Dr. Arden Andersen and Dan Kittredge Giving Workshops at the NOFA Winter Conference

Barre, MA – When more than 100 farmers converge this February in Barre for a 3 day seminar, they’ll be focusing on a topic of serious concern to a growing number of consumers: the nutrition and taste of our food. The Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts Chapter has arranged for the worldwide farmer consultant, Dr. Arden Andersen, to give this intensive seminar to farmers on how they can increase the nutrient density, taste, and yield of their crops.

For more information on Dan Kittredge’s workshops, click here.

The approach Andersen teaches is widely known as biological farming. It involves applications of mineral nutrients such as calcium and phosphorous and a host of trace minerals to the soil. Along with the minerals, farmers add inoculations of fungi and bacteria that can be brewed with a simple tank bubbler. The purpose of adding the amendments is to create a robust and healthy biological system in the soil that feeds crops for maximum growth and quality.

Julie Rawson, executive director of NOFA/Mass and co-owner of Many Hands Organic farm says that the nutrition people need really starts in the soil. “The best way we can get the minerals and nutrients we need is through the food we eat. To get those nutrients into the food, though, we’ve got to tend to the soil.”

In the last 2 years, Rawson has begun implementing biological farming principles on her own Baystate Organic Certified farm. “We’ve been on quite a steep learning curve. Implementing new approaches is challenging, but we persist because we’ve already started seeing results in our crops. For us, the biological approach helps us expand the meaning of organic to involve both growing food in a way that honors the environment and the farmers as well as measurably enhancing nutrition, appearance, and taste. For us, proper mineralization along with appropriately devised and timely foliar sprays of fish and kelp fertilizers along with inoculants and micro-nutrients, has brought dramatic results in higher yields and produce quality. We have not had a decent sweet corn crop, for example, for a few years. On distribution day this summer three CSA members called that night to tell us it was the best sweet corn they had ever eaten. We harvested hundreds more pounds of beans off our pole vines than ever before. One woman told me that she took her three heads of lettuce and arranged them on a tray and took pictures because they were so beautiful. At the Garlic and Arts festival this year upwards of 20 people came by our table to tell us we had the most beautiful produce (including flowers) in the entire festival.”

Ari Kurtz of Linden Tree Farm farms 11 acres of leased land in Lincoln, MA with his wife. “I’m approaching this biological method of farming in an experimental way,” he said. In Spring 2008, he spread the minerals that were recommended for his soil on 2 acres, and this past Fall, he expanded the testing area to 4 acres. “I’ve seen some preliminary results with this new method that appear to show an increase in quality after just one season. We’re convinced that the theory behind our amendments make sense, and we’re planning to continue improving our system.”

Derek Christiansen of Brix Bounty Farm in South Dartmouth has been working on transforming some marginal farmland he leases into more fertile soil using biological farming principles. He said, “I’m attending the seminar because, these opportunities provide farmers with a unique space to stand back from the busyness of the growing season and learn some of the science that informs growing practices.”

Ben Grosscup, who is organizing the Seminar said that even the process of bringing together the farmers from all over the Northeast has been an exercise in community building and self-reliance. “We felt that it was really important that we keep the costs down for this event while also feeding participants well, so instead of catering the event, we’re asking people who can to bring the bounty from their winter stores. We’re also inviting our members in the vicinity of Barre to open their homes for a few nights to growers who from out-of-town. Plans are shaping up well, because of the generosity of our members and because they value better nutrition and land stewardship.”

The seminar is being sponsored by The Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts Chapter, Real Food Campaign, International Ag Labs, Lancaster Agricultural Products, Pike Agri-Lab Supplies, Inc, and Lookfar Agricultural Services. Information on registration is available at www.nofamass.org. For information on the conference, contact, Ben Grosscup, 413-658-5374, ben.grosscup@nofamass.org

For more information on Dan Kittredge’s workshops, click here.

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