40th Annual NOFA Summer Conference

NOFA Summer Conf logo 2014The Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 40th Annual Summer Conference will be held August 8-10 at UMass Amherst­. The Conference will provide a variety of educational opportunities for people from across the Northeast interested in organic food and farming. Each year the conference attracts 1,400 farmers, suburban backyard gardeners, urban agriculturists and many others. The weekend features 200+ practical skills workshops, live entertainment, children’s and teen conferences, a country fair, organic meals, 100+ exhibitors and a welcoming environment in which food system changers develop new friendships, skills and contacts.The workshops are geared to all skill levels, ages and interests. Several of the Northeast’s brightest minds in organic practices will present on topics such as soil and fertility, organic farming, farm management, alternative energy, seed saving, land care and gardening. Several individuals from Rhode Island will lead workshops. Half-day long pre-conferences will take place on Friday, August 8.

Several financing options are available, including group discounts for five or more from a farm, school, or other small organization (click here), scholarships for beginning farmers (less than 10 years farming), individuals without strong financial means, but are passionate about organic farming and work exchange. Affordable accommodations include camping and dorms.

RI-based speakers include John Kenny of Big Train Farm in Cranston, Steve Walach, school garden manager and Sanne Kure-Jensen of NOFA/RI and NOFA/IC.

Kenny will lead “Growing Brassica Crops.“ Take an in-depth look at the often-challenging world of growing the Broccoli family. Join a conversation on growing excellent Brassica crops, hear their natural history, fertility inclinations, insect relationships and overall management techniques. Emphasis will be on soil balancing and organic pest control.

Walach will lead “Improved Production for Medium and Large Gardens.” His presentation will address gardening fundamentals to produce greater yields. This will include crop rotations, fertilizer plans, seedling care, labor requirements and organization of garden space. In 2012, his school garden harvested 5,734 poundsof vegetables from 2,000 sq. ft. of raised beds, close to 3 lbs/sq ft.

Kure-Jensen will lead “Growing Hops and Home Brewing.” Hear about cultivating, trellising, harvesting and drying hops. Hear about global hops history. Discover hops’ landscape, medicinal and beer brewing uses. Learn about brewing terms, equipment, ingredients, sanitation, bottling and capping. Hear brewing tips and get sources for recipes and ingredients..

Learn more about the NOFA Summer Conference at nofasummerconference.org, contact NOFA/Mass Public Relations Director, Nicole Belanger at nicole@nofamass.org or call (508) 450-2441.

Roma Neighborhood Farms achieve Organic Certification

This new farm has used organic methods for three years. The farmers have just received organic certification for their Portsmouth greenhouse. “Matt and I just passed final inspection for organic certification. We had help from NOFA/RI, and though only the hoop house was certified, we feel it’s a great accomplishment for being in business such a short time,” said Phil Hadley.

In 2011, Matt Plumb and Rory Hennessey started Roma Neighborhood Farms on an acre of farmland in Portsmouth. The pair studied seed catalogs, prepped the beds and started farming. For the next two seasons, they built their growing skills and established restaurant customers.

In year three, Phil Hadley joined the Roma Farm team. The partners now lease another acre of farmland from Sustainable Aquidneck in Middletown. The farmers grow for restaurants and offer 40 summer farm shares with weekly pickups at the Middletown farm on Thursdays from 3 – 6 p.m. or Sundays from 12 – 4 p.m. or delivery for residences/businesses located on Thames St. and Bellevue Ave. in Newport. Contact the farmers at romafarms@gmail.com.

The farmers received technical assistance with the organic certification process from Organic Farm Advisor, Steve Ramos of Steve’s Organic Produce in Bristol. The Farm Advisor program is available through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island (NOFA/RI) and provides free technical guidance to farmers wishing to implement organic methods on their farms. Experienced organic farmers are paired with new or transitioning farmers. The Organic Farm Advisor program is possible thanks to a generous Farm Viability grant from the RI Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture, which seeks to enhance farmers’ ability to grow and market their crops.

Learn more or apply for organic technical assistance here.

Specialty Crops Training, as defined by this USDA-supported program, includes fruits, dried fruit, tree nuts, vegetables, nursery crops, Christmas trees, floriculture, cut flowers, honey, hops and turf grass production. Program participants learn how to enhance their market competitiveness with their specialty crops through: research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, education, “Buy Local” programs, increased consumption, increased innovation, improved efficiency and/or reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental conservation, product development and/or developing cooperatives.