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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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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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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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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Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is complete and we are in the processing stage. It was a whirlwind three days! As my first time at the conference as Executive Director, I was amazed at the enthusiasm of participants, the knowledge of the presenters, and the commitment by the NOFA-NY staff to make the conference successful! I was heartened by the true spirit of cooperation by the Saratoga Springs Hilton and City Center to work with us and ensure it ran as smoothly as possible. The food was outstanding, thanks to all our food donors and chefs. It all left me greatly inspired.

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What is biodiversity?

What is biodiversity?

Wikipedia begins its definition of biodiversity by identifying it as a contraction of “biological diversity.” It refers to the variety and variability of life, the amount of variability within a species as well as between species and ecosystems. On the farm, biodiversity can be a measure of the number of organisms present in the soil, or the number of different species present or genetic variation – the hundreds of varieties of lettuce or tomatoes or cabbage that the farmer can choose from.  

A teaspoon of healthy soil may contain 20-50,000 different species and several billion creatures. This biodiversity is the heart, soul, and strength of organic agriculture. It underlies everything that makes organic agriculture work. Biodiversity in agriculture is both a blessing and a curse, sometimes both in the same breath. A blessing, because it leads to resilience, to redundancy, to the ability to recover and persevere. A curse, because at times it seems that disease and insects are relentless and unstoppable.

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2017 Farmers of the Year!

Mike and Gayle ThorpeCongratulations to our NOFA-NY 2017 Farmers of the Year, Mike & Gayle Thorpe of Thorpes Organic Family Farm! Our Farmer of the Year process goes through three phases. First, members and NOFA-NY staff send in nominations. Second, the Education Team reviews the nominations and forwards its top three recommendations to the NOFA-NY Board. Third, the board votes, and the winner is named Farmer of the Year.

We spoke with Gayle about the recognition, and wanted to share her response: "We are greatly surprised and humbled by our being chosen as 'Farmer of the Year.'  It seems like Mike and I are still young farmers, starting out, attempting to learn and do all we can to be good  stewards so we and our family can have the joy of being organic farmers.  All of a sudden, here we are, and all of our six children are grown and work with us, bringing their own separate interests, talents, and new ideas to make our family farm what it is today."

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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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Cultivate the Grassroots Organic Movement this Summer with NOFA

Cultivate the Grassroots Organic Movement this Summer with NOFA

NOFASummerConferenceLOGOvertical 300dpiThanks to Nicole Beranger from NOFA-Mass for this guest blog about the upcoming NOFA Summer Conference, August 12-14. And don't forget, the “Early Bird” discount is available until July 15 for 20% off registration! 

We’ve secured the location, gathered the experts all in one place, and for one weekend in August, you will be at the epicenter of the organic movement in the Northeast. NOFA MA learningoutdoors

Over 1200 organic farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, dieticians, herbalists and activists will come together to recharge and further the organic movement, deepening our knowledge, connections and impact at this important moment. Prepare to learn and teach and join others to discuss solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing us. Solutions to pests. Solutions to weeds. Solutions to inequity. Solutions to profitability. Solutions to wellness.

Now is the perfect moment in the summer season to take in a revitalizing and refreshing dose of your community and recharge your connection to the organic movement. The season is long. The pests are eating readily. And your community is experiencing the same challenges you are. We are all trying to make things better on our land, and with our bodies.

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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:

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  •  “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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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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2016 NOFA-NY WINTER CONFERENCE: AN ORCHARD OF APPLES

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 www.nofanyconference.org. We're taking registrations through January 15.
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A Collection of Farmers' Passions and Projects

This time of year, I have the privilege to read about so many farmers' hopes and dreams, and their thirst for education.  I read these testimonials as part of the NOFA-NY Winter Conference scholarship application decision-making process.  We read each application fully, multiple times with multiple criteria in mind.  We hear from people exploring the idea of farming to seasoned farmers who know how much farmer-to-farmer education means to their farm's success.  In light of the approaching scholarship award deadline (Midnight on 12/1/14), I'd like to share a few quotes that remind me of the passion and projects that farmers share willingly, in hopes of receiving one of our scholarships.

When asked what you hoped to get out of attending the conference, you answers were along these lines:

"I have one season of farming under my belt. Most of what I have learned has been by trial and error. I hope to gain as much knowledge as I can from those with far more experience so I can make this upcoming season a success. I also hope to meet other farmers in my same situation to see what steps they have taken to get to where they are and the steps they plan to take to get them to where they want to be. Being a novice, my book is full of blank pages. I would like to start filling up those pages with useful information. There is so much I want to learn but do not know where to start. I thought this would be a good place!" -2013 applicant

"Being able to exchange ideas about different growing practices with other organic farmers. Specifically looking for a better cover crop rotation for my farm. Want to learn more about the expanded marketing venues available to us for local retail and wholesale sales. Want to learn more about saving our own seed. Want to learn more about how our farm can help new farmers become established." -2014 applicant

It's so interesting to find out what people identify as their short- and long-term goals in the moment they apply for a scholarship--these goals are in flux each year, so this really shows the mindset of a farmer.  These goals range from lifestyle aspirations to technical specifications:

"I would like to expand the farm to six acres and acquire another good market. Eventually I would like to install a commercial kitchen where my sister in law can make prepared meals for value added production. I am planning at least two more acres of fruit trees and small fruit to round out the farm stand. I am very curious about primocane raspberries in combination with movable high tunnels. Eventually, I would like to have a mixed marketing strategy with some direct sales and some wholesale accounts. I see no reason to have a vow of poverty with this life based on the farmers I have been exposed to." -2013 applicant

"In the short term, I will continue to work on farms with vegetable CSAs, continue to gain machinery skills, attend workshops, CRAFTs, conferences, classes, etc. to learn and to meet other farmers. I am also looking for land to lease and potentially buy. On my future land, I will run a vegetable and herb farm that utilizes sustainable and organic agricultural practices while managing the space that is not cultivated for wildlife conservation." -2014 applicant

"I want to raise Certified Organic pastured poultry including ducks, and Certified Organic berry crops. I want to work towards the absolute minimal use of fossil fuel inputs. On-farm composting of poultry manure, bedding and ecologically sound composting of poultry carcasses. I want to bring to the customer a healthy, earth-friendly, superior tasting product at a fair price. I want to maintain the natural aesthetic of my property, while moving towards farming as my full-time passion." -2013 applicant

"[Our farm] is a small family operated fruit and vegetable farm. We sell our products at farmers markets and to farmers market vendors. This year we are leasing land across the road and expanding to offer a CSA harvest share. We are currently Certified Naturally Grown but hope to complete the organic certification process this year or next. We are still only field farming but hope to have infrastructure, such as a high tunnel or greenhouse, in a few years that will facilitate our desire to be year round farmers in upstate New York. We love farming and we love the farming life-growing healthy food for us and for others." -2014 applicantLuke and Cara inspecting window

And while some things show up in almost every application (and are probably on every farmer's mind), I love seeing the interesting combinations when we ask farmers what three topics they are most interested in learning about at the conference.  For the 2014 conference, that elicited these responses:

  • "farm business planning, soil science, compost"

  • "Food Safety, Cover Crops, Sustainable Financial Planning for the Farm"

  • "Small-scale farming, how to address food insecurity, and value-added production"

  • "grains, pigs, and business sense"


No, copying these answers won't guarantee you a scholarship.  But I hope that reading these inspires any potential applicant and ALL our community to evaluate where they are, and where they're going, and how farmer-to-farmer education can play a role in that.  Each attendee at our conference adds to its value, whether an eager learner, a presenter, a trade show participant, or someone involved behind the scenes with NOFA-NY.  You each contribute to the greatness of New York (and Northeast) organic agriculture when you open your ears and minds to information during workshops, when you fill pages of notebook paper with ideas and contact information, and when you bring your energy to the larger group for a few days each year.

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No matter if you apply for a scholarship, I hope you participate in this year's conference.  Here are a few things to remember:

Apply for a winter conference scholarship by 11:59pm EST on December 1st

You may contribute to our NOFA-NY scholarship funds when you register yourself for the conference!
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