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Diversifying NOFA-NY

Diversifying NOFA-NY

By Elizabeth Henderson, Member of NOFA-NY Board of Directors

In our newly completed Strategic Plan, NOFA-NY sets out this fine vision: A just and resilient farming system grounded in a diverse community now and for future generations. Yet NOFA-NY is a largely white organization - not too surprising since farm ownership in the US is predominately white. As millions of family scale farmers have gone out of business over the past 50 years, farmers of color have been five times as likely as white farmers to lose their land due to multiple forms of discrimination. So how do we change the complexion of NOFA-NY? How can our organization, and the organic farming community it represents, better reflect the diverse population of our state? How can we navigate the delicate balance needed to support our present membership, while avoiding tokenism, condescension and do-goodism?

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Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is right around the corner! What a positive way to usher in the New Year! January is a busy month with several NOFA conferences and the Presidential inauguration. You may be deciding whether or not to join the hustle and bustle in Washington, DC or enjoy the activities and festivities of the Winter Conference. For me, that is a very easy decision. The NOFA-NY Winter Conference will offer a range of discussions, workshops and entertainment that not only recognize the changing of the administration, but also arm you with a trove of information and connections to last far beyond the next 4 or 8 or even 12 years! 

CR Lawn Photo Credit Jo JosephsonSpeakers include the eminent CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds, NYS Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard A. Ball, and hundreds of experts in their fields. We will have workshops that improve skills to reduce tillage and increase the biodiversity of our soil. The Hands-on Horse-Powered Demonstration will expand the possibilities of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. A Friday Roundtable Discussion will prepare you for the upcoming Farm Bill and address issues important to the integrity of organics and the vitality of our farmers.

And, of course, the first ever NE Organic Seed Conference within the larger Winter Conference is small_NE_Organic_Seed_Conference_Logo_V.jpgpart of the movement to ensure that the biodiversity of our seeds is saved and protected for generations to come.

Our workshops and discussion groups will delve into what diversity of our farmers looks like. We have “Dismantling Racism” workshop led by Keith McHenry on Saturday morning, as well as discussion groups for women, veterans and LGBTQ farmers and advocates. We aim to recognize our divisions, bridge them, and honor our diversity. Stephen Gabriel of Wellspring Forest Farm will organize a teach-in (or two) for Farmers in Action to prepare for civil leadership in the coming months and years. We will be live streaming the events in Washington, DC so you can stay informed of what is happening in the nation’s capital.

NACL_Theatre.jpgAs far as entertainment, we are thrilled to have a special performance by the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL), a professional, non-profit company that has created more than 20 original ensemble theatre productions and countless public spectacles since 1997. During the breaks on Saturday at 10:15am and 2:45pm, the NACL Theatre will perform a stilt skit to honor crop and human diversity for a healthy world. Our thanks to NACL Artistic Director Tannis Kowalchuk for stepping in and up to make this happen. We also will have a lively Jam session for people to pick up their instrument of choice and find their voice to honor our rich assortment of musical backgrounds and interests.

To follow our theme, all of us at NOFA-NY hope that the halls of the Saratoga Hilton and City Center will be filled with a Diverse group of people committed to nurturing the Biodiversity found on our farms. You won’t want to miss this!

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