AMHERST, Mass. – The 41st annual Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Summer Conference will bring hundreds of backyard gardeners, organic farming families, food activists and others to the University of Massachusetts Amherst from Friday, Aug. 14 through Sunday, Aug. 16, for workshops, tours and demonstrations in 27 different topic areas.
This year’s theme is “Healing the Climate, Healing Ourselves: Regeneration through Microbiology,” says organizer Nicole Belanger, who adds that it is a family-friendly event with age-appropriate and fun activities for children and teens. Participants can choose from more than 140 workshops on organic farming, gardening, land and animal care, sustainability, nutrition and food politics, plus farm tours, a country fair and live entertainment.
Friday will feature four intensive pre-conferences, with an evening contra dance and several films. The conference will also include a parade, games, rides, raffle, drumming and an auction.
Among the pre-conference workshops will be an all-day seminar on Friday, Aug. 14 by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a physician and nutritional consultant on the healing potential of food for overcoming chronic illness. She developed the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet used worldwide to treat and reverse chronic and degenerative neurological and digestive illnesses. She will also give the first keynote on Friday night, “Overcoming Psychiatric Problems by Healing the Digestive System.”
The second keynote address, on Saturday evening, will be by Ronnie Cummins, co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a non-profit, U.S.-based network of 2 million consumers dedicated to safeguarding organic standards and promoting a healthy, just and sustainable agriculture and commerce system. His topic is “Reversing Global Warming and Rural Poverty through Regenerative Organics.”
This year’s conference will include several tours connected to UMass Amherst.On Friday, Aug. 14, Amanda Brown, lecturer in sustainable food and farming at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture,will lead a tour of its Agricultural Learning Center. On Saturday morning Lilly Israel, certified permaculture designer and manager of the UMass Amherst permaculture gardens, which provide hands-on learning and more than 150 edible plants, will discuss their history and design.
Also on Saturday morning, Tom Smiarowski and Paul Russell, specialists with UMass Extension, will discuss assessing and managing agricultural production, marketing, financial, legal and human risks on the farm. On Sunday, Lisa Mckeag of the UMass Extension vegetable program, will discuss pest scouting in the field during a tour at Simple Gifts Farm on North Pleasant Street in Amherst. Also on Sunday, Susan Scheufele of the UMass Extension vegetable program will discuss integrated pest management in such crops as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Part of the Teen Conference will include a “plant detective” workshop led by UMass Amherst doctoral student Kathryn Vescio, and the Children’s Conference will include a “strawberry blast-off” led by sustainable agriculture research students Samantha Corcoran and Carolyn Wise.
Modest registration fees, inexpensive dorm rooms and camping, plus delicious, wholesome organic meals are a feature of the gathering. With chapters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, NOFA is a non-profit organization of over 5,000 farmers, gardeners, landscape professionals and consumers working to advocate for and educate about healthy food, organic growing practices, agricultural justice and a cleaner environment.