Generations of innovation celebrated at NOFA Vermont Winter Conference

Jan. 4, 2013

Caitlin Gildrien
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA Vermont)
[email protected]

As snowdrifts bury the last remnants of the 2012 growing season, spring may feel far away. But seed catalogs are on their way, compost piles are readily decomposing and registration for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) Winter Conference opened January 2nd.

NOFA-VT’s 31st Annual Winter Conference will be February 15 – 17, 2013 at the University of Vermont in Burlington. For over three decades, growers from Vermont, Quebec and beyond have come together to ignite their green thumbs, inspire their culinary arts and share the challenges and successes encountered in organic agriculture in the back yard, and the back 40.

The conference kicks off with five intensive workshops taking place on Friday, February 15 on the waterfront in downtown Burlington.

“The Saturday/Sunday conference covers so much, but some topics demand more time and more depth,” Enid Wonnacott, Executive Director of NOFA-VT said. “We offer Friday Intensives to maximize the time for learning and networking. These sessions are full of energy and are a great way to kick off the weekend.”

Farmer and author Shannon Hayes of Sap Bush Hollow Farm, West Fulton, NY is delivering one such intensive, “Stretching Your Meat Dollar.” Hayes will teach several delicious and economical ways to get the most out of healthy, grass-fed animals, including techniques for grilling, roasting, braising, preparing broths and offal and using animal fat.

Other Intensives include “Fermenting the Harvest,” a day-long, demonstration-based workshop on the tasty biological processes and historical narratives surrounding lacto-fermented foods. “Farming for Resiliency in a Changing Climate,” “Improving Blueberry Yields & Longevity,” and “Increasing Strawberry Profits” are intended for commercial growers and will bring in experts from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, MiddleburyCollege, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, as well as experienced local farmers.

The Saturday and Sunday portion of the conference will take place at the University of Vermont, and conference theme, “Generations of Innovation” will be prominent throughout the weekend offerings. Clara Coleman, daughter of organic gardening pioneer Eliot Coleman, will deliver Saturday’s keynote address, as well as a workshop co-presented with her father. Like her father, she is a proponent of the “small is better” model of farming, advocating business growth through improved efficiency, innovative production methods, farmer collaboration and direct customer marketing, rather than physical expansion. Clara will share the inherent challenges and uncertainties of the farming lifestyle, and show how the young farmer movement continues the legacy of innovation.

Inspired by the “TEDTalks” format of brief but excellent presentations on “ideas worth spreading,” we’re excited to replace the traditional Sunday keynote address with several shorter talks featuring dynamic innovators. These include Joe Bossen, owner of Vermont Bean Crafters in the Mad River Valley, VT; Sean Buchanan, Business Development Manager for Black River Produce; Scout Proft, farm mentor and owner of Someday Farm, Dorset, VT; and Laura Brown Lavoie, urban farmer and poet, Providence, RI.

Whether you’re interested in the economics of commercial high tunnel production or advanced garlic production, the art of home gardening or slow democracy, pastured poultry or farm-based education, sourdough baking, micro-dairies, hops, oats, oilseeds or shitake mushrooms, this conference will intrigue you and supply you with endless innovative ideas to carry into the spring.

Conference pre-registration closes on February 2, 2013. Walk-in registration will be available. Learn more about the Winter Conference:

NOFA Vermont’s Direct Marking Conference is also around the corner, taking place at Vermont Law School in South Royalton on Sunday, January 13! Learn more about the Direct Marketing Conference:

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About NOFA 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.


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