NOFA/RI’s Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) workshop series shares farmer experiences and best practices between farmers, farm workers, apprentices and gardeners.
These CRAFT workshops are possible thanks to a generous Farm Viability grant though the RI Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture, which seeks to enhance farmers’ ability to grow and market their crops. Everyone is welcome.
Apple Orchard Planting & Care
December 11, 10:00 a.m.
Long Lane Orchard
76 Long Lane, Warren, RI 02885
Dress for the weather and bring a shovel.
Experienced orchardist, Spencer Morris, will discuss his strategy for planting apple trees at this site – every site is different. Hear how fruit trees are grafted and Spencer’s approach to nursery production. Learn to dig a hole, plant (do not throw the rocks back in!), support, rodent-proof and otherwise provide for the starts. Spencer will discuss his management practices (or lack of) for pruning and fruit production. Participants will hear about organic and traditional approaches and Spencer’s lessons in variety selection.
Participants will plant apple trees. Spencer has planted trees during snow storms, so this workshopcould be even more fun than expected!
Spencer Morris has managed apple orchards for over 10 years. Long Lane Orchard has 450 dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees per acre. More than 35 apple varieties provide fresh eating, culinary uses and cider.
Growing and Harvesting Medicinal Roots
Sunday, Oct.16, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
959 Hopkins Hill Road
West Greenwich, RI
At this free CRAFT Workshop, Mary Blue of Farmacy Herbs discussed cultivation, harvest and curing techniques for medicinal roots. Attendees learned hoe to prepare herb beds for winter’s rest and make nutrient-rich compost.
Organic No-Till and Intensive Vegetable Production: Tools and Techniques
with Bryan O’Hara of Tobacco Road Farm
December 4, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
South Kingstown Land Trust Barn
17 Matunuck Beach Road, South Kingstown, RI 02879
Part of the Advanced Growers Series, learn techniques for intensively growing vegetables using organic no-till practices on a commercial scale from Bryan O’Hara, owner and farmer at Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, CT. During this day-long workshop Bryan will provide mountains of details in the concise, practical and cohesive manner we have come to appreciate from him over the years. He will take participants through his whole production system which has been profitable and sustainable for over 20 years.
Learn about the various steps of a no-till transition including
- Eliminating preceding crops and reducing residues
- Creating weed-free seed beds and controlling weeds
- Applying fertility and increasing biological activity and diversity
- Appropriate seeding including inter-seeding vegetable crops and cover cropping
Far from a broad abstract view of production systems, Bryan will cover various tools and techniques he has honed over two decades of production. Bryan will also focus on building soil and fertility, multi-cropping and season extension; cropping schedules. He will also discuss mowing and solarizing, weed-free composting, mulching, weed and pest control, broadcast seeding, irrigation as well as harvest techniques and efficient decision-making tips.
Bryan and Anita Johnson have been growing vegetables on 1+ acres in Lebanon, CT for over 20 years. Bryan successfully converted his potato production to no-till methods several years ago. Bryan was named Organic Farmer of the Year at the 2016 NOFA Summer Conference.
Greg Breene, agricultural teacher, Future Farmers of America (FFA) Advisor and Breene Acres Farm discussed safe operation and basic maintenance requirements of gas or diesel-powered farm tractors and implements. Training included tractor parts and tools identification such as a torque wrench, open-end wrench, flywheel, piston and starter. Participants learned safe procedures to attach and use common tractor implements including a seeder, harrow, tine weeder or manure spreader.
This workshop was designed specifically for women. Attendees had the opportunity to drive a tractor.
- bobcat.com – Equipment Safety Video
- Agricultural Mechanics: Fundamentals & Applications, 3rd edition” by Elmer L. Cooper, Ray V. Herren
Ben Torpey of Scratch Farm discussed strategies for building organic matter and reducing weed pressure through undersowing cover crops, mulching with leaves and reducing primary tillage. He also touched on Scratch’s crop rotation and integrating small-scale seed production into a highly diversified vegetable farm.
A Young Farmer Nights potluck supper followed the workshop.
Scratch Farm is a two-acre farm near Providence, RI. One of seven independent farms on a 35-acre state-owned property managed with the Southside Community Land Trust, Scratch Farm grows a wide variety of sustainably-grown vegetables and fruits each year. Produce is available through CSA shares and to Providence restaurants through Little City Growers.
Little State Flowers Means Business in the Ocean State
June 13, 2016
Little State Flower Company, West Kingston RI
Co-Hosted by Young Farmer Nights
Anna Jane Kocon discussed her experience starting a farm business in Rhode Island. Attendees heard about her search for land and arranging a lease. Anna explained how she markets her flowers Saturdays at the Aquidneck Growers Market in Middletown, how she retains her existing customer base and finds new customers.
A Young Farmer Nights potluck supper followed the workshop.
Based in Portsmouth, RI, Little State Flower Company specializes in seasonal, local cut flowers and plants. Anna Jane uses sustainable and organic growing practices to offer premium, specialty cut flowers to the floral design and event industry in Rhode Island and South Eastern Massachusetts as well as local retail consumers. Anna Jane started Little State Flower Company in 2014 with eight years experience growing flowers for other farmers. Anna Jane lives with her husband Bradley, two dogs, one cat and six chickens in West Kingston, RI
Rhode Island Agricultural Day
May 10, 2016
Rhode Island State House, Providence, RI
Rhode Island farms and farmers were celebrated at Rhode Island’s Agricultural Day. Visitors sampled great food and local products and meet the hard working farmers, producers and other advisors behind Rhode Island’s food system and green industry.
RI Governor Gina Raimondo and First Gentleman Andy Moffit, DEM and partners commended state farmers and growers at the 15th Annual Ag Day at the State House. The recipients of the 2016 Local Agriculture & Seafood Act (LASA) grant awards were announced.
Attendees met representatives from the organizations and agencies that support agriculture and food production across our state.
Irrigation and Water Systems
May 8, 2016
Wishing Stone Farm, Little Compton, RI
Trevor Hardy of Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, NH demonstrated setting up a small farm irrigation system using a variety of irrigation components. He discussed systems using commercial wells, surface water and movable pumps. Trevor demonstrated drip and overhead irrigation as well as a hybrid overhead options connected to drip line headers. He taught attendees “how to do the math” for their own farms.
Tractor Basics with Chuck Currie of Freedom Food Farm
March 20, 2016
Chuck Currie, organic grower at Freedom Food Farm and retired NOFA/RI board member described the basics of tractor use, safety considerations, simple maintenance and standard farm operation. He demonstrate safely switching implements. Lindie Markovich, farm manager at Casey Farm demonstrated appropriate techniques for efficient farm tractor use.
Chuck ran Freedom Food Farm in Johnston from 2012 – 2014 then moved to Raynam, MA. The farm offers healthy, nutritious food to members of the community throughout the socioeconomic spectrum. The farm uses organic and biodynamic principles, striving to model natural ecological cycles. Donating produce and offering a sliding scale for CSA shares ensure the whole community access to this nutritious food. Freedom Food Farm also sells at five Farmers Markets and through Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Market Mobile. The farm produces a wide range of products including vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, hay, straw, eggs, chicken, pork, bedding plants and value added vegetable products.
Casey Farm raises certified organic vegetables, herbs and flowers for a 175 member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. On Saturdays from May through October, Casey Farm hosts the Coastal Growers Farmers Market with local meats, seafood, fruit, vegetables, flowers and artisan products.
Casey Farm was established in 1702. This 300-acres property is managed by Historic New England whose mission is to serve the public by preserving and presenting New England heritage.
“This workshop was co-hosted with the Young Farmer Network as part of their Southeastern New England’s Farmer Short Course series. See the 2016 YFN event schedule here. YFN’s Farmer Short Course series was funded by a partnership with the New England Farmers Union Education Foundation through a Rural Business Development Grant. This organization is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
Turn Seeds into Profits
March 8, 2016
Participants saw one of the first mechanical seeders in commercial production – still going strong. NOFA/RI Board President, Jan Martin worked the repotting line. participants saw creative solutions to tedious chores like moving hundreds of trays and flats with a plant “trolley” and repurposed golf ball racks. The Chases maximize space efficiency with rolling benches and stack trays for delivery in their Blue Begonia Bus – a repurposed soda delivery truck.
Harry Chase demonstrated that with good seed treated right, growers can produce strong, healthy plants. Participants heard successful propagation techniques from growers Harry and Sam Chase at Chase Farms. This behind-the-scenes tour of a successful wholesale annual and perennial nursery grows in 25 greenhouses and high tunnels making it the “largest grower in the smallest state.” The Chases and their customers practice environmentally conscious cultivation.
Feb. 29, 2016
Participants learned safe procedures to attach and use common tractor implements including a seeder, harrow, tine weeder or manure spreader.
Winter Conference: Healthy Soils, Healthy Plants, Healthy People
Feb. 28, 2016
Hope & Main
Workshop topics included Intensive Growing, Soil Health and Carbon Farming, Composting, Cover Crops, Seed Saving, Nutrient Dense Growing, Community Gardens, GMO Labeling, Macrobiotics and more. This Winter Conference offered sessions for gardeners, farmers and fans of organic foods. Learn more about the conference here.
Thank you to our generous sponsors: Hope & Main, Farm Credit East and the RI DEM, Division of Agriculture via a USDA Specialty Crop Grant.
Root to Shoot Farming and Creating the Chef’s Garden
Indie Growers at Mount Hope Farm, Bristol, RI January 30, 2016
To squish or not to squish…that is the question! Lee Ann Freitas of Indie Growers shared over ten years experience with greenhouse growing, opening her greenhouse and sharing tips on insect and pest identification. Lee Ann shared her unique and holistic approach to growing she calls “Root to Shoot.” She discussed small space gardening and essential herbs for creating your own unique and flavorful garden. This workshop offered 1 NOFA AOLCP reaccreditation hours.
Indie Growers is located in the greenhouse behind the Mount Hope Farmers Market in Bristol, RI. Indie Growers is a purveyor of unique greens, vegetables, herbs and edible blossoms. Find Indie Growers products at James Beard Award winning restaurants and fine food establishments in Boston and Providence. All Indie Growers products are grown sustainably, independent of chemicals.
Six-Figure Farming for Small Plots: Essential Tools & Techniques for the Small Scale Organic Vegetable Growers
Jean-Martin Fortier, farmer and author of The Market Gardener
November 21, 2015
Hope & Main, Warren, RI
Jean-Martin Fortier is one of Canada’s most recognized and influential organic growers. He is the author of The Market Gardener: A successful grower’s handbook for small-scale organic farming shared the techniques, tools and appropriate technology that makes his 1.5 acre market garden productive and profitable.
Jean-Martin’s workshop offered in-depth instructions on intensive production methods to optimize a cropping system.
Jean-Martin Fortier is the founder of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally recognized micro-farm known for its high productivity and profitability using low-tech, high-yield methods of production. A leading practitioner of biologically intensive cropping systems, Jean-Martin has facilitated more than fifty workshops and conferences in Europe, Canada and the US promoting the micro-scale farming as an alternative lifestyle.
Thank you to the many generous individuals, growers and producers who donated food for our delicious local lunch.
- Barden Family Farm
- Bellucchi’s Best Biscotti
- Fox Point Pickles
- Freedom Food Farm
- Good From Grown
- Groovy Food Folks
- Hope & Main
- Just Yummy popcorn snack (and it’s yummy, yummy)
- Leah’s Recipe
- Jan & John Martin
- RI Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture via a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Grant.
- Sacred Cow Granola
- Scratch Farm
- We Share Hope
- Laura Willson
- Wishing Stone Farm
Thank you to the Providence Career and Technical Academy (PC&TA) for donating our seminar printing and the RI Natural History Survey for sharing their reusable flatware.
NOFA/RI co-promoted the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society’s (RIWPS’s) 2015 Wild Plant Symposium: Growing Awareness: planting biodiverse + resilient landscapes. Nursery and landscape industry professionals, landscape architects, ecologists, land managers and plant enthusiasts attended the full-day conference:
Native plants provide the landscape with a sense of place. Over thousands of years these plants have adapted to the local conditions – in sync with the needs of local wildlife with which they have co-evolved.
Participants learned about:
- The importance of collecting, saving and propagating genetically diverse local seed to create biodiverse and resilient landscapes.
- Using native plant communities as a model for ecological horticulture using design examples from the late 19th century and today’s practitioners.
- Techniques to help landscapes expand and thrive using existing plant material.
- Regional panelists shared rewards and responses to the challenges, of propagating locally native plants for conservation and design.
Managing Organic Farms for Drought and Weeds
July 29, 2015
Free CRAFT Workshop and Young Farmer Nights (YFN) Gathering & Potluck Supper
Farm Manager Lindie Markovich described Casey Farm’s updated irrigation system and how it helps protect the farm against the growing threat of seasonal droughts. The farm crew shared the new cultivation techniques they are testing this season
This event was co-hosted by the Young Farmer Network (YFN). Young Farmer Network of Southeastern New England (YFN) aims to support farmers developing socially, ecologically and economically sustainable farm businesses by cultivating personal and professional relationships across state borders between people of all ages and backgrounds.
YFN has hosted Young Farmer Nights (YFN) on alternate weeks during each growing season since 2010. YFNs are open to people of all ages, experiences, backgrounds, and farm types. YFN are inspired by the agrarian tradition of neighborly collaboration, knowledge sharing, socializing, and community building. See the 2015 YFN event schedule at youngfarmernetwork.org/events.
Artisan Cheesemaking on Aquidneck Island
July 12, 2015
Karla offered a walking tour of the farm. Participants learned to make and hang chèvre (goat cheese). Participants learned to flavor chèvre and sampled their cheese with crackers. Afterwards Karla will broughtparticipants to the barn to see her milk the animals. Participants brought home the cheese they made. This workshop was perfect for home-cheese makers, avid cooks, cheese lovers and food enthusiasts!
Simmons Farm is a 120-acre certified organic, family farm in Middletown, RI. The Simmons family uses biodynamic techniques to grow traditional and heirloom produce for a farm stand, Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA), numerous RI farmer’s markets and wholesale accounts. The farm welcomes visitors at the farm stand and petting zoo. Simmons Farm offers pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed beef, pastured pork and seasonal offerings of lamb and goat meat. Karla and her family make fresh Farmstead Cheeses daily in their RIDOH-licensed certified dairy using their own goat and cow milk.
Karla Simmons is a RI native, and a longtime lover of cheeses. She studied classes with Peter Dickson in Vermont and learned a lot about cheesemaking on our own. In 2000, Karla and her husband Brian Simmons took over running Simmons Farm. Karla now manages the farm’s cheese production, inventory, marketing and sales.
Raise better vegetables with chickens in crop rotations
June 30, 2015
Big Train Farm
Free CRAFT Workshop
John Kenny explained how rotating over 100 chickens around his 2-acre certified organic farm has improved produce yields at Big Train Farm. Beginning and experienced growers learned how to improve soil biology, fertility and specialty crop yields by including a chicken tractor in their crop rotation plans.
This 2-acre farm is one of seven small farms at Urban Edge Farm, owned by Southside Community Land Trust. Established in 2008, Big Train Farm sells produce and eggs through a 25-week mix-and-match CSA and wholesale accounts. CSA customers may also purchase weekly shares of fruits, flowers, meats and breads from other growers, producers and restaurants.
John is a NOFA/RI Organic Farm Advisor specializing in tractor operations, soil test interpretation and field planning. Each year John offers a 3-part workshop on Soil Health and Plant Science for farmers and gardeners. His courses include basic soil science, crop science and soil maintenance principles focused on organic growing techniques. He also hosts workshops on agriculture, natural science and field botany.
Season extension means much more than a long fall season. Visitors learned to develop a crop plan for abundant produce offerings for June CSAs and farmers markets. At Little River Farm, Camille Abdel-Nabi and Bob Payne use high and low tunnels to start spring and summer crops early, giving them a distinct advantage at farmers markets.
Healthy Soils, Healthy Plants, Healthy Ecosystems
March 29, 2015
Hope & Main, Warren, RI
Learn more about the Winter Conference here.
Cultivating Exotic Mushrooms
February 10, 2015
RI Mushroom Company
141 Fairgrounds Rd, West Kingston, RI
Participants saw how gourmet mushrooms are grown commercially. Rob DiPietro of RI Mushrooms shared his experience and offered a tour of his commercial mushroom operation.
Participants visited the cool and humid mushroom “grow rooms” and learned about mushroom cultivation and the life cycle of fungi.
The RI Mushroom Company is the largest grower of exotic mushrooms north of Pencylvania. Rob and his team grow several varieties including blue oyster, crimini, golden oyster, king oyster, maitake, portobello and pioppino.
Over 40 new and aspiring farmers attend this workshop at URI’s Providence Campus on January, 14, 2015.
Growing for Winter Markets
January 11, 2015
Attendees saw organic winter growing techniques adapted from Eliot Coleman’s methods for RI winters. Beginning and experienced growers learned when to plant seeds and transplants and tricks for maintaining ideal microclimates in unheated greenhouses. Mike and Kelli Roberts recommended their favorite winter varieties of winter greens, radishes, turnips, bok choi, carrots, and herbs. Hear how the Roberts enhance soil fertility with organic amendments, compost, and crop rotation in their greenhouses and outdoor beds.
Beginning and experienced growers learned about the Roberts’ marketing approach including winter and summer CSAs and farmers markets.
Rally for Right to Know
December 10, 2014
A bus brought local participants to Washington D.C. for a Rally to stop the attack on GMO Labeling. Participants rallied to protest HR 4432, a bill aimed at killing states’ rights to label GMOs. An organic lunch was provided in Washington D.C. after the Rally. Learn more about the events here.
Business Planning – Farming Smarter, Not Harder
December 6, 2014
URI, Providence, RI
Richard Wiswall helped new and beginning farmers tune-up their business and increase net profits. In this workshop, farmers learned to identify their farm’s profit centers—which parts of the farm make the most money, and which may be losing money. Wiswall spoke about efficient farm planning and analysis, efficient farm office management, key financial statements, employee management and financial tips for success. The workshop addressed:
- Planning for Profit: a step by step guide to increase your net profit
- Making a Profit on YOUR farm: what is making money and what isn’t
- Your marketing strategies
- The Efficient Farm Office: humorous skits and demos outline best practices
- Key farm financial statements: what they are, why they are important, and how they relate to each
- Employee management
- Quick business fixes
This workshop was co-sponsored by Young Farmer Network, The Carrot Project and URI Extension.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Impacts RI’s Farms
December 2, 2014
Brown University, Providence, RI
Dr. Richard Bonanno, experienced farmer and business leader explained how the proposed FSMA’s Produce and Preventive Control Rules will affect small farmers.
RI farmers, processors, handlers and distributors will face increased costs and documentation requirements under FSMA’s Produce and Preventive Control Rules as they are phased in over the next two years. Many farmers will find compliance cost prohibitive.
Farmers, producers and consumers can help make the new rules more manageable and less burdensome for RI’s family farmers. NOFA/RI urges everyone to educate themselves on FSMA issues. Please send your comments to the FDA on the proposed regulations before December 15, 2014.
Learn more about FSMA at sustainableagriculture.net/fsma and newenglandfarmersunion.org/legislation/food-safety-modernization-act.
Will Bonsall’s Workshop
Getting more food from less space & Cultivated crops that don’t need cultivation
November 9, 2014
Brown University, Providence, RI
Author and grower, Will Bonsall of the Scatterseed Project, described a System (as opposed to a single crop) of growing a number of specialty crops in less space, using a combination of companion cropping and intensive spacing. This is Will’s version of the John Jeavons’ Bio-Intensive growing without raised beds. Will also mentioned his less common permacrops including hazelnuts, hardy kiwis, medlars, elderberries and blackberries. View highlights from Will’s Workshop here.
FSMA-Compliant Produce Handling and Building a Cooler with a Coolbot
October 2, 2014
Wishing Stone Farm
Little Compton, RI
Skip Paul discussed his approach to the upcoming produce sanitation protocols of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) using Sanidate in wash water at appropriate stages of greens processing. University of Vermont Extension has produced this educational video: here.
Wishing Stone Farm has set up a second CoolBot this season. Attendees saw and learned about the farm’s first and second Walk-in Cooler. CoolBots override an air conditioner’s temperature gauge and turn an insulated room and standard household air conditioner into a walk-in cooler. Learn more at the CoolBot website and see a list of disadvantages here.
All About Alliums
September 10, 2014
New Urban Farmer
This family of plants offers many varieties from scallions and leeks to shallots and onions. Alliums naturally resist deer and rodent predation. Farmers Emily Jodka and Bleu Grijalva will discuss when and how to plant French Grey shallots and garlic as well as starting onions from seed. Learn how to care for, harvest, cure and store alliums. See the 2014 harvest and help plant next season’s crop. You may even learn to braid onions!
Green Marketplace Festival
August 10, 2014
The Farmer’s Daughter & Landscape Creations of RI
South Kingstown, RI
NOFA/RI exhibited at this Rhode Island Nursery & Landscape Association event. The Green Marketplace Festival celebrated Rhode Island’s tradition of horticulture, agriculture and landscape stewardship. Visitors helped celebrate our state’s green economy and organic growers.
This year’s event included activities for the whole family: hands-on demonstrations, exhibits, vendors, live music, green businesses, great food, Big Nazo Puppets and story telling. A “Learn from the Experts” included landscape professionals offer workshops on their specialty. BoldrDash, New England’s premiere military-style obstacle course race, tested participants’ strength and stamina with obstacles designed to meet all fitness levels – elite to beginner. There were two courses for adults and children.
NOFA Summer Conference
August 8 – 10, 2014
UMass, Amherst, MA
NOFA held its 40th Annual Summer Conference, featuring over 150 workshops on farming, gardening, land care, nutrition and food politics. Full and half-day preconference workshops were held on Friday, August 8. Over 100 exhibitors shared their products and message. This family-friendly event inluded activities for children and teens, a country fair and organic meals! The keynote speaker was soil scientist and researcher, Elaine Ingham, taught growers to foster microbial life in soils. Learn more here.
Growing and Harvesting Herbs & Making Herbal Medicines
June 10, 2014
Farmacy Herbs, West Greenwich, RI
Herbs can be used to make extracts (tinctures), fluid extracts, infusions, decoctions, syrups as well as salves, infused oils and skin creams. Mary Blue discussed cultivation techniques, harvesting at the optimum growth stage and how to dry and process herbs. She also demonstrated making nutrient-rich compost tea and its application.
How to put up a High Tunnel
May 18, 2014
Sandywoods Farm, Tiverton, RI
Sandywoods Farm hosted an old fashioned “Barn Raising” to install their NRCS high tunnel. Participants leaned how to assemble a Rimol Northeaster high tunnel and theimportance of level ground. The high tunnel will extend the Community Garden growing season and provide additional agricultural opportunities for Sandywoods Farm’s unique community.
Lunch was provided by Church Community Housing. Co-sponsors included:
- Sandywoods Farm
- Sandywoods Farm Community Garden Co-op
- Church Community Housing
- Eastern RI Conservation District
Season Extension – Spring growing in High & Low Tunnels
May 14, 2014
Matunuck Oyster Bar’s Vegetable Farm
South Kingston, RI
Farm Manager, Jason McCartney discussed the benefits of various season-extension structures (heated greenhouse, moveable high tunnel, low tunnels/field plastic and row covers) and how their use fits into early season production, harvest and marketing schedule. Attendees learned about early field crops (salad mix, pac choi, kale, hakuri turnips, radishes and spinach.) Discussions included variety selection, transplant dates, planting dates, fertility and cover crops for early season production. Learn more about the farm at www.rhodyoysters.com/matunuck-vegetable-farm.
URI East Farm Spring Festival
May 10, 2014
URI East Farm, Kingston, RI
Thank you to NOFA/RI Board member, Jan Martin, for running the NOFA/RI exhibit at this event featuring a large selection of plants for sale, activities for children, free soil testing, rain barrel and compost bin sales as well as environmental outreach workshops! Learn more here.
RI Agriculture Day May 1, 2014
RI State House
Thank you to NOFA/RI Board members, Bleu Grijalva of New Urban Farm and Jan Martin for running the NOFA/RI exhibit. RI Ag. Day highlighted the state’s thriving agriculture industry. Farming is an integral part of the state’s economy and provides a valuable contribution to Rhode Island’s open space and quality of life. Beyond fresh and local produce, meat, nursery stock, sod and Rhode Island’s own Rhody Fresh milk, agriculture contributes to tourism, open space, landscaping businesses, and a variety of food-related industries. The event also featured the statewide “Get Fresh. Buy Local” campaign and farmers’ markets.
Smart fruit tree management & pruning to prevent disease
April 24, 2014
Barden Family Orchard
North Scituate, RI
Participants learned the principles of fruit tree pruning with an emphasis on pruning peach trees. Sandie Barden of Barden Family Orchard discussed basic pruning theory and the family’s successful pruning techniques. She demonstrated using her favorite tools and offered safety tips. Sandie discussed fruit tree management and disease prevention and demonstrate pruning various types of fruit crops. The Bardens recommended these resources for tree fruit management all season:
- Physiological and overall tree information
- Healthy Fruit newsletter (annual fee)
- Scaffolds (free)
- General peach management is from a southern source. Please read and adjust accordingly.
Barden Family Orchard grows 15 varieties of peaches, 20 varieties of apples, blueberries and raspberries. This 3-generation, Pick Your Own orchard also has a farm market. The Barden’s also grow and sell pumpkins, winter squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini and eggplant.
Making and Using Soil Blocks
URI Greenhouses & Conservatory
Meredith and Jason Spitalnik of Island Community Farmsdemonstrated the soil block systems they have used for the past 5 years. Seedlings develop stronger, more resilient root systems when started in soil blocks. They have minimum transplant shock and quickly establish in their new locations. Soil block systems create no plastic waste. Everything is reusable. Attendees mixed media and tried a variety of different blocker makers.
View photos from the event here. View a worksheet from Johnny’s Selected Seeds on soil block making here. View a video on making seed-starting blocks for vigorous root development here.
NOFA/RI Winter Conference & Annual Meeting: The Past, Present & Future of Organics February 16, 2014
Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, Bristol, RI
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island (NOFA/RI) hosted three NOFA/RI founders and early members who described their reasons for starting this NOFA chapter back in 1990 and the continued relevance of organic farming, gardening and landscaping today.
We heard about compost from Mike Merner, owner of Earth Care Farm, edible landscaping from Landscape Architect and former farmer, Michael Veracka and educating our next generation of farmers from high school Agriculture Teacher, John O’Malley. We celebrated our 2013 achievements and announced our program plans for 2014. Everyone enjoyed a delicious potluck meal together.
Advanced Grower Workshop – A Late Season Field Walk – Focus on Soil Fertility Through the Fall November 10, 2013
Brix Bounty Farm, Dartmouth, MA
Participants enjoyed a field tour at Brix Bounty Farm and discussed fall fertility work on the farm. Topics included:
- Biodynamic preps, biological inoculants, & residue digestion
- Cover crops
- Soil amendments & mineralization
- Winter high tunnel fertility management
Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) Business School
November 3 & 4, 2013
URI Bay Campus, Narragansett, RI
The conference included both organic and conventional growers. NOFA/RI co-sponsored the conference to promote organic methods. Former NOFA/RI board members, Mike and Polly Hutchison and NOFA/RI member, Suzanne Nolter presented. Workshop topics included:
- Goal Setting and Business Decision Making
- Growers’ Seasonal Tour Panel
- Crop Planning and Record Keeping
- Update on American Grown program
- Marketing Strategies and Implementation: Examination of Two Marketing Styles
- Tricks of the Trade
- Getting the Most Stems from your Plant Choice
- USDA and Farm Service Agency Microloans
- Tour of Robin Hollow Farm
Learn more here. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Impacts on RI Farms
October 29, 2013
Co-Sponsored by Farm Fresh RI, URI Extension, New England Farmers Union and USDA Farm Service Agency.
A panel of experienced farmers and business leaders explained how the proposed FSMA’s Produce and Preventive Control Rules will affect their farms. See Dr. Rich Bonanno’s presentation here or here. RI farmers, processors, handlers and distributors will face increased costs and documentation requirements under FSMA rules. Many farmers incorrectly assume they could be “exempt” from the regulations. Some farmers are concerned they may be forced out of business under FSMA’s potential burdens. Farmers, producers and consumers can help make the new rules manageable, not burdensome, for RI’s family farmers. NOFA/RI urges everyone to educate themselves on FSMA issues and to send comments to the USDA before the comment deadline of November 15, 2013. Learn more in the summer 2013 issue of The Natural Farmer.
The FSMA Comment rules say all petitions or standardized letters delivered to FDA will only count as ONE comment (even if there are thousands). Unique comments will be counted separately. EVERY voice is important on this important matter. The proposed FSMA is not science-based, but has the authority to greatly impact how farmers’ farm and eaters’ abilities to make localized food choices. Four New England Farmers and professionals explained the proposed FSMA’s Produce and Preventive Control Rules and how they could affect their family farms:
- Dr. Richard Bonanno, farmer and President of Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. Dr. Bonanno owns and manages his family farm, Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen, MA and is an Adjunct Professor at the UMass/Amherst, Plant, Soil and Insect Science Department with responsibilities in food safety issues. Dr. Bonanno is also a Senior Extension Specialist at the University of Massachusetts Extension responsible for vegetable and small fruit weed management.
- Jack Kittredge, farmer, NOFA/Mass Policy Director and Editor of “The Natural Farmer.” Jack Kittredge and his wife Julie Rawson operate Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre, MA. Julie is the Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts (NOFA/Mass). Kittredge led a coalition of farmers and environmental groups in a lawsuit against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed. The suit seeks protection in case of (accidental) GMO seed contamination.
- Skip Paul, farmer and educator, Wishing Stone Farm in Little Compton, RI. Skip Paul and Liz Peckham operate a 50-acre GAP and organic certified farm. Skip was instrumental in forming NOFA/RI and is a regular speaker and workshop leader at his farm and across southern New England.
- Roger Noonan, organic farmer at Middle Branch Farm, New Boston, NH and President of New England Farmers Union. Noonan is a founding board member of Local Harvest CSA and a Legislative Affairs Committee member for NH Farm Bureau Federation.
Learn more about FSMA at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s website sustainableagriculture.net/fsma or www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/food-safety-modernization-act. For an overview of the issues, see farmtalkfsma.org. Learn how to send in your comments at sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/speak-out-today.
Winter Growing with Movable Greenhouses
October 27, 2013
Roots Farm, Tiverton
Roots Farm is one of the few farms in Rhode Island with movable greenhouses. Mike and Kelli Roberts discussed the advantages and uses of movable houses and low tunnels for winter growing. Attendees learned how to and helped move two greenhouses at this certified organic farm.
Soil Fertility In Focus – Moving Beyond N,P,K – Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Crops with Minerals, Microbes, & Management
October 20, 2013
This seminar explored the nutritional needs of different crop families, key minerals needed to support healthy growth and the role of fertility management in achieving optimum yields. See two videos of Derek demonstrating soil structure: Part 1 and Part 2. We looked at five crops in depth, covering the fertility needs of each crop, cost and expense considerations and essential management of their growing seasons. Crops included:
- Beets (chenopods & roots)
- Onions (alliums & bulbs)
- Spring Cabbage (brassicas & leaves)
- Tomatoes (nightshades & fruits)
- Winter Squash (cucurbits & fruits)
View Derek’s slides and recommendations.
- Soil Fertility slides
- Soil Fertility slides – 6 slides per page
- Soil Fertility Recommendation Worksheet
Season Extension and Year-Round Sales
October 10, 2013
Freedom Food Farm, Johnston, RI
Co-Hosted by Young Farmer NightsThis workshop covered growing cool season greens and pest management techniques. Participants will learn about variety selection, planting dates, fertility, bulk harvesting methods, long-term storage for root crops, potential shelf life, crop protection options.
Using Low Tunnels for Season Extension & Pipe Bender Demonstration
September 17, 2013
Island Community Farms,
Jason and Meredith Spitalnick shared their experience using low tunnels as a simple, cost effective method for extending the growing season.
Growers and gardeners can start spring plantings earlier, extend harvests past early frosts and overwinter tender plantings safely under low tunnels. Workshop participants practiced bending low tunnel hoops and created a caterpillar-style low tunnel.
NOFA/RI has a full set of pipe benders available for loan to members and rental to non-members. Learn more here. A young volunteer also demonstrated Jason’s bicycle-powered compost sifter. View a video of the composter in action here. Attendees also toured the farm’s Food Forest.
Katie Miller’s discussed and demonstrated their growing practices as well as their seed harvesting and processing techniques at Scratch Farm and Small State Seeds. A Young Farmer Nights potluck supper followed the workshop.
What’s Your Favorite Tomato?
August 20, 2013
Blue Skys Farm, Cranston, RI
Learn about and taste the results of the farm’s 2013 Tomato Trials. The Trials were conducted by five RI farms, led by URI Extension and funded by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education). Christina Dedora and Blue Skys Farm raised over a dozen tomato varieties in a high tunnel. Growers monitored yield, soil analysis and tissue culture.
Herb Production & Herbal Preparations
August 13, 2013
Mary Blue introduced participants to herbal medicine, terminology and herbal formulation. She covered the uses of 20 local medicinal plants. Mary passed around plant, herbal teas, tinctures and salves. She described her processes for turning these plants and herbs into medicinal products.
Attendees enjoyed a tour of the ‘greens factory’ and learned how to grow a never-ending supply of salad and arugula through biointensive production and succession planting. Sidewalk Ends Farm’s, Fay Strongin, Laura Brown-Lavoie and Tess Brown-Lavoie, shared their seeding, transplanting and direct seeding.
This workshop also covered urban composting practices and fertilizing routines essential to creating and maintaining healthy soils and maximizing production. The workshop was followed by a Young Farmer Nights potluck supper and storytelling around the fire.
Microgreens & Energy Conservation
Farming Turtles, Exeter, RI
Participants learned how Farming Turtles produces certified organic crops of micro-greens and baby greens year-round, growing indoors. The farm also grows wheatgrass (for people and pets). All products are sold wholesale or through distributors.
Farm staff also produce shitake mushrooms for restaurant chefs and wholesaler customers. Lauri Roberts discussed Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Certification by the American Institute of Baking (AIB), the preeminent organization for auditing food safety.
Composting, Vermiculture & Compost Tea April 27, 2013
Reinhard Sidor led a hands-on demonstration of hot composting, worm composting (Vermiculture) and making actively aerated compost tea for foliar and soil application. Reinhard explained the benefits of making and using your own compost from yard and kitchen waste.
Compost can be used in container gardening, food and ornamental gardens as mulch and fertilizer, to improve soil quality. Compost increases plant vitality, disease resistance and can reduce pest damage. Use of shredded oak leaves as a landscape mulch will be shown. Also discussed will be the mulching of oak leaves into the lawn rather than composting or bagging them.
RI Agriculture Day
RI State House Rotunda
NOFA/RI helped celebrate organic and sustainable farmers and growers at RI Agriculture Day with a booth in the RI State House Rotunda. Visitors and volunteers sampled delicious local foods and beverages.
Governor Chafee, Shannon Brawley – Executive Director of RINLA and EDC Board Member, Sandi and Gil Barden of Barden Family Orchards and Senator Susan Sosnowski all made presentations.The RI Fruit Growers Association celebrated its 100th birthday and awarded Heather Faubert an award of Merit and honorary lifetime membership. Read about Heather’s award here. Janet Coit – DEM Director launched the RI Seafood brand.
Aquaponic Systems & Mushroom Cultivation
April 20, 2013
New Urban Farm
Galego Court, Pawtucket, RI
Participants learned about the successes of this urban farm and how it became part of the Pawtucket community. The farm tour included three geodesic dome greenhouses. Emily Jodka discussed their aquaponic system, the nitrogen cycle and the relationship between the fish and plants.
The tour continued to the ”mushroom room,” an outdoor shelter for mushroom production. Attendees learned about Shiitake mushroom production in oak logs. Emily offered cultivation tips and demonstrate space saving techniques.
Since the spring of 2010, New Urban Farm has operated adjacent to Galego Court, a public housing unit for families. Residents help grow at the one-acre farm; adult and youth programs run all season. The farm has three geodesic dome greenhouses, aqauponic system, raised beds, a fruit orchard and a “mushroom room.” The farm team also grows in Seekonk, MA and Warren, RI on over 20 total acres.
Why and How to Grow Organically: Bed Prep, Planting and an Organic Overview
March 25, 2013
Attendees learned why organic growing techniques matter with Max and Ulrike Hence. The workshop covered planting bed preparation, seeding, transplanting and an overview of organic practices.
Hillandale Farm and several nearby farms are in a partnership with the AYERS Foundation which works to connect people to fresh, local foods. Living classrooms practice and teach children about sustainable agriculture, holistic nutrition and healthy living.
Greenhouse & Seed Starting
March 17, 2013
South Providence, RI
Rich Pederson, City Farm grower since 2003, will demonstrate his techniques for starting seeds in a greenhouse. Along with a City Farm Apprentice, High School and College interns and volunteers, Rich seeds, transplants and cares for around 20,000 plants for Southside Community Land Trust’s Annual Plant Sale each May. City Farm is a 3/4-acre Biointensive Urban Farm in Providence that models sustainable growing practices for all levels of growers.
Advanced Growers Workshop: Fertility Management in the Bio-Extensive Market Garden
March 3, 2013
URI’s East Farm, Kingston, RI
David Fisher of Natural Roots Farm in Conway, MA discussed his y2-year soil-building and cover cropping cycles. David shared his five-part fertility program, which included extensive cover cropping, compost application, soil testing and a customized mineral-based fertilizer blend, pre-plant fertilization and foliar crop feeding.David also discussed seed inoculantes, side-dressing and drenches for transplanting. Participants learned about weed management techniques and using draft horses for fieldwork.
David Fisher has relied on workhorses to power Natural Roots Farm in Conway, MA since 1997. With his wife, Anna Maclay, and their two children, David raises 3.5 acres of produce for 220 CSA shareholders and another 3.5 acres of soil-building crops. He has modeled many of the farm’s systems on the work of Anne and Eric Nordell. David focuses on weed control, biological fertility and intensive cover cropping. He also manages 15 acres of hay and pastureland to feed his working herd. During winter months, David uses his horses for low-impact logging.
NOFA/RI Annual Meeting & Potluck Supper
January 27, 2013
South Kingstown Land Trust’s Barn
Members and guests learned about Spring Bulk Orders, 2013 Workshops and other organizational plans. Gary Casabona, NRCS State Biologist, spoke about his agency’s Pollinator Habitat programs and potential funding for native plantings. Jan Martin of We Share Hope was elected to join the Board of Directors. A delicious potluck supper was shared over music by “Sundial.”
Advanced Grower Workshop November 18, 2012
Wishing Stone Farm
Little Compton, RI
Organic grower, Skip Paul, shared his experience with fertility management, field and greenhouse production of winter greens and grafting tomatoes. To view Skip Paul’s Reference Materials on Grafted Tomatoes, click here. (His report starts on page 198.)
Winter Growing with Movable Greenhouses
November 4, 2012
CRAFT workshop participants learned about growing in low tunnels and unheated greenhouses. Approximately 50 participants helped move two greenhouses.
October 6, 2012
A delicious meal was prepared by Chef Guy of The Restaurant at AS220 Foo(d). An organically-raised pig from Simmons Farm was served along with fresh, organic produce from RI farms. Live music was performed by “Sundial.” Thank you to sponsors and donors including: Simmons Farm, Chef Guy and The Restaurant at AS220 Foo(d), Arcadian Fields, Scratch Farm, City Farm, Roots Farm, Skinny Dip Farm and Big Train Farm.
September 19, 2012
Scratch Farm, Cranston, RI
Katie Miller and Ben Torpey explained and demonstrated their techniques for seed saving and offered seed packets for sale or trade.
September 18, 2012
Rich Pedersen shared the history and success of growing food and training the next generation of urban farmers at City Farm.
Vegetable Succession Planting and Covercropping
August 30, 2012
Freedom Food Farm
Chuck Currie discussed succession plantings, weed management and cover crops He explained his practices of rotating chickens and vegetables for improving soil fertility and discussed his favorite equipment: tractors, implements and special seedling trays.
June 5, 2012
Arcadian Fields Farm
Hope Valley, RI
Diana Kushner discussed farm tools, weed management and preparing for farmers markets.
November 6, 2011
Kelli and Mike discussed winter growing in high and low tunnels and their favorite tools.
Seed Saving and Weed Control
October 25, 2011
Katie Miller discussed growing in her new hoop house, sowing fall greens, compost use and seed saving. She shared her crop rotation strategies to minimize pests. Karie described her CSA model with sliding fees; her workshare members love being at the farm so much, they often bring friends who volunteers on harvest days.
October 11, 2011
South Providence, RI
Rich Pedersen discussed biointensive growing techniques. City Farm grows nearly 20,000 pounds of greens and produce. They sell food to restaurant chefs and the public at several farmers markets. The staff also teach food production through educational programs, summer camps and apprenticeships training.
October 1, 2011
Local organic produce and meats were served. This casual event raised funds for NOFA/RI educational and outreach programs.