day. A morning session on using crimped cover crops for "no-till organic" will be held from 10 am-noon in a field where the Martens rolled rye in May, planting soybeans directly into it.

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Field Day at Fruition Seeds

Field Day at Fruition Seeds

It was a beautiful Saturday to make the drive to Fruition Seeds in scenic Naples, NY for the August 26 field day, FINDING YOUR TRIBE: Growing Your Food, Your Seeds and Your Team.

b2ap3 large purple beansFruition Seeds cultivates over 300 varieties of certified organic vegetables, herbs & flowers, a number of which were on view at the field day. Rows of various and beautifully colored beans, cucumbers, marigolds, and dahlias were soaking up the sun, while busy bees were visiting and doing their pollination job.

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NOFA-NY Member Spotlight: John Ingle

NOFA-NY Member Spotlight: John Ingle

NOFA-NY is lucky to have members from all walks of life: farmers, gardeners, activists, consumers, and business owners who care about where food comes from, and how it’s grown. Our NOFA-NY Member Spotlight aims to tell some of the stories of our community of members. We are so grateful to thousands of people who drive this membership organization, and the organic movement in the state of New York and beyond. I recently had the opportunity to speak with John Ingle, owner of Heron Hill Winery. Read about his farming journey below, and then learn more about how you can join us here

How long have you been a member of NOFA-NY?

I have been a NOFA-NY member for 10 years. 

What first drew you to our organization?

I became interested in NOFA-NY after being involved with the MOFGA program up in Maine. Having been an organic grower for over 45 years, I was dedicated to exploring more avenues of information and education. There is so much to learn, and so many effective ways to learn more. 

What's your personal number one priority in our work?

I am fascinated by your beginning farmer program. I was an English/Education graduate from college, so I had a lot to learn. When we planted our first vineyard in 1972, I like to joke that we “didn’t know dirt from soil.” I did a lot of reading, talking, visiting and making mistakes. That’s how to learn. Having a first rate advisor that you can count on, like NOFA-NY, is a great opportunity to fast track the learning process. 

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High Tunnel Tomatoes Field Day - Early & Mid-season Management for Optimal Health and Productivity

High Tunnel Tomatoes Field Day - Early & Mid-season Management for Optimal Health and Productivity

On July 12, NOFA-NY presented an on-farm field day at Slack Hollow Farm in Argyle, NY. After a short introduction to the farm, farm history and farming philosophy by Slack Hollow Farm host farmer Seth Jacobs, Jud Reid and Amy Ivy (both CCE) moved to the Tomato high tunnels and provided an excellent primer on long term soil health and fertility management in high tunnels. Emphasis was on the importance of soil and foliar testing in making nutrient mgmt decisions, the importance of understanding crop dynamics and variable nutrient needs through the season, and the impact of working in a controlled environment vs. the field.  

Jacobs spoke about management decisions he makes to enable a good crop, the importance of taking labor out of the equation to imb2ap3 medium Slack Hollow Farm1prove profitability, especially as applied to weed control, and the tools he is using, especially flaming and a Williams toolbar set up on a cultivating tractor equipped with belly mount basket weeders to keep beds weed free. He utilizes a standard bed design and row spacing across the farm to minimize the need for tooling adjustments. He demonstrated a custom made 3-row flame weeder in garlic and explained how he utilizes it in combination with flaming.  Seth also spoke about trellised high tunnel cucumber production, doing a succession of cukes in the high tunnel, balancing high tunnel cuke production with field production, succession planting in the field and using succession planting as a disease management strategy - pick each planting for two weeks and move to the next planting.  Jaimin Patel Ph.D, and Leora Radetsky from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institure, RPI, spoke briefly about research they are conducting using UV-B light to control Basil Downy Mildew.  "Using light to control Downy Mildew, especially in Controlled Environment (Greenhouse or High Tunnel) culture of Basil has a lot of potential. “ 

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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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Little Free Farmstand: #GiveTakeSwap

Little Free Farmstand: #GiveTakeSwap

Thanks to Sarah Meyer, Finger Lakes Institute Food Systems Program Manager, for this blog.

b2ap3 icon running chicken smGeneva Peeps is a local egg coop located on State Street in Geneva, NY in which communitymembers tend to a flock of chickens in return for a weekly egg share. Sarah Meyer, Finger Lakes Institute Food Systems Program Manager, is a member of Geneva Peeps and avid gardener. In 2015, her home garden tomato yield was plentiful and saw Peeps as a centralized location to give away excess garden harvest, especially given its proximity within Geneva’s USDA defined ‘food desert’. 

In early fall of 2016, FLI Food Systems Program intern Lara Johnson constructed a more formal structure and together Sarah and Lara named it the ‘Little Free Farmstand’ with the intent of having it placed on State Street to act as a place for fresh food exchange, especially for farm gleaners and gardeners. Because the LFF is seasonal, in June 2017 the stand was placed and implemented as a landmark for Genevans to give, take, and swap fresh food under the protection of liability provided by the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996. Meyer and Natalia St. Lawrence have worked together to manage the Little Free Farmstand (LFF), with the understanding that upkeep and attention needs to be given to promote the stand, its purpose, and efficacy.

“We really believe in the stand’s simple message and impact – Give what you can. Take what you need. Swap what you have. There is no stigma with taking from the stand, and there is no glorification of giving to the stand. We want the stand to be everyone’s and nobody’s. We’ve really tried to keep it autonomous by using social media (Facebook and Instagram) as our main outlet for updates and status”, says Sarah Meyer.

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Guest Blog: Innovation & Inspiration at the 2017 NOFA Summer Conference

Guest Blog: Innovation & Inspiration at the 2017 NOFA Summer Conference

The organic movement has been a constant force for innovation and progress in food production models that are environmentally and biologically friendly. Advances in methods of cover-cropping, composting, crop rotation, reduced tillage, biodiversity and soil carbon restoration are just a few examples of the techniques preserved and refined by the organic movement and disseminated at gatherings like the annual NOFA conferences. While many of these techniques continue to be “adopted” by mega-scale commercial agriculture, the grassroots organic movement maintains the true essence of conscientious food production and land care. It is wit this innovative spirit and in celebration of the web of life that this year’s NOFA Summer Conference calls together allies across the region.

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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

We know that farmers and consumers as well sometimes have a lot of questions when it comes to different farming and farm management topics.

So, before you start scratching your head for answers, have a look at our Fact Sheets right on our website. Topics include:

  • Business of Farming - links to our On-Farm Skills Development Guide and the Price Index
  • Organic Certification - includes what is organic agriculture, transitioning to organic beef production, transitioning to organic sheep or goat dairy production, organic agriculture consumer fact sheet
  • Animal Agriculture - categories in dairy, meat, and eggs
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Price Index - Why and How to Use It

We recently caught up with Paul Loomis from our Education Team, who, among other things, works on our Price Index. He has some helpful answers to questions you might have about the program. It's a great tool, and if you’re a member who is NOFA-NY Certified Organic, or a Farmer's Pledge farm, click here to get started. We hope you consider participating in it!

Q. What is the Price Index, and what farmers should be using it?
A. The Price Index is a tool developed to assist farmers in pricing their produce, eggs, and meats that they work so hard to produce. The PI works in real time and is split by region so you can see what is happening in your specific area. Since it does track real time data, it can be useful in crop planning, evaluating what early and out-of-season crop prices command in the  market. It can be useful to all farmers; the more pricing information available, the better for all. Price trending and stabilization is beneficial to the entire farm community.

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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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How We Help Connect People Without Access to Fresh, Local and Sustainably Grown Food...

Have you ever wondered how it’s possible to connect more people who typically do not have access to fresh, local, sustainably grown food with this opportunity? Well, our NOFA-NY Neighborhood Farm Share program is now in its 6th year of assisting income qualified individuals/families to do just that. Our program provides a subsidy of up to $100 to purchase a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from a participating farm/organization. This not only helps connect more people to healthy, sustainably grown fruits and vegetables, but it also provides an opportunity for more people to forge relationships with their local farmers and find out where there food comes from. They also get the opportunity to interact with other CSA members, attend farm events or farmer’s markets, and participate in their community in a more direct, hands-on way than if they just go to the grocery store. And in many "food deserts," there is no local grocery store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables.

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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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Why the Organic Checkoff is Bad for Organic Farmers, the Environment, and Independent Family Farm Agriculture

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed an organic research and promotion checkoff program (an assessment on organic sales) which could unfairly promote large organic processors’ needs over those of smaller, family farmers. USDA promotion/research/information programs focus on the marketplace. They are not about farmers or farming.

According to USDA, “These programs are designed to maintain and expand markets and uses for agricultural commodities.” Without a stated goal to increase U.S. organic farmers and farms, we believe this checkoff program will increase demand and encourage supply at the fastest rate and lowest cost through consolidation and global supply, never good for smaller, independent organic farmers or farms.

Organic is about more than sales—it’s the extra benefits to the environment and to animal and human health. Unless we preserve the viability and profitability of our farmers, and increase organic farmers and farms, we will not see these health and environmental benefits.

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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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The Next Green Revolution for Farmers?

Is industrial hemp the next Green Revolution for New York farmers, or just another pipe dream about crop diversification? Find out the real dirt at our NOFA-NY Dairy and Field Crop Conference, at our Friday morning, March 17th workshop. 

Join Chris Logue from NYS Department of Ag & Mkts and Susie Cody from NY Hemp Industries Association to hear the real story about the first field trials in New York State developed by SUNY Morrisville Agronomist and Assistant Professor of Agricultural Science, Jennifer Gilbert-Jenkins.

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