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Innovation and Inspiration at the 2017 NOFA Summer Conference

This 43rd annual 3-day celebration (August 11-13, 2017 in Amherst, MA) brings together organic farmers, gardeners, growers, landscapers, and eaters from across the Northeast to share their inspiration and ideas for organic food, farming, health, activism, and beyond. 

youth with goat conference promoThe organic movement has been a constant force for innovation and progress in food production models that are environmentally and biologically friendly. Advances in methods of cover-cropping, composting, crop rotation, reduced tillage, biodiversity, and soil carbon restoration are just a few examples of the techniques preserved and refined by the organic movement. It is within this innovative spirit and in celebration of the web of life that this year’s NOFA Summer Conference calls together allies across the region. In addition to over 130 sessions on everything from food preservation and natural health to soapmaking, mushrooms, homesteading, and bees, advances in the art and science of regenerative organic agriculture will again be highlighted at this year’s conference.

Keynote speaker Michael Phillips, a master organic orchardist and author of the new book Mycorrhizal Planet, reminds us that great advances can come from our conscious collaboration with the unseen world of soil ecosystems. “Mycorrhizal fungi have been waiting a long time for people to catch on,” his book opens. Phillips helps us understand that if we take the time to understand the symbiotic relationships of fungi and plants, we can work together to build soil fertility, grow healthier more productive crops, and combat climate change in the process.

Carbon farming enthusiast Connor Stedman proclaims, “Farmers are on the front lines of climate change impacts around the world, and they are also in one of the best positions to do practical, on-the-ground climate mitigation and adaptation work.”  Connor will present an intensive workshop on Friday and will dive into ways to apply cutting-edge agroforestry systems such as silvopasture, alley cropping, multifunctional buffers, and multi-layer food forestry on farms of all sizes in the Northeast. Other Friday all-day intensives are being offered by both of our keynote speakers, Dr. Huber (The Impact of GMOs & Glyphosate on Soil, Crop, Animal, and Human Health) and Michael Phillips (Holistic Orchard Management), as well as by Hannah Traggis and Bill Braun (On-Farm Seed Production).

Saturday’s Country Fair will feature “maker demos.” Farm “hackers” are invited to showcase their farm and garden innovations as part of the Country Fair. Founding member of Farm Hack and Food Solutions New England Network Team member, Dorn Cox, shares, “Farm Hack has blended a rich set of old and new traditions – the Enlightenment salon ideals of the eighteenth century and those of the open source software movement. Both believe that the natural state of knowledge is to be free.” Cox will also lead an intensive on Sunday, titled “Global Knowledge/Local Production - Innovating Open Source Technology for Improved Soil Health!”

In addition to promoting advances in techniques and skills, the Summer Conference provides opportunities to advance our understanding of patterns of injustice so that we can create a food system that works for everyone. On Saturday morning, Liz O'Gilvie from Gardening the Community invites all to “hear the story of [her] journey from ambivalent consumer to grower of food, community and power, interwoven with an open conversation space about black people, food, and land.” On Sunday afternoon, farmer-organizers from the National Young Farmer Coalition will present on “Organizing for Racial Justice in Food & Farming.” Several other workshops explore issues related to food justice and urban agriculture.

Organic farmers and gardeners are working hard to continue the ancient tradition of working in collaboration with natural systems and are trying to help bring about a truly sustainable and just way to feed the world. We hope you will join us at the 2017 NOFA Summer Conference, August 11-13, 2017 at Hampshire College in Amherst, to share inspiration, new and old perspectives and to continue the tradition of progress.

Learn more about the conference and register at or call (508) 572-0816. To save on costs register by the July 25 Early Bird Deadline. Scholarships are available.


Written by NOFA/Massachusetts staff: Marty Dagoberto, Outreach Program Coordinator & Summer Conference Outreach and PR, Jason Valcourt, Summer Conference & Winter Conference Coordinator, and Nicole Belanger, Communications Director, Newsletter Editor & General PR Coordinator.