The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

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Landcare

Fall soil testing can get you set up to succeed next growing season. Don’t shoot in the dark - find out what your soil’s limiting factors are now. Fall soil testing will also enable you to order the amendments you need via the 2021 Tri-State Bulk Order  – a NOFA tradition that helps growers of all sizes get affordable prices on farm and garden supplies while helping fund critical programming and activities at participating NOFA chapters.

As a thank you for soil testing with NOFA/Mass, you will receive a $10 coupon code to use when you place your order via the Tri-State Bulk Order in January.

There is not yet a significant body of research on barriers to adoption of healthy soils practices in agriculture, but initial investigations reveal that the primary barrier to adoption is farmer uncertainty about outcomes of practices adoption.

According to a report by The Nature Conservancy,  reThink Soil: A Roadmap to U.S. Soil Health,

 

 

Woven Roots Farm in Tyringham Massachusetts is a diversified organic vegetable CSA farm run by a small farm team managing 1.3 acres in cultivation (360 50’ beds plus paths) on a 10-acre site, roughly 5 of which is owned and 5 of which is leased. The farm grows food for 204 households through their CSA program and also grows for two wholesale accounts on 1.3 acres of land. 80 of their CSA shares are distributed through community partnerships to provide healthy food for low-income households.

Viability: The farm grosses $100,0000 in sales per acre. The farm employs six full-time growers and one part-time employee.  The farm owners, Jen and Pete Salinetti, earn 80% of their income each year directly from farm sales, with another 20% of earnings from on-farm education programs.

In this time of the Anthropocene, when human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment, stories about biodiversity loss have become heartbreakingly common. Once limited to the occasional report of a notable megafauna—the endangerment of pandas, snow leopards, elephants—today our awareness of species engagement extends to those small and oft-taken-for-granted service workers of earth’s ancient plant propagation engine: pollinators.

Yet the very workaday nature of the wee beasts that once – to most of us—registered as no more than the movement and sound in the summer air of our backyards should tell us something of how we can help – unlike snow leopards, they live among us, so shouldn’t the opportunities to offer support lie all around us where we live and work?

On February 12, 2020, 21 farmers from across Massachusetts drove in to the Statehouse to urge legislators to support the creation of a Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program. Gathering in a briefing room, legislators, staffers, press and supporters of the bill heard comments from farmers.

Representative Schmid and Senator Comerford, lead cosponsors of S.2404, the Healthy Soils Bill, started the briefing. “This is amazing to us, that the interest and fascination with healthy soils has grown so quickly here in the State House, and it’s in large part due to your advocacy,” Rep. Schmid remarked to the those in attendance.

“I want to acknowledge your work to grow and expand the possibility of this bill and the impact of healthy soils on our Commonwealth. It’s a food security issue, it’s a farmer justice issue and now we’re rightly seeing it as a climate issue,” said Senator Comerford, adding “And I want to thank NOFA for really spearheading the organizing around this, the outside push. We want to do right by our Commonwealth, and people like you make us do it.”

Dairy cows have been dubbed “the heart of the homestead” throughout American history because of their high productivity and ability to provide sustenance for so many other beings on a small farm.  On a diet of grass, hay and perhaps some supplemental grain, a dairy cow can produce enough milk to feed her calf and a small human family, with enough left over to share with pigs, chickens and other omnivores on the farm.  Her calves can be raised for beef or as future dairy cows, and her manure can be recycled into the landscape as fertilizer.  On some traditional New England farms, the cattle shelter was built under the family home to utilize the heat that the cow produced from ruminating to help heat the house in winter.  With so many benefits in one domestic animal, it’s easy to see how dairy cows have become a beloved staple on so many farms. 

The Robinson family of Hardwick has loved their 270 acres in central Massachusetts since before the turn of the 20th century.  Ray Robinson is the fourth-generation farmer to care for Robinson Farm and make it his own.  From a young boy playing and helping in the fields to taking the reins and steering the farm in new directions, Ray was raised to care for this piece of earth and all its living things

It’s a major transition time here at Wild Browse Farm and we’re feeling both excited and terrified. We have made a commitment to moving and have just finalized a “Purchase & Sale” with a couple of young farmers and their 3 children!  We couldn’t be happier with the future owners, yet we find the transition to be both exhilarating and terrifying, not to mention overwhelming.   Our closing date is May first. Which, when we let ourselves think about it, is just around the corner and alarmingly soon, with so much, much, much, to do in between.  

We’ve cared for this special land since 1980. Between 1980 and ‘88 we cleared land, built soil, planted orchards, vegetable gardens and many permaculture crops, and finally building and moving out of our little camper/cabin and into our “real” house. You can imagine what our next move will entail.  Not only 40 years of our accumulated personal possessions, but also tools, equipment, homesteading essentials, materials and supplies and of course all sorts of other bits & bobs. Everything needs to be sorted, recycled, composted, discarded or moved. 

Why Do We Graze?

Humans literally evolved to follow other animals around and participate in their environmental systems. There is no wonder we have devoted a huge portion of our society to domesticating animals; we are holding on to the partnership that has historically provided sustenance.  Unfortunately, we are currently working in a system that displaces the true meaning of our relationship with livestock by reducing it to an economic transaction. 

Many livestock farmers know-- and the research is increasingly backing them up-- that animals thrive when they have access to quality pasture and are managed in a manner that stimulates their natural behaviors. Moved regularly through diverse pastures, livestock can transform the landscape.

For me, the arrival of the NOFA bulk order is, like the arrival of the seed catalogs, a harbinger of spring, and an opportunity to stock up on things I know I will use all season long. The bulk order also appeals to the Yankee in me, because I know I will get great prices, especially with the member discount, and loading up my pick-up with a season’s worth of soil amendments feels like thrift rewarded. There are hundreds of items to choose from, for the back yard or the back 40. Here are some favorites of NOFA farmers this year:

Butterflies enjoying native flowers Photo credit: Caro Roszell

Communities across Massachusetts are standing up and taking action against toxic biocides and the dangers they pose to all living things-- from the smallest insect to those of us at the top of the food chain. Local leaders and concerned citizens are mounting a defense of the vulnerable members of our ecosystems, from the Statehouse to the schoolyard. 

With a raft of bills on pesticide reduction and pollinator protection before the state legislature (Pollinator Protection Act (Neonic Restrictions), Neonic Ban, Local Option on Pesticides, Protect Schoolchildren from Pesticides, Restrict Glyphosate use on Public Lands, Glyphosate Ban, Protect Groundwater from Pesticides) and with 29 Massachusetts communities that have already established some level of municipal action on pesticide reduction/pollinator protection, there is no better time to join the movement to protect our ecosystems and our health!

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