NOFA-NY Blog

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3 Questions in 3 Minutes

Share your message with organic milk consumers at NODPA’s Farmers’ Storytelling Booth

By late winter, when cabin fever is beginning to set in, the best thing I can do is head to a farmer meeting or organic dairy conference. It’s a terrific opportunity to network, learn from, and build relationships with other farmers. If there’s only one take-away I have from all the conversations I’ve been having this winter, it’s this: We need to tell our own story.5a2211422ea30 fullsizeoutput 31ae small

Frustration and anxiety abounds, it seems, under the burden of record-low organic milk prices, a spineless NOP, and fake organic mega-farms flooding the market with cheap commodities (and yes- I do mean actually fake), not to mention plant-based beverages marketed like real milk.

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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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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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Pasturing Alternative Forages at Cobblestone Valley Farm

Pasture walk at Cobblestone Valley FarmPasture walk at Cobblestone Valley FarmPasturing Alternative Forages was held on Wednesday August 19th, 2015 at Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble, NY. Paul and Maureen Knapp hosted the field day and Organic Valley sponsored the event, providing lunch for the group.  We were fortunate to have the rain hold off for the day and to have a very large tent to escape the heat of August.

It is always a pleasure to visit Paul and Maureen Knapp’s farm nestled in the valley of Cortland County.  Paul and Maureen have been long-time NOFA-NY members and have been certified organic since 2000.  They manage a diverse farm business growing poultry, hogs and strawberries as well as managing a dairy herd of 50 milkers.  Their farm has a rich history with its beginnings as part of the cabbage industry growing for a sauerkraut processing facility next door to the farm, which has since become an equipment company.  Paul and Maureen are excellent farmers who are able to adapt to changing dynamics within their farm.  They maintain a beautiful farm and are a fine example of progressive organic dairy farmers. Uniquely, Paul’s experience growing cabbage has helped him to understand and manage growing brassicas for alternative forages.

grazed turnips
The event began with a round of introductions of presenters and attendees which included a variety of folks from bovine to sheep farmers, new farm owners and seed sales representatives.  Paul spoke about how he began planting alternative forages to help mitigate the summer slump in pasture rotation. Paul now utilizes his alternative pastures including kale, turnip, radish and Sorghum Sudan grass to maintain production and components during the entire grazing season. Paul has also used buckwheat, triticale & peas as alternate forages in the past. We walked out and viewed the different test plots of brassicas to compare how they grew and how the animals grazed them.  Paul chose to graze his animals for 2 hours on an every other day basis to allow the forages time for regrowth and to not overwhelm the cows ration.  Paul balances the alternative forages with perennial pasture consisting mostly of orchard grass and white clover with some red clover.




Paul Knapp discusses alternative forages to the group

Once we viewed the most recently grazed plots and plots with regrowth, we ventured back to our shady tent for a great lunch provided by Organic Valley.  After everyone’s belly was full we headed back out to view the sorghum sudan grass pasture. Many of the attending farmers shared their experiences pasturing alternative forages, what has worked for them and the results they have seen. There was a discussion on how BMR Sorghum thrives in hot weather and the brassicas thrive during the cooler weather.  By being able to rotate during the season they can be used to mitigate the risk of low pasture yields with varying weather at different times of the summer.  Paul stated how field days like this are great for building a farmers tool box; everyone can take home a few things that will help them in their operation down the road. Following an interesting discussion we had the pleasure to see a dry run of the Soil Health Trailer that Fay Benson and his team brought to the event.  The National Grazinglands Coalition’s Soil Health Trailer is equipped to measure and demonstrate vital physical, chemical, and biological components of soil health. When in full working mode workshop participants use penetrometers to measure soil compaction, and see a demonstration of the Active Carbon test that measures how much food the soil contains for the biological organisms that support soil health.

We are grateful to Fay for bringing the trailer and talking about what it is capable of, to Paul for sharing his years of experience and to Tim Darbishire for sharing his knowledge on forage options, seeding & maintaining a stand and rotations.  We are very pleased with the program and thankful to Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative for their support.

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