NOFA-NY Field Notes


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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Cover Farming for Bees

Thanks to Adrianne from our NOFA-NY Certification office for this practical and helpful blog!

honey_bee_bee_insect_218160.jpg As farmers and gardeners we know how important bees are  for pollinating our crops, maybe you even have a honey bee  hive. Native bees are responsible for the largest percentage  of crop pollination, yet often overlooked when considering  natural resource management and conservation measures  for agriculture. There are 4,000 species of native bees in  North America and like all wildlife they are deeply affected by  changes on the landscape, from hedgerow composition to  tillage practices. In the last several years, the public has  become aware that honey bees have been declining because of Colony Collapse Disorder, but most people don’t know that native bees are also suffering from population decline and range reduction from disease, nutrition and pesticides.

Where do native bees live?

Bees are savvy navigators on the landscape. When suitable habitat is available they are able to utilize the most unlikely of options. Nests can be built underground, hollow places such as dead reeds, dead wood, or created by biting holes into living wood. Bees environmental needs are as variable as there are species. Some solitary bees prefer to have their own nest hole, but be surrounded by neighbors of the same or different species. Some need small rodent holes to start their underground tunnels. Most bees prefer sunny places that are unlikely to flood. Look for potential nest sites on your property to get started.

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The Grass is Green and the Organic Dairy Industry is Growing!

The Grass is Green and the Organic Dairy Industry is Growing!

Well, it finally feels as though spring has sprung in the Northeast, despite a few cold nights that surely are still to come. It’s likely that many of you already have your cows out on pasture and are moving fences or rotating pastures to prevent them from grazing too close, and punching up some of those still “soggy” spots. Or maybe you are one of the growing group of dairymen looking at this season as your first pasture experience as a transition to organic management.

black cow 183261The continuing low price of conventional milk has more farmers looking at organic management to provide price stability on their farms. NOFA-NY LLC is currently working with the largest group of transitioning farms since the rule change mandating 100% organic feed for a full year to transition. We currently certify 312 dairy operations, 22 of which are grass-fed certified as well. Transition numbers are continually growing, with 55 farms in transition and an additional 13 farms looking to bring in organic animals to start shipping organic milk. Grass-fed is on the rise too, with nine farms pending certification at NOFA-NY.

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Re-Blog: MOFGA's "At Last the Seed" by CR Lawn

Here at NOFA-NY, we were very excited to read CR Lawn's newly-published article in the spring 2016 issue of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).

So, with attribution and thanks to MOFGA and CR Lawn...

At Last the Seed: Can the Open Source Seed Initiative Be A Game-Changer?
by CR Lawn


The contract arrived this fall from a Fedco supplier of more than 30 years. We had never before gotten anything like this from this family-owned business, considered to be among the “good guys” in the trade. Sitting with them was like stepping back into the '50s; they personified the very image of old-fashioned integrity.

“Customer shall not reproduce or transfer seed material, nor subject it to any conventional breeding ... or any other genetic manipulation techniques ... including but not limited to self or cross-pollination reproductions, tissue culture ... or transformation techniques. The seed and its genetic material are owned by [xxx] or its licensors and is proprietary material.”

We would pay for this seed but not own it. We would get only a brief, one-time rental. No seed sovereignty here, no independent yeomanry; instead agricultural peonage. Our supplier broke no new ground but merely followed the example set by the Monsantos and Syngentas with their “intellectual property” restrictions.

If one views modern economic history as a dialectical struggle between those who would preserve the commons as a resource shared by all and those who would enclose it for their own private benefit, the recent history of seed provides an object lesson. For generation upon generation, millennia upon millennia, through happenstance, observation and diligence, farmers, as keepers of the seed, saved the best and improved our food crops in a co-evolutionary dance with plants...

For the complete article, please click here.

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What's New at NOFA-NY

Here at NOFA-NY, we are always looking for new ways to serve our members, as well as to bring farmer and consumer together. That’s why we have an exciting new membership benefit: an online events calendar

 We often get requests from our members to publicize events for their farms and organizations. Well, now we can! By simply e-mailing event details to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., members will know that their event will be viewable to’s large readership. 

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Selling at Farmers Markets

Port Washington Farmers mkt organic

It's that time of year again! 

For many market farmers, spring work includes getting prepared for a new Farmers Market season and planning how to be more efficient, sell more and make more money through selling at Farmers Markets. The New York Farmers Market Federation  has done some good work in benchmarking how much different types of farms can expect to sell at a farmers market, appropriate levels of staffing, marketing needs, and pricing.  All of this material has been collected in a series of webinars entitled the “Brown Bag Lunch Series: Farmers Market Benchmarks.”   


The benchmarking studies found significant regional differences in sales and also significant differences based on what the farmer was bringing to market. Sales for specialty farmers on a statewide basis ranged from $225/day for sellers specializing in fresh cut and dried flowers, to $1113/day for farmers specializing in fruit. Sales also varied significantly by region, with Niagara region farms averaging $325/day compared to farms in the Upper Hudson Valley which averaged $1654/day.

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9 Misconceptions about Organic Certification

With the growing season just about to head into full swing, now is a perfect time to finish your paperwork for certification. Lauren Tonti, one of our NOFA-NY Certification Specialists, put together a list of popular misconceptions about organic certifications. See what's fact vs. fiction:


  •  “I can call my product organic because I use organic practices” – One cannot call their product organic unless they have been approved for organic certification with an accredited certification agency, or are considered exempt under the NOP Regulations. Fines could apply if using the term “organic” without an exemption or certification.
  • “Organic certification doesn’t matter for my business because I am using the same practices anyhow and my customers are not concerned with certification.” Are you sure you are using the same practices? Do you check that all products used on your farm are approved either by OMRI or an organic certifier? Do you maintain strong buffer zones between you and your conventional neighbor? If you ever use an antibiotic on a sick animal and slaughter this animal for sale do you inform customers? If you do all these things you may want to consider organic certification since you are likely eligible!  
  • “Organic certification is cost prohibitive” – It’s cheaper than you might think! Thanks to the Farm Bill, a certified organic producer is eligible to receive reimbursement of 75% or up to $750 per scope of their certification fees. Ask us what your fees could be!
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Cheap DIY Static Pile Composting on a Farm Scale

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by Guest Blogger Tracy Frisch

It’s always fun to be surprised by a new solution to an old problem. That’s what happened at the popular half-day workshop on Reduced Tillage in Vegetables at NOFA-NY’s 2016 Winter Conference. Healthy soil acts like a sponge for moisture and nutrients, but plowing and other forms of aggressive tillage destroy soil structure and organic matter. Untilled soil does a much better job of sequestering carbon (and reducing the greenhouse gas CO2 in the atmosphere) as well.

As you can imagine, managing weeds was high on this workshop’s agenda because with minimum tillage and no chemicals, other effective approaches are required. When Jay Armour of Four Winds Farm took his turn presenting, he said he became a no-till organic vegetable grower as a defense against overwhelming weed pressure early on. “Someone convinced me that if we didn’t till the soil, we wouldn’t have weeds,” he recalled. They advised covering the soil in compost and planting into it. It worked so well that the Armours sold their plow and rototiller and 15 years ago expanded to several acres in production.

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Churchville-Chili Art Students Collaborate with NOFA-NY for Conference Posters and Banners

Andrew Lockwood 9When do art and organic food and farming intersect for the benefit of both? It happens through a unique collaboration between the art department at Churchville-Chili High School and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) in Farmington.

For five years, art students at Churchville-Chili High School have been designing posters and banners for NOFA-NY’s Organic Dairy & Field Crop Conference held each March in Syracuse (March 16 this year). The partnership originated with science teacher Linda Judd and art teacher Jane Betrus. It is now overseen by Betrus with art teacher Jonathan Woodard. Approximately 100 freshmen through seniors in their four Media Arts classes are getting a hands-on, professional design experience. Students have the option of signing up to receive dual credit through Monroe Community College.

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Learn about Dairy Pasture Nutrition at our Organic Dairy & Field Crop Conference, March 16

happylines_Photocredit_Amanda_GervaisUVMextension.jpgA pillar of organic dairy farm management is pasturing cows. In 2010, The US Department of agriculture passed regulation requiring that organic dairy cows receive 30% DMI from pasture for at least 120 days or the duration of the grazing season. Getting the most out of pasture can be a challenge for farmers balancing rations for milk production but is a huge asset to reducing feed costs on farms.

If you're interested in improving your pasture management or transitioning your farm to grazing, here's your chance to learn from two of the best! Join NOFA-NY at our 5th annual Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference March 16th at the Holiday Inn Liverpool Syracuse.

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Send in Your Proposals for our 2016 Field Days & 2017 Winter Conference by March 18

Green ideal energy copySeven questions is all it takes to submit your fabulous ideas for this year’s Field Days and the 2017 Winter Conference.

Our popular Winter Conference and On-Farm Field Days are known for their value, and the depth and breadth of what they provide.  As many of you already know, some of our best ideas for these events come from you. YOU know what you want to learn, see, and try; you know what’s important for the future of your farm.


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Dairy Conference Preview: A Comfortable Cow is a Productive Cow


For decades, farmers have been focused on improving cow comfort on their farms as a way to improve milk production, reduce injury and maintain a healthier herd.  Farmers are now meeting the new regulation of animal welfare audits specifically to address cow comfort on individual farms. We're excited to highlight cow comfort as one of the workshops in our upcoming 5th Annual Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at the Holiday Inn in Syracuse, NY.  

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New York Organic Action Plan

Guest Blogger Tracy Frisch attended our Winter Conference and sent in this report.

You know the old adage– If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to figure out how to get there.Liz Henderson and group WC2016

Since 1983 when NOFA-NY was founded, organic farming, food access and research have grown impressively. Yet you’d probably agree that there’s still a tremendous amount more to accomplish to realize the dream of organic agriculture.

So where’s our organic movement going? What are the most important things to achieve, and what do we need to do to get there? Ask yourself these questions, and you’ll come up with lots of ideas but no clear answer. So what’s next? 

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Think Differently: Dairy & Field Crop Conference Keynote John Kempf Speaks from Experience

Extraordinarily successful farmers think differently.  John Kempf is one of those farmers. You can tell just by looking at his title on his company website, Advancing  Eco Agriculture: FOUNDER AND VISION BUILDER. 

We are thrilled to have John share his inspiration at our Dairy & Field Crop Conference on Wednesday, March 16 from 8:30 am – 5 pm.  John’s keynote at 1:15 pm—"A Different Perspective on Agriculture”—is for the entrepreneurs, the farmers on the cutting edge, the calculated risk takers, and those who love achieving the impossible.

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Winter Conference Thank-You!

Winter Conference Thank-You!

To everyone who attended, presented, sponsored, worked, exhibited, volunteered, and donated food for our 2016 NOFA-NY Winter Conference (our 34th annual), we want to give you a huge thanks!! As you know, our Winter Conference is a huge event, with close to 1000 people, and everyone plays a part in its success.

Local_Economies_Project_copy_copy_copy_copy.jpgA special thank you to Patron, Local Economies Project, and to Winter Conference Sponsors Johnny's Selected Seeds, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, Country Folks, NYSSFPA, and Brandt.

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Additional thanks goes to sponsors Albert Lea Seed Organics, Bejo, Fertrell, Stonyfield Organic, ValentKreher's, Agri-Dynamics, Farm Credit East, Wild for Salmon, Hudson Valley Seed Library, USDA, Agriculture Counts, Vermont Compost, Watershed Agricultural Council, and Wegmans

If you were at the conference and haven't had the opportunity to submit your evaluation, please take a few minutes to do so. We have an overall conference evaluation here and specific workshop evaluations here. We count on your feedback to continue improving, so please fill these out.

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As farmers, gardeners and eaters, how do we help make big changes in our food supply and agriculture systems?

As farmers, gardeners and eaters, how do we help make big changes in our food supply and agriculture systems?

Come to an array of Policy And Community Track Workshops at this weekend's Winter Conference to see! If you're not already registered, walk-ins are welcome.

transbanner 083New York and GMOs – Did you know that New York State has a bill (Assembly: A617 and Senate: S485) to require the labeling of Genetically Engineered Seeds and Foods? We need your help in pushing your state senator and assemblyperson to pass this bill. Come to the workshop with Alex Beauchamp of Food & Water Watch and Stacie Orell of GMO Free NY on Sunday, January 24 at 8am and learn how to Get Local And Get Active.  

GEDMOn Saturday afternoon at 3:00, we have special guests from Great Britain (GeneWatch UK), Helen Wallace and Anthony Jackson to talk about Genetically Engineered Diamondback Moths scheduled to be released in Geneva, NY this spring. Hear about the health and environmental issues for New York brassica farmers – both organic and conventional, as well as NY eaters – around letting these new organisms into the New York environment.

Organic and Sustainable systems also include the people and Social Justice – on Saturday morning at 9:30, hear Keynote  Speaker Rosalinda Guillen of Community to Community  talk about her work with farmworkers after Liz Henderson’s 8 am workshop on 5 Steps to a Food Justice Farm. Strengthen your farm team and join the movement of family-scale farms who add Food Justice to their organic and sustainable practices.

And Sunday morning at 9:30, learn how to incorporate renewable energy on your farm with solarpanelsKrys Cail and Dick Riesling.

Finally, what is NOFA-NY doing about all of this?  Help Grow NOFA’s New York Organic Action PlanSaturday at 1:30. Tell us what big steps YOU want NOFA-NY to take in the coming years, and learn how we intend to get there!

The conference location is the Saratoga Hilton & City Center, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. To see all programs and activities, view the brochure here

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On Track with Veggies at the Winter Conference

On Track with Veggies at the Winter Conference

In less than two weeks, our NOFA-NY Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs begins!

From reduced tillage options, pack shed design, and food safety to high tunnel planning, equipment selection and safety…the conference offers a diverse program with something for ALL vegetable growers. Whether you’re just starting or have grown produce for years, whether you have a micro farm or a larger farm, no matter what type of vegetable operation you have or are contemplating, you’ll find intriguing and hopefully enlightening workshops at this year’s conference.

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Learn about Livestock at NOFA-NY's Annual Winter Conference!

Whether you're interested in horses, honeybees, small ruminants, meat marketing or biosecurity, NOFA-NY’s Annual Winter Conference (January 22-24 in Saratoga) has something for you. We're excited to boast two exceptional half-day intensive workshops in this year’s Livestock Track. And registration is open online through January 15.

Be sure not to miss Karma and Michael Glos of Kingbird Farm and Erika Frenay of Cornell’s Small Farms Program as they present on Organic Broiler Production. Karma and Michael Glos are long time organic farmers who own and operate Kingbird Farm in Berkshire, NY along with their daughter Rosemary. Kingbird Farm offers a diverse product list from herbs and vegetables to a variety of meats. Michael and Karma are sought out for their expertise in organic farming practices.Visit the farm's website to learn more about their diversified operation.

Erika Frenay is the Online Course Manager for Cornell’s Small Farms Program; she and her husband also raise vegetables, mushrooms, berries and poultry on Shelterbelt Farm. Check out their Facebook page to see all that they do.

If you're interested in learning more about recent research findings for managing parasites in small ruminants, our half-day intensive workshop with Dr. Tatiana Stanton from Cornell University’s Department of Animal Science and James Kotcon from West Virginia University will feature just that.

Join us to learn the latest findings in Copper Oxide Wire Particle and high tannin forage trials to combat worms in sheep and goats. You'll also gain knowledge on how to develop heavy stands of Birdsfoot Trefoil.

kingbirdfarmhorsesOur Saturday and Sunday Livestock program includes interesting topics from Silvopasture to Poultry Feed and Draft Power. You can find the complete listings in our conference brochure. Please contact our office with any questions concerning the Winter Conference at (585) 271-1979 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thanks and we look forward to seeing you later this month!

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static1.squarespace-1Apple lovers, apple likers and even those who are on the fence about apples will find a lot to like and a lot to learn at the NOFA-NY Winter Conferencestatic1.squarespace in Saratoga Springs from January 22-24, 2016.

On Friday, January 22, the fruit workshop track begins at 9 am with Benign Neglect: Orcharding on the Horizon, a 3-hour workshop by Know Your Roots encompassing organic, biodynamic and holistic approaches in the orchard. After lunch from 1:15-4:30 pm, Cider Making from Fruit to Sale surveys the craft cider business with segments on orchard design, variety selection, equipment, licensing, and market opportunities. Thanks to South Hill Cider, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, and West Haven Farm.

feb9_13_0075Saturday afternoon from 3-4:15 pm features Cider: A Guided Tasting and Discussion of Cidermaking, a conversation with cider tasting on fruit selection, fermentation, blending & bottling and how these decisions affect flavor. Sunday from 9:30-10:45 am, Growing Good Fruit: Organic Insect and Disease Management is an opportunity to discuss apple pests and disease in New York. The highlight of this workshop will be an extended Q&A session to answer your questions on pest and disease management. You can send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or bring them with you to the workshop.

Not an apple fan? Fear not, there will also be sessions on U-Pick Organic Strawberries (Saturday, 8-9:15 am), Fruit Tree Planting and Establishment (Saturday, 9:30-10:45 am), and Fruits for Small Gardens (Saturday, 3-4:15 pm). There are a lot of learning opportunities in fruit at the conference this year.

It's not too late to register! Visit We're taking registrations through January 15.
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Mushroom cultivation for food and medicine is a progressive and 10455698_779104102146445_223868833291702764_nexciting portion of the agricultural system. They can be an interesting niche and make for some added diversification in the ever-changing landscape of modern farming.

For the urban farmer with limited space, mushroom cultivation can be a profitable endeavor. From edible to medicinal, mushrooms can be cultivated in a number of ways and marketed from fresh to added-value products.

From 8 -9:15 am on Saturday's Urban Farming Track, join Olga Tzogas from Rochester NY’s Smugtown Mushrooms and learn direct methods of mushroom cultivation. web-SMUGTOWN-master

Learn how to set up a fruiting room, lab, and the appropriate mediums for a growing substrate. Olga will review the benefits and challenges of indoor cultivation and how immersing yourself within the community not only lends itself to direct sales, but helps strengthen community ties. In her words, “cultures around cultivation.”

imgresMore and more studies are proving the positive symbiosis between mushrooms and human health. Many of these fungi have been cultured and administered for millennia. Olga will demonstrate how Smugtown Mushrooms not only provides Rochester chefs with high-demand fresh mushrooms, she will also examine the potential of growing for medicinal markets.

Whether considering fungi for profit or to enjoy cultivation for personal use, this presentation will certainly lead you in right direction.
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"Grow" Your Grain & Field Crops Knowledge at Next Month's Winter Conference

WheatConsidering where you want to spend your time at our 2016 Winter Conference? The Grains and Field Crops track has eight wonderfully diverse workshops, all serving our conference theme of “Good Hard Work.”

In the "growing" category:

    • George Wright from Castor River Farm in Metcalfe, Ontario, explains how his FrankferdFarmshull-less oats have become a popular breakfast cereal
    • Lyle Ferderber from Frankferd Farms Food shares his nearly 40 year-old story of how his farm still grows and mills local grain, and
    • Michael Cohen from Community Sharecroppers leads a discussion with other Capital District gardeners on how you can grow wheat on a small and affordable scale

Find a market and get to market:

    • Frankferd Farms Food takes you through the process of finding a
      market by creating products for local and regional customers
    • Half the grains sold by Castor River Farm are gluten free; learn from this expert on getting the popular gluten-free grains to market

Sharpen your skills by sharpening your blade:scythe

    • Take part in an interactive demonstration of peening and sharpening the European scythe blade by Emily Guirl and Elizabeth Benjamin from Scythe Supply.

How’s Your Soil’s Health?:

    • Cornell University's Soil Guru Robert Schindelbeck provides comprehensive soil health assessment tools to guide soil management.

Heritage Grain Renaissance in the 21st Century:

You still can register now by visiting our website. For questions or if you would like additional information, please feel free to call our office at 585-271-1979 ext. 1. Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you in Saratoga Spring next month, January 22-24.

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