This year, BACG was lucky enough to have 14 Site Leaders attend the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Winter Conference. The theme was “Organic Matters, and it was a wonderful weekend full of learning, teaching, sharing and fun, and it was amazing to see the different levels of community – the Northeast growers as a whole, Burlington growers and BACG specific growers, come together in one space to connect with one another. Seeing so many familiar faces throughout the conference is a great reminder of just how interconnected our community is and how lucky we are to have such a strong support system digging in the dirt around us.
The conference kicked off with the keynote speaker, Mary Berry, who is the Executive Director of the Berry Center in Kentucky. This organization focus on issues that confront small farming families, specifically how to help farmers afford to farm well and how to support good land use. It was enlightening to hear about her history and how the organization came to be. After she spoke, there was a rousing round of singing and then we were sent off to our first workshop. The workshops offered throughout the weekend ranged from learning about no-till practices to bee keeping to land use to herbal medicine making, and everything in between. There were almost too many to choose from, so luckily there was a crew of us to check them out and report back to each other. During lunch, we all gathered together and spent the 2 hours eating, catch up with one another, updating each other on our garden sites and chatting about what workshops we had gone to and which ones we were hoping to get to as the weekend progressed. After, we all went our separate ways and spent the afternoon enjoying all of the offerings of the conference.
Sunday had an equally riveting keynote speaker, Onika Abraham. She is the Director of Farm School NYC, which is an organization who trains local residents in urban agriculture in order to inspire positive local food access as well as social, economic and racial justice issues. She encouraged us to look into our past to find connection with others and to think about how all of history has gotten us to where we are today agriculturally. When she finished, we once again had a big round of group singing and then spent the rest of the day in workshops.
Reflecting back on the conference, it is easy to what a true testament it is to how inspiring our community is. To be able to have conversations with one another about food justice, different practices, how we fit into the grand scheme of gardening and farming, and how we are moving forward is truly a gift. The NOFA conference is the perfect way to get out of the winter mindset and to get excited about and ready for Spring!