Tag Archives: 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) »

NOFA Vermont seeks workshop proposals for the 34th Annual Winter Conference

Richmond, VT – The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA Vermont) is accepting workshop proposals for its 34th Annual Winter Conference. Proposals will be accepted until September 18th, 2015. The event is Vermont’s largest agricultural conference, bringing together more than 1,500 farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, educators, policy makers and consumers for three days of workshops, networking sessions, meals and celebration.

The goal of the conference is to facilitate learning and sharing of information on all aspects of local, organic farming and gardening.  Organizers of the conference aim to create a gathering space that fosters collaboration between diverse groups of people, while also meeting the specific needs of these varied groups. The suggested topics below apply in the broadest sense. Additional topics will be considered.

Workshop topics:

  • Technical commercial organic vegetable, fruit, herb, flower, dairy & livestock production (beginner – advanced)
  • Direct marketing strategies and best practices: CSA, farmstands, farmers’ market vending, etc.
  • Procurement and infrastructure: distribution, processing, storage, food safety and cooperative models
  • Education: farm-based education, experiential education, school gardens
  • Agri-business marketing, technology, and business planning
  • Food security and access
  • Homesteading and gardening (beginner – advanced)
  • Health, wellness and nutrition
  • Alternative energy, climate change and resiliency
  • Policy, activism, and community engagement

The annual Winter Conference is NOFA Vermont’s largest fundraiser, which supports programs that educate and connect farmers, gardeners, and their communities throughout the year. The success of the conference is due in large part to the support of the many talented presenters who choose to participate each year.

More information about the conference, and the RFP process, can be found at http://nofavt.org/annual-events/winter-conference/RFP or by calling NOFA Vermont at (802) 434-4122.

2016 CONFERENCE SPECIFICS

Location: University of Vermont’s Davis Center and surrounding campus, Burlington, VT
Dates: Saturday through Monday, February 13-15, 2016
RFP Information: http://nofavt.org/annual-events/winter-conference/RFP
Submit RFP: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2016RFP

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About Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont: NOFA Vermont is member-based organization working to grow local farms, healthy food, and strong communities in Vermont. Our members are farmers, gardeners, educators and food lovers of all sorts – anyone who wants to help us create a future full of local food and local farms. Our programs include farmer and gardener technical assistance, farm to school support, organic certification, advocacy, an online apprentice and farm worker directory, an annual Winter Conference, and programs that work to ensure access to fresh, local food to all Vermonters, regardless of income.

On-Farm Workshop Series Preview

Rachel Fussell, NOFA-VT Education Coordinator

Are you interested in joining a feast that celebrates community, good food and farming? How about participating in a workshop that shows you how to grow currants in your backyard or delicious organic strawberries for your farm or CSA? NOFA-VT’s 2015 workshop series has all this and more for the summer season. Our workshop series lineup features more than two dozen on-farm opportunities like these where gardeners, homesteaders and commercial farmers can gain practical knowledge, exchange ideas and get to know your neighbors.

We have a diverse group of workshops for every background this summer. For commercial vegetable and fruit growers we have several workshops aimed at providing new knowledge and techniques for your operation. These include a workshop on caring for older tractors and maintenance with Hank Bissell at Lewis Creek Farm in Starksboro, an on-farm value-added tour of Pete’s Greens and the Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, and a vegetable tunnel production workshop with Andy Jones at the Intervale Community Farm in Burlington.

For commercial dairy and livestock farmers we have an assortment of workshops that provide technical knowledge and new strategies for your farm. Among the lineup includes a workshop on herd management, grazing and other practices to best manage nutrients at Spring Brook Farm in Westfield, as well as a workshop on strategies for evaluating feed stock needs and land improvements with McKnight Farm in East Montpelier.

Join clinical herbalist and community gardener Kate Westdijk for Place-based Herbal Medicine – Tuesday July 7, 2015, 5-7pm in Burlington
Join clinical herbalist and community gardener Kate Westdijk for Place-based Herbal Medicine – Tuesday July 7, 2015, 5-7pm in Burlington

And for all the homesteaders, gardeners, and plant enthusiasts we have an exciting array of workshops that cover a variety of subjects. Topics include permaculture with Nicko Rubin of East Hill Tree Farm, place-based herbalism with Kate Westdijk, uncommon fruits with John and Nancy Hayden of The Farm Between, and gardening tips and techniques with Charlie Nardozzi.

Our “Celebrate Your Farmer” Socials brings everyone in the food system together and is a place to establish connections within your community, all while enjoying farm-fresh, wood-fired pizza baked in NOFA-VT’s mobile oven. And after your appetite is satisfied, you’ll be able to enjoy a farm tour and get a behind the scenes glimpse of each farm. Nine farms across the state are planning to host these special gatherings, including Adam’s Berry Farm, Lilac Ridge Farm and Flack Family Farms, just to name a few.

Full line-up of workshops and socials »
Register for workshops »
RSVP for socials »

Chris Blanchard knows a lot about managing farm staff

The second workshop in our LABOR MANAGEMENT  FOR FARMERS series is entitled, “Run Your Team: Tools for Managing and Motivating Employees on the Farm” and it’s going to be taught by someone who knows an awful lot about the subject.

Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard’s workshops, writing, and consulting throughout the country have gained a reputation for fresh approaches, down-to-earth information, and honesty.

In his fourteen years of farming at Rock Spring Farm, Chris Blanchard has managed over 100 employees, made hundreds of mistakes, and changed the work environment from “The Yelling Farm” into a place he was proud to manage. His workshops are high-energy, fast paced and media-rich. His presentations have gained a reputation for fresh approaches, down-to-earth information, honesty and humor.

Below is an excerpt from a post on Chris’ “Purple Pitchfork” blog:

Ten Thoughts about Employees

  1. Happy employees are productive employees – and productive employees are happy employees.
  2. The right tools plus the right people equals maximum productivity.
  3. The boss sets the tone and sets an example.
  4. The boss is never tired. Even if she is.
  5. Be certain going in that what you say you want is what you really want. If you have a partner, discuss this with them.
  6. Some people are fast. Some are not. You probably can’t do much to make dramatic changes, so figure it out before you hire. After you hire, either find a way to deal with what you’ve got, or change what you’ve got. Only two choices.
  7. Be clear about goals and be clear about standards- and make those standards quantifiable. 50 bunches per hour. No more than 3 cercospora leaf spots on a Swiss chard leaf.
  8. Be certain. Don’t tell people to “do their best”… describe best. Don’t make a big deal about changes in procedures- it makes even good employees think they know as much as you.
  9. Poor performance by one employee drags management and labor down.
  10. If you have a partner, be certain you agree on goals and procedures. Anything else encourages dissent and confusion.

More “Management” posts on Purple Pitchfork »
More info on NOFA Vermont’s HR workshops for farmers »

Human Resources and Labor Management for Farmers

IMGP2591Every producer knows that their team can make or break their business. In addition to being a critical element of any agricultural business, labor also typically comprises the greatest business expense. However many farmers are drawn to their work because they love the production process, not because they enjoy — or even have experience or skills — managing people. Yet management remains one of the key elements to building a successful business.

NOFA-VT, Vermont Technical College and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture are offering in-depth skill building workshops on labor management and human resources this fall and winter. Farmers and producers will have ample opportunity to consider their approaches to hiring, motivating, communicating and delegating. You wouldn’t run your equipment without regular and necessary maintenance, would you? Well, neither should you continue employing staff without reviewing your policies, leadership style and pay scale, to name a few topics.

Next week, from the Vermont Agency of Ag, is a full-day workshop called “Build a Strong Workforce on the Farm.” This workshop is being held in Burlington on November 10 and in White River Junction on November 12. Click here to view the Agency’s flier.

Starting in January, NOFA Vermont will be offering a series of three half-day trainings on Labor Management and Human Resources for Farmers. Each workshop will be held at two different locations to make them more available to all Vermont producers. We will also be holding two additional workshops at the Winter Conference.

Take the time to invest in your most valuable and expensive tool — your crew!

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!

NOFA hiring Education Coordinator

Are you a planner, educator,  organizer? Do you love farms, food, and fun? Join the amazing NOFA-VT team! We’re hiring for an Education Coordinator to manage our year-round schedule of events and our beginning farmer program.

The Education Coordinator is predominantly responsible for managing the educational events at NOFA-VT to engage current members (farmers, gardeners, and consumers) and attract new members through development of Winter Conference workshops, and seasonal on-site workshops (on farms, gardens, homesteads).  The Education Coordinator is a member of the technical assistance team and provides support to the Technical Assistance Coordinator.  In addition, the candidate will develop and oversee NOFA-VT¹s Beginning Farmer programs (apprenticeship tool, CRAFT program and Journey Farmer Program) and organize technical/networking events for beginner farmers.  The position will start in mid-August.

Click here to read the full job description and learn how to apply!

Milk Quality & Mastitis Part II: Treatment

This article is part of the NOFA Vermont Dairy and Livestock Technical Assistance Program.

Click here to jump to our Winter Conference offerings for dairy and livestock farmers.

Silhouette of three cowsWe recently shared some resources for mastitis prevention. But what to do when cows do get a clinical or subclinical udder infection?

Subclinical mastitis can show up as an increase in the SCC (somatic cell count) without visual signs of mastitis. Clinical mastitis will include visual changes in the milk or udder swelling.

When a cow has clinical mastitis, treatment suggestions that Dr. Guy Jodarski, staff veterinarian for Organic  Valley/CROPP Cooperative, discussed in a recent webinar include:

  • frequent stripping
  • vitamin & mineral supplements
  • allowed synthetics including fluids, aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs
  • biologics (such as immunoboost) and vaccines
  • herbs including antibacterial tinctures
  • topicals (essential oils)
  • whey products – made from colostrum
  • antioxidants
  • homeopathy

Some synthetic medications are allowed for use on organic livestock; for acute mastitis cases these include Banamine (Flunixin) and aspirin. Electrolytes (such as CMPK or hypertonic saline), along with injectable vitamins, are also used by some veterinarians.

Before treating an animal, check the 2014 Organic Livestock Healthcare List or contact the VOF certification office to be sure the treatment is approved for use. It is important to keep records of what treatments are used, and to withhold milk when required by the organic standards.

As there’s no single silver bullet treatment for mastitis, each farm will find a few products from this list that work for their management system.

A good relationship with the veterinarian can make being  certified organic easier! Your veterinarian can help you  understand what treatments to use, develop a better prevention plan, and keep better records.

For more information on organic production, herd health, and other technical assistance available from NOFA Vermont, contact Sam Fuller, Program Coordinator, at 802-434-4122 or sam@nofavt.org.

Dairy & Livestock at the Winter Conference

Join us for an advanced commercial dairy & livestock track on Saturday, including:

Sunday also offers a diversity of workshop topics, including Efficient Swine Rationing from Piglet to Adult, Farm Labor: Strategies for Success with Your Employees, Market Research: How to Address Opportunities, Winter Lambing Procedure, and many more!

And on Monday, February 17th, join our all-day intensive:
Chicken Soup for the Soil: Building Nutrient-Dense Soil for Nutrient-Dense Crops with Jerry Brunetti,
Jack Lazor, and Heather Darby.

Community and School Gardens at the Winter Conference

The NOFA-VT Winter Conference brings together organic growers and eaters from across the food system. One of the ways the Winter Conference attracts this diversity is through a Community and School Garden Track for garden organizers and educators, presented by the Vermont Community Garden Network, and happening this year on Sunday, February 16th.

NOFA, VCGN, NOFA-VT Winter ConferenceIn its 3rd year, this special track features interactive workshops throughout the day and a networking session over lunch time, bringing together the state’s community and school garden leaders to learn from each other as well as from local and regional experts.

This year’s workshops will focus on a range of topics requested by garden leaders from across the state.  Included among these are:

Over lunchtime, 1:00-2:00pm, participants are encouraged to attend the Vermont Community Garden Network Gathering and Garden Showcase.  This is an opportunity for garden leaders to connect, swap ideas, see innovative work from around the state, and learn more about upcoming Network opportunities.  Detailed information on track workshops and the networking session are available at http://vcgn.org/what-we-do/winterconference.

Vermont Community Garden Network logoVCGN’s partnership with NOFA Vermont supports an effort to reach community and school garden leaders from around the state and support the growth of successful garden projects.  The Community and School Garden Track at the Winter Conference is VCGN’s state-wide gathering of garden leaders, complimented by the VCGN Grow It! workshop series in regional Vermont locations in the spring and fall.  Year-round, VCGN offers technical support and online resources for garden organizers and educators.

The Vermont Community Garden Network is a non-profit organization that helps community and school groups all over Vermont start, sustain, and grow gardens, building strong local food systems and vibrant educational sites. To learn more about VCGN visit www.vcgn.org.

[Guest post by Libby Weiland of VCGN]