NOFA-NJ to host 30th conference on Feb. 1
NORTH BRUNSWICK — The 30th annual Winter Conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey will consolidate five tracks of workshops into one day, Saturday, Feb. 1, from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Rutgers Douglass Student Center.
The tracks are: business, crops, gardening, livestock and health and policy.
Workshops are open to beginning and experienced farmers and gardeners.
The business track was discontinued a few years ago but is reinstated for this year to help growers focus on getting the most from their investment of time and money.
Admission is $100 for members and $120 for non-members.
There is an optional $20 lunch charge. Parking is in the lot near the student center, but vehicles must be registered online before the day of the conference.
NOFA-NJ announced the four keynote speakers.
Liz Carlisle and Bob Quinn collaborated on “Grain by Grain,” a book about Quinn’s journey from working as a farmer just trying to make a living to an organizer of organic farmers. He worked on cover-cropping and crop rotation to produce successful yields without pesticides.
Through regenerative organic farming he could grow fruits and vegetables in the cold, dry climate of Montana.
He was able to become a source of local produce to families in his hometown while producing his own renewable energy and creating an heirloom grain company.
Carlisle is also a native of Montana. She lectures in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. Besides co-authoring one book with Quinn, she wrote “Lentil Underground” about a group of renegade farmers and their defiance of corporate agribusiness. They launched a sustainable farm-to-table food movement.
David Oien, 27, reacted to an admonishment from agribusiness to “get big or get out,” by planting organic lentils in Montana.
Because lentils make their own fertilizer and tolerate variable climate conditions, they were the ideal alternative to either getting big or getting out. Oien began leading an underground network of organic farmers working with heirloom and biologically diverse farm systems which turned into Timeless Natural Foods.
He eventually did get big, turning it into a million dollar empire and sells to Whole Food and independent natural food stores. And Carlisle turned it into a book.
The other keynote speakers are Dr. Aly Cohen and Dr. David C. Johnson.
Cohen is a board certified rheumatologist and integrative medicine physician and environmental health specialist. Her Integrative Rheumatology Association in Princeton focuses on both western medical and integrative approaches to rheumatologic disorders such as arthritis, chronic pain, immune system dysfunction and women’s health.
Johnson is a New Mexico State University research scientist and molecular biologist at a consortium for environmental education and technical development in the college of engineering at NMSU. He also researches for NMSU’s Institute of Sustainable Agriculture Research. The research he did in carbon capture and storage in agricultural soil was featured in “The Soil Will Save Us,” a book by Kristin Ohlson. The books is an argument for “out great green hope.” The argument in the book is that soil can heal the land and turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon to potentially reverse global warming.
Some of the speakers at NOFA-NJ20 are regulars at the winter conference.
• Joseph Heckman, Ph.D. a professor of soil science at Rutgers, will speak on organic farming impacts on soil, food and human health.
• Eric Derby, president of the board of the Foodshed Alliance staffer at Edible Jersey, will speak on lease opportunities.
• Elizabeth Dyck of Crimso Clover Farm, will join Len Bussanich, Mike Hozer and Ruthie Perretti of River Valley Community Grain in a workshop on small grain operations.
Other speakers are first timers.
• Alon Rabinovich, a Ph.D. candidate in Earth and Environmental Science at Rutgers, is studying nutrient recycling for livestock. A third generation dairy farmer, Rabinovich has a bachelor’s degree from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He will present a workshop teaching small farmers can benefit from automation, especially a new generation of free software and Raspberry Pi devices. He will review how to integrate open source automation in a variety of agriculture practices.
• The vital business topic of financing farmland and equipment will be discussed by Dennis Kilfeather, of Lear and Pannepacker, consultants for both non-profit and profit organization in cash flow management, and Gabor Grunstein from the US Department of Agriculture Farm Services Administration.
• “Uncommon Fruit and Alterntiave Crops” is the title of a workshop presented by John Paul Learn of Mandala Farm. He is a consulting and educator on food, land, agriculture, farm and permaculture design. He will provide information about the perennial fruits best fruits best suited for organic cultivation. These are fruits that provide an additional yield and a niche market for local growers with minimal inputs of time and finances. Learn will discuss the highest value and easiest grown perennial plants that will thrive in the Northeast, their habitats, establishment and care.
• William Muzuchko will prove figs aren’t just for old Italian gentlemen in his workshop, “Figs for Fun.” The operator of Billy’s Figs Nursery in Flemington for more than seven years, Muzuchko has more than 150 different cultivars. Each of his mature trees produces between 200 and 300 figs a season. He will talk about extending the growing season and encouraging rapid growth.
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