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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Smart Farm Infrastructure with Poughkeepsie Farm Project

In June, NOFA-NY kicked off its 2018 summer field day season at the beautiful Poughkeepsie Farm Project. Host farmer, Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s Leon Vehaba, led the inaugural full-day field day of the year “Building Success through Smart Farm Infrastructure,” along with Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program’s Ethan Grundberg. The day mixed classroom and field sessions, focusing on both the key farm infrastructure of irrigation and high tunnels, as well as managing for safe water quality.

6.18.18 Irrigation Field Walk Wide View

The steamy day kicked off in the (air-conditioned) classroom with a great workshop by Leon that hit on essential irrigation practices and principles. In addition to decoding irrigation terminology, Leon stressed the importance of learning your soil’s physical properties, knowing how water interacts with nutrient movement and availability, and how building up organic matter can boost water retention. He also detailed a range of methods to monitor your irrigation needs, including an in-depth introduction to the concept of water budgeting, and the impact of evapotranspiration on plant water needs.

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From Field to Film to You!

From Field to Film to You!

In our effort to provide up-to-date, practical assistance to farmers and gardeners without demanding too much of their valuable time, NOFA-NY is once again adding to its offerings of online technical assistance, field days, workshops and conferences.

Thanks to Patricia Gately, our event coordinator, who wrote this blog about our three new two-minute videos created to be shared on our Technical Assistance page. These videos—developed with the support of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency—will offer practice tips and information on topics of common interest and emphasize best practices to secure successful outcomes.

The topics for these videos, similar in format to last year’s “Healthy Beekeeping Tips” video by Pat Bono of NY Bee Wellness, are:

  • “Benefits of Trellising” for farmers and gardeners raising or considering raising trellised greenhouse tomatoes for greater yield
  • “High Tunnel Soil Health” for farmers using high tunnels to extend their season, and
  • “Seed Quality Standards for Success” for farmers and consumers concerned about seed quality
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Conservation Buffers

Conservation Buffers

Thanks, Adrianne Traub, NOFA-NY Certification Specialist, for this helpful information on conservation buffers:

Borders around the edges of crop fields, also known as buffers, are an essential practice in many organic farming systems. As many farmers know, the exact requirements of the buffers are notoriously tricky to pin down. The National Organic Program, Section 205.2 defines a buffer zone as “an area located between a certified production operation or portion of a production operation and an adjacent land area that is not maintained under organic management. A buffer zone must be sufficient in size or other features (e.g., windbreaks or a diversion ditch) to prevent the possibility of unintended contact by prohibited substances applied to adjacent land areas with an area that is part of a certified operation.” Now this can mean different things depending on the geography of the specific site. Wind direction, topography, buffer vegetation type, and crop varieties all play a role in determining what is needed. The organic inspectors are well trained to help determine what is needed in each circumstance.

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Good Pasture Techniques = Good Milk Production

Thank you to Anna Williams, an Organic Valley farmer, for this blog on good pasture techniques. Anna's farm is 3 Sisters' Farm in Truxton, NY.

Shade, water, paddock size, traveling time, pest control, pasture quality, etc. These are all factors to making your cow’s summer either pleasant or painful. The ideal temperature for a dairy cow is between 60 to 70 degrees. Let face it, our summers get much higher than 70F, and a cow can’t strip down into a bikini and jump in the pool to keep cool and happy. The top three techniques to help your cows keep up with their good milk production are: paddock size, water, and pest control.

The size of a paddock depends on many variables: number of animals, grass height, weather conditions, paddock rest period. The paddock has to support every animal that is on it with feed (Dry Matter), space for them to lay down, and leave enough grass behind for it to grow back. Many pasture techniques are tied into the paddock size. The best rule of thumb? The taller the grass the less space, and the shorter the grass the more space is required for the animals.

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Be Prepared for Late Blight (and other Leaf Disease!)

Our Fruit and Vegetable Coordinator, Maryellen Sheehan, shares very timely information about late blight, a serious disease affecting tomatoes and potatoes.  Gardeners and farmers alike should be careful to scout for and properly dispose of the infected plants.

These past few cool, wet weeks were unfortunately quite conducive to a host of foliar diseases. Keep an extra eye on your tomatoes and potatoes for signs of late blight in particular, which has been confirmed in parts of western, central and eastern NY, Long Island, and central PA.  A national map of confirmed late blight cases (and sample submission protocol) can be found at: http://www.usablight.org/map.

Late blight spores are airborne and move quickly. We generally see lesions on middle and upper level leaves, but key signs are when the moist looking, gray-brown lesions form on the plant stems and leaflets. On potatoes, the lesions can almost look greasy. Identification and scouting help can be found in E-Organic’s scouting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCzIFVfyNow and NYSIPM’s video to help separate late blight from all of its imitators (this is also a bad year for early blight and other leaf funk): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA4PuEKaQpY

[caption id="attachment_187" align="aligncenter" width="676"]Images courtesy of Meg McGrath and the Long Island Horticultural Information & Research Center Images courtesy of Meg McGrath and the Long Island Horticultural Information & Research Center


If you find suspected late blight on your farm, please report it immediately to your Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable specialist (or through www.usablight.org) and find out how to send in a sample (it’s important to have these samples to see which race of blight is spreading this year).

The late blight pathogen comes on so fast, by the time it is found in a planting, it is often too late to save the crop. Preventative management, including pruning, wide plant spacing, trellising, and preventative sprays, is key to blight management. If you scout daily, catch an infection early, and have a lightly affected planting with good airflow and trellising, it might be possible to try and save the plants by starting off just removing any affected tissue and beginning a fungicide program immediately (remember to check with your organic certifier before using any products!). However, a widespread infection on heavy, lush plant growth will likely not be controllable. Late blight spores spread disease rapidly, so removing infected plants quickly helps prevent infection spread to neighboring plants (and your farming neighbors).

Additional late blight management articles can be found at:

http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Spring2010/LateBlight/tabid/1555/Default.aspx
http://lateblight.nysipm.cornell.edu/
http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/PhotoPages/Spin/Tom_Spin.html
http://lateblight.nysipm.cornell.edu/files/2011/08/Pot_LB_OrganicMgt10.pdf
http://www.longislandhort.cornell.edu/vegpath/photos/lateblight_tomato.htm
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