By Jack Kittredge based on work and contributions by Grace Gershuny, Liz Henderson, oral histories of various early NOFA leaders compiled by Robert S. Cox at the University of Massachusetts, and personal Emails and records
by Jack Kittredge based on work and contributions by Grace Gershuny, Liz Henderson, oral histories of various early NOFA leaders compiled by Robert S. Cox at the University of Massachusetts, and personal Emails and records.
NOFA has left a dappled history, as have many small and modest organizations. Some individuals, often the ones who speak or write, leave something of a trace. Some activities, again tending to be the ones written about in minutes or newsletters or personal diaries, leave a record. Most people’s memories, however — the excitement, the discoveries, the relationships, the songs and laughter – are too ephemeral and subjective to live on their own.
By Andrianna Natsoulas
NOFA-NY has a long history of collaborations, as all programs and projects flourish when working in partnership. Whether it is farmer to farmer education, specific projects with education institutions, or joint policy initiatives, collaboration is at the heart of much of the work we do, as we are a community of farmers, gardeners, consumers, educators, and organizations. Below is a sample of building an organic New York!
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA). For about a decade during the tenure of Representative Jim Walsh, (Congressional Rep from Central NY), NOFA-NY and the New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NYSAWG) annually pulled together farmers in the district to successfully lobby Rep. Walsh to be the lead champion of a well-used technical assistance program for farmers: Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. (more…)
By Adrian Hyde
Collaboration is the number one driver of NOFA-NJ’s success, especially given the very small size of our staff. Nearly all our recent successes have involved effective collaboration in some form. In addition to serving the needs of our producers in NJ, we also strive to stimulate demand for their products with outreach efforts to the general public. There is no way to have a broad reach like this, from production to consumption, without good partners. We have too many partners to list in a short summary, but some of our more recent collaborations are illustrative of how we operate.
By Marty Dagoberto
Organizing by NOFA/Mass in 2005 and 2006 helped to pass local resolutions in 30 Massachusetts towns and cities calling for mandatory GMO labeling. Seeing the local demand in her district that included Amherst, Representative Ellen Story started introducing a GMO labeling bill each year in the state legislature. Support, however, was small until in 2012 a highly contested state ballot initiative in California caught the attention of food activists, farmers and parents across the country.
During that summer the NOFA Summer Conference, not coincidentally, featured the popular anti-GMO author and lecturer Jeffrey Smith, who delivered the keynote and facilitated a preconference communications training. It was here that MA Right to Know GMOs, a single issue action group, formed.
By Abbie Nelson, NOFA-VT Food Systems Education Director
For a non-profit to collaborate with other non-profits on a project is not uncommon in Vermont, given that we have an abundance of non-profits. However, to collaborate for eighteen years on a project—not typical!
Since its inception in 1971, NOFA-VT has served as an educator of consumers about healthy food and has advocated for changes which sustain the local food system. Beginning in 1994, NOFA-VT experimented with school food initiatives, based on organic farmer interest: conducting a pilot food purchasing project at three schools in 1996, and holding a “Vermont Farm to School Forum” in 1998 with a focus on strategies for increasing local purchasing by public schools. <!–more–>We were expert at connecting our family farms — organic and aspiring to be organic — with their communities, especially around food. What we were not expert at yet, but were passionate about, was connecting to schools so that local food could be served to school children. We realized we needed to partner with other established food and farm organizations that were working with schools — Food Works and Shelburne Farms. Thus, the statewide, collaborative farm to school project was created in 2000. The mission of Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED), is to raise awareness about healthy food, good nutrition and the role that Vermont farms and farmers play in our communities. (more…)
By Nikki Kolb
NOFA-NH aligns with many of New Hampshire’s most active and renowned organic farmers, producers, markets, distributers, programs, educators, associations and fellow non-profits.
Through our collaboration with MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH, we bring together incredible authors with a vast array of knowledge on relevant topics at our annual Winter Conference, further engaging our community through book signings at our conference’s Green Market Fair. This year, MainStreet BookEnds worked with NOFA-NH and participating authors and conference presenters to showcase the books of Phillip Ackerman-Leist, Will Bonsall, Ross Conrad, Andrew Mefferd, Dr. Daphne Miller, Michael Phillips, George Heilshorn and Nathan Searles. This important alliance adds so much value to our winter conference, its attendees and community each year.
By Elizabeth Henderson
What does NOFA achieve by taking part in advocacy and policy work? It is good to look back and see whether joining in coalitions has led to any successful policy change.
In 1998 NOFA was part of a large coalition demanding that USDA withdraw the initial set of regulations they had proposed for the National Organic Program (NOP) and start over. Together with this coalition that included all organic farming associations and our faithful customers around the coun-try, we were successful in making this demand. USDA took another four years to complete a final Rule, the regulations that the NOP uses to this day. As Roger Blobaum, NOC member and long-time organic proponent, has remarked, “Getting the feds and organic farmers together in 1990 wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t love at first sight. It had many of the characteristics of a shotgun wedding and when it was over, there was no honeymoon. Although these two have tried to work things out, they have been on the verge of a breakup ever since.” (From a speech at the MOSES Conference, March 6, 1993). NOFA continues to watch-dog the NOP as a member of the National Organic Coalition (NOC).News on organic in the 2018 Farm Bill does not sound very hopeful. For more detail, see article on NOC by Abby Youngblood.
By Jack Kittredge
New York’s St. Lawrence County — the state’s largest — is also its northernmost, bordered by the St. Lawrence River and, across the river, Canada. The part of the river bordering the small towns in the northwest corner of the county is known as the ‘Thousand Islands,’ named after some 1800 islands in just a few miles of river. It developed as a playground for the rich and super-rich during the ‘Gilded Age’ between the Civil War and World War I, with wealthy families buying whole islands and building vacation homes on them. George M. Pullman of sleeping car fame, as well as the heads of Scribner’s Magazine, Macy’s Department Store, the American Tobacco Company, and the Singer Sewing Machine Company were some of the executives creating such island ‘castles’. For the merely rich, sumptuous hotels were erected on islands and shore alike, reached by rail and then river steamboats. It was quite common for families of the rich to spend all summer there to escape the heat of New York City.
By Elizabeth Henderson
“Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.” (IFOAM definition of Organic Agriculture)
NOFA has been a member of IFOAM-Organics International for decades. Our relationship with IFOAM reaches back over 40 years to its founding in 1972. Sam Smith, Willie Lockeretz, and Judy Gillan, who soon became Massachusetts NOFA members, were active in IFOAM back in those days. French goat farmer Anton Pinschof still grumbles that Eliot Coleman lost the group’s papers from the first meetings in France. I love the way Pinschof refers to organic agriculture as the “peaceful peasant revolt of the 20th century.” Although still headquartered in Europe (the City of Bonn, Germany, provides free offices), IFOAM is outgrowing its eurocentricity and today includes 1003 members from 127 countries, with 356 in Europe, surpassed by 374 in Asia.
By Steve Gilman, Interstate NOFA Policy Coordinator
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is one of NOFA’s oldest alliances. With an expanding membership currently at 130 organizations from all around the country, an energetic and seasoned staff, and offices just a stone’s throw from the legislative office buildings on Capitol Hill – NSAC is well-positioned to advocate for the many-faceted interests of grassroots sustainable agriculture and organic groups at the House, Senate and government agencies.
NSAC was founded in 2009 via a merger of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture that were earlier attempts to create effective policy alliances of rural grassroots organizations to meet the farm crises of the late 1970’s and 1980’s. When repeated tractorcades to DC involving thousands of farmers failed to persuade the Federal government to maintain the policy of “parity” (government supported fair pricing for farm products that covered the costs of production), farmers and their allies turned to organizing for sustainability. If the government would not support farm gate prices by setting price minimums and managing supply, perhaps there could be payments to farms to practice conservation and to rural communities for development.
By Lisa Griffith, Interim Director, National Family Farm Coalition
The 1970s and 80s were a tumultuous time for many U.S. family farmers. After President Nixon ended the U.S. dollar’s convertibility to gold in 1971 to curb inflation, all commodities—from grains to oil—soared in price. Then USDA Secretary Earl Butz sold off U.S. grain reserves and told U.S. farmers to plant from ‘fencerow to fencerow’, which many did. Grain prices remained high for several years and farmers were emboldened to take on more debt to acquire expensive new farm implements, updated cropping systems and more land. As scarcity became oversupply, grain prices fell and profits disappeared, farmers realized that the New Deal farm program was destroyed.
As banks and other lenders demanded repayment for the expansive loans they had provided, many farmers planted even more hay fields and pastures to sell more grain to compensate for the low prices they received per bushel. Trade groups, such as the American Soybean Association, and the American Farm Bureau finally acknowledged this disaster when plummeting land and machinery prices created a banking crisis. (more…)
By Saulo Araujo, Director, Global Movements Program, WhyHunger
The US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) emerged from a global process initiated during the International Forum on Food Sovereignty: Nyeleni 2007 in Mali. From that gathering, organized by the La Via Campesina International and other global social movements, the idea of creating an alliance of rural and urban-based organizations in the United States was born. The US Food Sovereignty Alliance, as part of a global strategy, has been built over a period of eight years to build power and to move a political agenda led by small scale food producers, as well as groups that contribute to the food chain that makes up our food system. The same process took roots in other countries and regions and currently, there are four other similar spaces: the Australia Food Sovereignty Alliance; the Latin American Food Sovereignty Alliance; the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa; and, the Nyeleni Pan-European Forum.
By Kate Mendenhall, Director
Five years ago, several organizations began discussing what it would take to build a more effective and authentic voice for certified organic farmers at the national level. A cross-section of representatives from organic farming associations from the East, Midwest, Northwest, South, Upper Great Plains and mountain regions, representing approximately one-third of organic farmers nationwide, held exploratory meetings and conducted surveys with other organizations across the US. This demonstrated strong interest in forming a national alliance of organic farmers and ranchers to fill the current void.
In early 2016, this group began discussions with the Rodale Institute, an organic pioneering organization, who also expressed interest in bringing organic farmers’ voice to the forefront. In 2017, the two efforts aligned as the Organic Farmers Association, sponsored by Rodale Institute.
By Elizabeth Henderson
Just as basic as care of earthworms is care of the people in organic farming. This can be accomplished through fair prices to farmers for their farm products and fair and respectful treatment of farm workers, as well as of others who work in organic supply chains. Fairness is integral to organic and is one of the four principles of Organic Agriculture. The roots of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) go back to the beginning of the National Organic Program (NOP), when some farmer organizations and farmworker advocates realized that the NOP had no standards for fairness in organic trade or for decent treatment of the people who do the farming.
Four people started meeting in 1999, three farmers and one representative of a farm worker support organization – Elizabeth Henderson from NOFA, Michael Sligh from Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI – USA), Richard Mandelbaum of Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas/Farmworker Support Committee (CATA), Marty Mesh of Florida Organic Growers (FOG), – to figure out how to keep fairness in organic agriculture in the US. Together, they formed the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP). Over the next few years, the group wrote standards for fairness on farms and in trading between farms and buyers, a domestic fair trade certification program. They recruited farmers, farm workers and other members of the organic community to set up a stakeholder advisory committee to make sure that the standards were comprehensive and realistic. The farmworker members of the CATA board reviewed and critiqued the standards. The resulting program – Food Justice Certified (FJC) – provides a way to ensure that fairness is happening on and for organic farms and demonstrates this fairness to the public with credibility. AJP also created a series of training programs and technical assistance for organic farmers to help them improve labor policies and practices to make their farms more socially resilient and just. Since 2014, AJP has been an independent 501(c)(3) with the four partner organizations represented on the Board.
By Jack Kittredge
Springfield is the third largest city in Massachusetts, trailing Worcester by about 15%. Settled only 6 years after Boston, Springfield was originally part of Connecticut but defected after four years to join the Bay Colony, being burned to the ground during the 1675 King Philip’s War. An armory, created there during the Revolutionary War, was almost captured during Shay’s Rebellion in 1787, an event that helped precipitate the U. S. Constitutional Convention.
Springfield was known for inventive residents and cutting edge manufacturing for over 2 centuries, including the first use of an assembly line (1819), the first American horseless car (1825), vulcanized rubber (1844), the first American gasoline car (1893), the first American motorcycle company (1901) and the invention of basketball (1891), the world’s third most popular sport.