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Our History


Houriet, Robert. Robert Houriet oral history and early history of Northeast Organic Farming Association, ca. 1998. Northeast Organic Farming Association Records (MS 461). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

NOFA's First 50 Years and a Vision for the Future

CT NOFA Old Logo

In 1971, as Vietnam, Racial Discrimination and Nuclear protests raged, a group of Back to the Land counter-culturists gathered with a few ecological growers to form what is now called the Northeast Organic Farming Association – NOFA. Farmers, gardeners and conscious eaters from northeast states, discovered this growing movement. The founding NH and VT chapters were soon joined by chapters from five other northeast states, creating a community based on good clean food, good work and care for the earth. As you might expect, there were and still are trials, tribulations, varying motivations and memorable experiences.

NOFA’s growth from a small gathering on a Vermont hillside to an organization with over 5,000 members in seven state chapters, and two certification agencies, is now documented in the film “Organic Roots – 50 Years of the Northeast Organic Farming Association”. In addition you can hear more ”Thrilling Tales of Yesteryear” in a lively panel discussion of dynamic early members who laid the groundwork for NOFA. Finally, in “The Next 50 Years of NOFA”, three founding farmers and four younger organic activists turn their gaze to the future of our movement to create a way of life centered in just, equitable and diverse communities.

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For farmers who joined the movement for a more sustainable agriculture over the past 50 years, connecting with NOFA was part of creating a way of life centered on food, good work and community. Three of the founding farmers – Kevin Engelbert (first certified organic dairy farm), Joey Klein (vegetable farmer for Deep Root Coop), Mike Merner (RI’s first organic composting business) – will share stories from their lives and work. And then interrogate younger members of the movement – what attracted them, what fuels their passions, and what do they hope lies ahead? Onika Abraham, director of the NY Farm School, Kevin’s dairy farmer son Joe Engelbert, Steve Munno, CSA farmer and president of CT NOFA’s board, and Iris Fen Gillingham, still in college, daughter of organic farmer-activists – will turn our gaze to envision the future they will shape.

As Vietnam, Civil Rights, Nuclear Disarmament, etc. protests raged in the background, thanks to serendipitous gatherings of Back to the Land counter-culturists in the late 1960’s a group of embryonic organic farmers, gardeners, organizers and eaters ended up forming the “Natural Organic Farmers Association” in 1971 — later morphing into the Northeast Organic Farming Association as more state Chapters joined ranks with the NH and VT startups. As you might expect there were numerous motivations, experiences, trials and tribulations — and wild times! Join in a live and lively virtual exchange evoking the spirit of the time with some of the dynamic originators who laid the groundwork for NOFA’s 1st 50 years. Moderated by Steve Gilman, the panelists are Samuel Kaymen, Sara Norton, Jake Guest and Howie Prussack. Steve Gilman, Thanks to the early peer education days of NOFA, Steve Gilman became an organic vegetable farmer for 30 some years in the Saratoga NY area, followed by serving as policy coordinator for the NOFA Interstate Council.