Tag Archives: educational workshops

Fall Workshops for Farmers feature soil science and trades skills

 Learn how to think like a mechanic and a detective. Workshops include a hands-on component taking apart and examining the guts of broken equipment.
Learn how
to think like a mechanic and a detective. Workshops include a hands-on component taking apart and examining
the guts of broken equipment.

NOFA-VT is excited to partner with Vermont Tech to offer a special fall workshop series for farmers featuring soil science and trades skills. These two topics are widely different, yet both are critical foundations for successful production. As organic growers, we know that soil is the basis of everything we produce. And as commercial farmers, we also know that we spend a heck of a lot of time fixing, adjusting, installing and jerry-rigging equipment. Both soil building and mechanical know-how require ongoing education coupled with experience learned with the sweat of one’s brow through trial and error. You provide the latter, NOFA-VT will provide the former.

Thanks for your input…which guided the creation of this series! The recent Vermont state water quality initiatives, as well as flooding in recent years, has brought our attention to the negative impact on watersheds caused by farms of all sizes. A spring survey of commercial growers on soil fertility practices, conducted by the University of Vermont and the Vermont Vegetable Growers & Berry Association, was motivated by the collective need to reduce watershed pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus. The survey results illuminated an overall lack of satisfaction among growers with their soil fertility management, an interest in using more cover crops for nitrogen, a desire to work towards long term soil health through on-farm fertility production (like composting and cover cropping), and a need to save money on fertilizers while maximizing yields and balancing soil health.

Our two-part soils series will provide information to help make economical and environmentally sound decisions regarding fertilizer choices, application methods, increasing soil biological diversity, and more.

We are equally excited about our four workshops to improve your trades skills. Some farmers love spending time under the body of tractors or the hood of farm vehicles, others not as much. It takes time, inquisitiveness, patience and perseverance to learn how machines work, and to discover the right tool for the job. There’s of course no shame in hiring someone to do all the fixing and installing, but regardless it is critical to have a familiarity with engines, electrical systems, mechanical parts and such.

The trades skills workshops feature a hands-on component where you can practice what you are learning, for example in our “Tricks for Taking Apart & Fixing Rusted Stuff,” get experience using heat, saws, leverage and key tools you’ll want to run out to buy. Do you know what’s a bearing puller, torch crayon, nut splitter or Woodruff key? Come find out. And for those of you who already have loads of experience, you know as well as anyone that it takes a lifetime of learning, and the opportunity to improve your knowledge with an expert is worth every minute invested.

Workshop descriptions »
Online registration »
Download the brochure (pdf) »

CRAFT Programs in Vermont

CRAFT at Earth Sky Time in Rutland
CRAFT at Earth Sky Time in Rutland

Over the past few years NOFA-VT, in collaboration with NOFA-VT’s Farm to Community Mentor Scout Proft from Someday Farm and the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), has been working on a Farm Worker Learning Collaborative in Rutland County. This year the CRAFT program is expanding into Addison County with leadership from Becky Maden of Singing Cedars Farmstead, and organizational support from NOFA-VT. Both of these programs, modeled off other CRAFT programs, seek to educate farm workers and provide support for farm owners through community based on-farm training. The CRAFT program consists of visits to neighboring farms where farm workers and apprentices receive intensive tutorials on a variety of topics, compare production methods and meet other beginning farmers. CRAFT was designed to get interested people onto working farms and give them the tools to succeed, both as farm workers and as future farm owners.

The Rutland CRAFT program recently started their 2015 season with enthusiasm. The first of several gatherings was held at Earth Sky Time Community Farm in Manchester. Bonnie and Oliver Levis led the tour of their farm, walking through lush aromatic greenhouses and rows of arugula, tomatoes and radishes, while a large group of farm workers and owners followed along asking questions about their greenhouse production and early season greens. After the tour had ended, everyone gathered on their historic white porch to share in a potluck dinner with new neighbors as the sun set behind the chicken coops.

This year both CRAFT programs will lead several on-farm trainings and tours at different farms throughout Addison and Rutland County. For more information on CRAFT and how to get involved, please contact Rachel Fussell, NOFA-VT’s Education Coordinator, at rachel@nofavt.org or Jen Miller, RAFFL’s New Farmer Coordinator, at jen@rutlandfarmandfood.org.

2015-2016 Farm to School Institute schools chosen

The  VT FEED Farm to School Institute is a unique year-long professional development opportunity being offered to ten diverse school teams from Vermont and, this year thanks to an USDA Farm to School Grant, the Northeast.

FEED Farm to School InstituteThrough 3 days of immersed training and planning this summer, participants will have time and support to develop a comprehensive Farm to School action plan and receive in-school mentoring to guide the implementation of their plan over the 2015-2016 academic year.

See what St. Albans City School, who participated 2013-2014, is doing in their farm to school program by watching this video.

Vermont schools that have been accepted are: South Burlington HS, Milton HS, Bradford Elementary, Essex Town Middle School, Guilford Elementary, Hardwick Elementary,  Manchester Elementary, Champlain Elementary.

More about FEED »

Direct Marketing workshops to be combined into Winter Conference

As we are gearing up for our winter educational offerings, we wanted to share that we have decided to not host a Direct Marketing Conference in 2015. Instead, based on feedback from past Winter Conferences, we will offer more direct marketing workshops in our commercial farmer track at the 2015 Winter Conference. These workshops will focus on issues relevant to farmers’ market vendors, and CSA and farm stand farmers. We hope that by re-combining these two conferences, more of you will be able to benefit from the workshops that have been spread out between two conferences in the past!

UVM's Davis Center serves as the conference hub. (Credit Elizabeth Ferry)The Request for Proposals (RFP) for Winter Conference workshops is currently open through September 15, 2014.

Even if you don’t have a workshop you would like to present yourself, we are also looking for feedback on specific workshops or presenters that you’d like us to consider for the 2015 Winter Conference. If you have ideas or suggestions, please contact our new Education Coordinator, Rachel Fussell as soon as possible, with a deadline of September 15th.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention farmers’ market organizers in my workshop audience list above. We haven’t forgotten you! We will be collaborating with the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association (VTFMA) to host a day of workshops and the VTFMA Annual Meeting in March 2015. We will be sending more information later this fall on that event so please be on the lookout!

Lastly, we are looking forward to hearing from you after the Winter Conference about how this new set-up worked for you. While nine years ago we started a separate Direct Marketing Conference in order to accommodate more attendees when space at the Winter Conference venues was our major limiting factor, we are excited to again try to meet your needs by bringing the two conferences back together now that space is not an issue. Your feedback will help us determine if this is the best option moving forward or if we need to look at additional possibilities.

We look forward to hearing from you!

[By Erin Buckwalter,  Market Development and Community Food Security Coordinator]

NOFA Summer Conference!

The Northeast Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) 40th annual Summer Conference takes place August 8-10, 2014 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Appealing to a wide range of interests, 1400 consumers, gardeners, farmers, food policy experts, and urban agriculturalists travel from across the northeast and beyond to participate in 150+ workshops, pre-conference events, farms tours, and much more. This conference is a collaborative project of all seven NOFA chapters.

This is a family-friendly event, with special conference tracks for children 5-12 and teens 13-17. While parents attend great educational workshops on gardening, farming, nutrition, and ecological sustainability, children experience age-appropriate and fun workshops about these same topics with other youth. Childcare is available for children 2-4.

Affordable accommodations (like camping and dorms) are available, as are scholarships, group discounts, work exchange, and other creative financing options.

“At the heart of NOFA as an organization is the NOFA Summer Conference. A place of inspiration, awakening, reconnecting, and practical education, it is the event that for 40 years has brought the brightest, best, and most collaborative farming game-changers together for one packed weekend celebration of life and farming,” says farmer, former NOFA Summer Conference Coordinator, and current NOFA/Mass Executive Director, Julie Rawson.

Trained as a microbiologist, Dr. Elaine Ingham, this year’s keynote speaker, brings a unique perspective to her work with farmers. Her goal is to develop soils that foster thriving microbial communities. Her simple approaches to building soil biology require less labor and off-farm inputs and ultimately help save farmers money, while reducing adverse ecological effects of conventional farming. She maintains that by building soils teeming with the right kind of biology, growers can mitigate plant pests and diseases.

In addition to her Friday all-day pre-conference seminar titled “Changing Dirt into Soil: Specific Approaches for Different Soil Types and Crops”, Ingham will lead three workshops during the conference. Three half-day pre-conferences will also take place on Friday, including “Tools for Resilient Urban Ecosystems” with Scott Kellogg; “Healing the Gut and the Body through Nutrition” with Dr. Chris Decker; and “Bioregional Herbalism: Stocking the Home Apothecary with Locally Abundant Herbs” with Jade Alicandro Mace.

Saturday and Sunday’s workshops are geared to many skill levels and interests. Knowledgeable and experienced instructors will offer workshops on topics such as nutrition and health, food politics, land access, crop production, cooperative economies, urban and international agriculture, gardening, animal husbandry, farm economics, food preservation and cooking, permaculture, and mitigating climate change through agriculture.

There will be a sing-along event on Friday evening called “Singing for Food and Freedom: Carrying on the Legacy of Pete Seeger” (free for conference registrants and open to the public with a $5-$10 suggested donation). The weekend also features films (such as The Queen of the Sun, Out Here, and Food for Change), meet-ups for participants from a variety of interests, organic meals, a country fair, a contra dance, 100+ exhibitors, and more.

Learn more and register at www.nofasummerconference.org!