Thanks to the hard work of those advocating for agriculture, the EIDL loan program is now accepting applications from farmers.

Farmers: Click here to apply.

 

 

By Monique Bosch

I took a visit to a composting business that prides itself on utilizing local food waste to create a special blend of highly nutritious compost. ‘Diverting food waste’ and ‘highly nutritious’ were key words for me, so I jumped in the car to check it out. Driving into an unassuming backyard along a residential street in Danbury, I was surprised to see the orderly piles of compost and mulch, along with heavy equipment, neatly organized.

Below: Jeff stands in front of his composting facility, neatly tucked away, with no smell or mess.

 

I met Jeff, taking a break from moving piles and loading trucks. First question; “how did all this come about?”

“I was working in the landscaping industry when I met Don Taylor from Taylor farm, the property I’m on right now. He had woodchips, logs, and brush and I had a desire to compost. I cleaned up the site, brought in leaves, and started producing a high carbon, wood-based compost. Then the horse manure started coming in.”

In 2014, Connecticut’s legislature enacted a law that requires businesses that produce 1 ton or more of food waste to recycle it, if they’re within 20 miles of a facility that’s licensed to handle it. This new law made it feasible for Jeff to alter his permit to include food waste.

Jeff then took the formula further, adding other waste products that were locally available.

“There are some unique feedstocks out there that make for unique compost,” Jeff explained. He increased his inputs to include waste from several local businesses:  Bigelow Tea (tea and botanical waste), Ideal Fish in Waterbury (whole fish, fish manure), Sunset Hill Farm (horse manure) and Lesser Evil Snack (organic popcorn). The end result was a high-quality compost product with diverse and complex sets of nutrients.

 

Jeff makes his compost in small batches, with great attention to detail and quality. His Thermophilic compost system is unique in that it uses a 100% solar-powered aeration system. Jeff mixes his feedstocks to correct ratios, then places the mixture on perforated pipes. Using a 1½ horsepower blower, he runs air under the rows, 2 minutes on, 28 minutes off, for 30 days. He can tweak the amount of time the blower is on, depending on the density of the pile, and temperature. This control over air and temperature ensures that the rows never go ‘anaerobic’, which leads to a higher quality finished compost.

 

Below: Jeff stands beside perforated pipes ready for the next load of waste materials.

The thermometer is visible in the active pile to the right, solar panels generating energy to run the aeration system on the left.

 

Jeff keeps the row temperature at 140-150 degrees for 30 days.

After 30 days he’ll flip the row and put it back on the air for an additional 14 days, to guarantee pathogen/weed/parasite destruction. He’ll then cure the pile for 90-120 days.

The most satisfying aspect of composting all of these local waste products is the knowledge that all of these feedstocks were destined for either landfill or would have been burned at a waste incineration plant. Instead, they are part of a unique recipe that makes Jeff’s New England Compost product highly nutritious for plants. We took a look under the microscope to examine the life in the compost:

 

Below: Video of finished New England Compost. Plenty of diverse bacteria & soil aggregates.

Jeff is starting to see more people wanting to do their own composting, but says the biggest stumbling block is keeping the food waste free of contaminants.

“Those who are saving food waste for pickup should lookout to produce ‘stickers’ and bags.  Keep in mind ‘if you can eat it, I can compost it’.” Haulers are educating consumers on best practices and it’s starting to be evident in the food waste Jeff receives from households. “4 years ago the volume of contamination meant that I just couldn’t use it. It was too expensive to cleanout. Now more people are gardening and thinking about compost as a key ingredient in their garden soil. The importance of high-quality compost is starting to be noticed and appreciated.”

The State of CT and the Connecticut Business Association are preparing to distribute free face masks to essential small businesses (farms!) that have fewer than 50 employees.  The masks should be distributed in the coming week by the municipality in which the business is located.
(Thank you to CT NOFA member Susan Mitchell for sharing this great opportunity with us.)

Click here to read Dina’s article.

Our partners at edible Nutmeg are holding off on physical distribution due to the pandemic  –  but they have released our article electronically.  Get to know the story behind the Ecotype Project and then answer the call to action – we can transform landscapes on farms and in residential and community lands into beneficial insect habitat and secure the future of our food system.

Many thanks to Dana Jackson, editor of edible Nutmeg for his support.  This article originally appeared in edible Nutmeg #44, Spring 2020

Thanks as well to Mary Clay Fields for photography.

 

The Wilton High School Organic Garden is proud to offer a selection of native wildflower species for sale by preorder in partnership with Planter’s Choice Nursery of Newtown. Plants will be available for pickup at the WHS Organic Garden’s Annual Spring Plant Sale.

Cost per plant: $2.50 with $1 going directly to support WHS Organic Garden’s programs and initiatives.

Due dates:
Orders must be submitted by May 1, 2020 at 11:59pm.

Pickup will be Saturday, May 16, 2020 between 9am and 3pm at The Hickories Organic Farm in Ridgefield.

Payment is due in full at the time of placing your order. Payment must be mailed to…

Wilton High School
ATTN: Jim Hunter
395 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT. 06897

 

Order Here

 

Sefra Alexandra, from CT NOFA’s Ecotype Project, taught the basics of seed exploration/seed hunting with the February kids camp at Wakeman Town Farm. After discovering seeds in our everyday foods, the group went on a walk through the pollinator garden, discussing the importance of native plants to bugs and how to save/ clean/ broadcast seed in the wild.

The NOFA Bulk Order was one of the very first programs of NOFA, the parent organization of all of the NOFA State Chapters. It began in 1971 with a bulk order of rock phosphate for organic growers. Today, many state chapters run their own bulk orders, and NOFA/Mass organizes the Tri-State Order on behalf of CT NOFA, NOFA-RI and NOFA/Mass. Our Executive Director, Julie Rawson, has been hosting a bulk order pickup site at her farm since 1984!

Connecticut’s Bulk Order Pickup for 2020:

Meriden, CT:  High Hill Orchard, 86 Fleming Rd, Meriden, CT

Coordinator: Deb Legge, 203-676-0742, debct55@gmail.com || Saturday (3/14) 8am – 12pm and Saturday (4/11) 8am – 10am

Order today by clicking here!

Join us.

An update from NOFA’s technical consultant and “embedded” reporter, Monique Bosch

During this ‘dormant’ time of year, it’s refreshing to see cold season crops flourishing in high tunnels across the state. Some of the healthiest food we’ve seen this winter have been in high tunnels that are practicing ‘no-till.’  Let’s take a tour together above, and below ground, to see what’s living.

First stop; The Hickories in Ridgefield CT.

Farm manager Jaci Slattery gives us a look inside her high tunnel, where delicious chard, spinach, and romaine are growing well.

This high tunnel has been no-till since it was built, about 5 years ago. Broad-fork and surface rake have been the only tools used. Keeping plants growing year-round ensures the biology thrives. The space goes through several iterations through the year; propagation house in spring, followed by salad mix, summer tomatoes then winter crops. This particular high tunnel is on a slope. Jaci has found that keeping roots of plants such as tomatoes in the ground to decay helps stop erosion during heavy rains.  This past year Jaci added two new inputs; beneficial nematodes, to help with flea beetles, and compost tea. We found one of the nematodes when viewing a soil sample under the microscope:

 

Jaci spoke about some of the challenges of no-till:  “Weed control is the biggest challenge. We manage it with frequent surface tillage and some hand-weeding. This coming Spring, when tables are above the beds holding seedling trays, we are considering a cover crop below. We think buckwheat might be a good choice, with little regrowth and excellent residue after cutting to act as mulch.”


 Next stop; Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge CT.

Farm Manager Steve Munno and Executive Director Caty Poole gave us a tour of their high tunnels, producing delicious winter crops with no-till methods.

We took a soil sample from the high tunnel growing a cover crop of peas/vetch/oats. It had been mowed the day before. The plan is to open the high tunnel doors as outdoor temperatures drop, resulting in a ‘winter kill’ that will speed up decomposition. The ground should be ready for sowing in early March.

Like butter, the soil lifted without a fuss, releasing a luxurious forest smell

 

Under the microscope the sample proved to be just as rich, with aggregates full of bacteria, a nice balance of fungi and plenty of flagellates consuming the bacteria:

Growing food year-round in the high tunnel is an optimal environment for no-till. Under these controlled conditions leaving the soil undisturbed has several advantages:

  • promotes a healthy soil food web
  • fewer pests, due to the healthy micro-ecosystem in and above the soil
  • reduces weed populations:
    • bacteria/fungi balance is maintained
    • less exposure of dormant seeds

Andrew Mefferd has traveled around the world to connect with farmers and researchers about no-till farming and soil conservation. In his book he talks about growing no-till in high tunnels: “We can grow nutrient-dense foods, reduce and eliminate inputs and consequent negative outputs, and pull carbon out of the atmosphere while reinvigorating the hydrological cycle that has been so disrupted by thousands of years of over tilling, overgrazing, deforestation, and soil compaction.”

For many farmers ‘no-till’ sounds like a daunting experiment.  John Kempf, founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture (https://www.advancingecoag.com/john), doesn’t think it has to be an ‘all or nothing’ approach: “We need to change the conversation. Instead of ’tillage’, we might consider ‘soil particle management’.  Finding ways to nurture the soil and the microbes who inhabit it will produce resilient plants, healthier food and as a result, benefit us all.

This award is for a recipient who has demonstrated the advancement of organic living on our earth with a project, innovation, action or lifestyle that supports the continuation of the life work of Bill Duesing – for all to live on this earth in a society in harmony with nature. The accomplishment must contribute to the advancement of organic living in Connecticut in a demonstrable way and be a current or recent accomplishment that reflects Bill’s devotion to organic living and his wish that this critically important work be continued by his friends and colleagues. Award recipients can be one of the following:

• Organic farmer/farm (example: added new revenue sources to secure the farm’s future; expanded availability of organic food in the community)

• Organic land care professional /business (example: transitioned from conventional to organic land care)

• Organic advocate (example: spearheaded a change in their local school system, or worked to promote organic legislation)

• Organization (example: farmers market became 100% organic; the advancement of farmworkers’ rights; created organic-based social media group)

• Educator (example: developed new ways to add organic food and agriculture to school curriculum)

• Mentor (example: developed process for passing along organic knowledge and skills to new farmers or land care professionals)

Award recipient(s) will be recognized during the Keynote Session at CT NOFA’s 2020 Winter Conference on Saturday, March 7th at Wesleyan University in Middletown.

Click here to nominate

Click here to print mail-in form

CT NOFA’s 38th annual conference will be held on March 7th, 2020 at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  This new location will allow easier access to this event for people from all over our state as well as guests from Massachusetts and Rhode Island and New York. Our keynote speaker is Niaz Dorry of the National Farm Family Coalition and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance who will be bringing her innovative perspective on movement-building to her keynote speech. To round out this wonderful day we are requesting proposals for workshop sessions, each will be 1.5 hours in length. CT NOFA is looking for inventive, inclusive, and diverse topics, as always.

 

We welcome all submissions for workshops that capture CT NOFA’s mission of fostering the organic movement in Connecticut.  This year our conference priorities are: 

  • Climate Change, and Resilience, and Conservation Agriculture
  • Regional Economics and New Farming Economies
  • Land Access
  • Beginning Farmers 
  • Equity, Ag Justice, and Food
  • Emerging Markets (ie; kelp, hemp, cannabis)

 

The deadline for workshop submissions is  January 15th. Applications will be subject to review and presenters will be notified of their acceptance by January 24th.  

 

At the Summer Conference workshop on Fermenting Social Justice Values in the NOFA Culture,  the guidelines that the NOFA Domestic Fair Trade sub-committee holds were reviewed and it was agreed upon that information about dismantling racism in farming be included with our RFP.  This gives our presenters the chance to consider these ideas when they design their presentation. Please see ‘Dismantling Racism and Integrating Race and Equity for NOFA Presenters at Conferences‘ document.

 

Please follow this link to our online workshop submission form.  

We look forward to seeing you at OrganiConn 2020!