The 2023 Farm Bill will be the primary agriculture and food policy legislation of the federal government for the next 5 years. This bill determines policy and funding for agriculture, food assistance programs, natural resource allocation, new farmer resources, farmland preservation, and many other parts of our food and agricultural system in the U.S. The Farm Bill is developed and written by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, on which Representative Jahana Hayes sits, and is voted on by both chambers of Congress. Each member of Congress has the opportunity to influence the direction of the Farm Bill by supporting key issues through marker bills. The Agricultural Committee started its process with a field hearing at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., in April. You can watch that hearing by clicking here.

The Farm Bill is renewed every 5 years, and the 2023 Farm Bill will be the most important legislation affecting our farms in Connecticut until at least 2028. Below is a graph of how funds from the previous farm bill were spent. A detailed look at what we might expect from the 2023 bill can be found here, thanks to RAFI USA.

 

Figure 1: Projected Farm Bill Funding from 2019-2023
Source: USDA Economic Research Service Based on Congressional Budget Office, Direct Spending Effects for the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), December 11, 2018

 

 

CT NOFA remains dedicated to the growth of local and organic agriculture in our state. CT NOFA, along with the other NOFA state chapter in MA, NH, VT, NY, RI, and NJ have put together some policy priorities that we will bring to congress (see below). To that end, we want to hear from our community within NOFA.

  • What are some things you’d like to see in the upcoming farm bill?
  • What types of projects could you use funding for on your farm?
  • What are some challenges that you face that the farm bill could help alleviate?
  • What priorities can help your community?

We want to work to make your voices heard in congress. If you have any questions or comments regarding the 2023 Farm Bill, please email ctnofa@ctnofa.org. We want to hear your opinions!

 

NOFA 2023 Farm Bill Principles. We want a farm bill that…

1. Actively invests in and protects the integrity of organic and agroecological practices as a core solution to our climate and biological crises.

Policy Priorities:

● Increase funding for organic certification cost share and streamline process for producers.

● Invest in transition support, mentorship, and technical assistance for organic and transitioning producers.

● Increase funding for organic research to allow organic production to keep pace with demand.

 

2. Ensures fair treatment and just livelihoods for farmers and workers throughout the food and farming system.

Policy Priorities:

● Ensure equitable price supports (i.e. parity pricing) for farm products, along with supply management to prevent oversupply and stabilize markets.

● Amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act to include farmworkers in the protections and wage guarantees provided to workers in other sectors.

 

3. Invests in rural communities, increases fairness and resilience of local and regional supply chains and breaks up consolidation in agriculture.

Policy Priorities:

● Reform Risk Management programs to increase equity and support organic and diversified operations.

● Limit corporate control and boost community control of food systems.

● Expand local processing capacity.

● Increase access to institutional markets for local, organic producers.

 

4. Centers racial justice across all programs and repairs past and ongoing racialized harm.

Policy priorities:

● Simplify and fast track the application process for land access and conservation programs for Black, Indigenous, and historically marginalized applicants (aka BIPOC farmers, new and beginning farmers, women farmers, LGBTQ farmers).

● Increase share of grant and technical assistance funding for historically underserved applicants.

● More targeted, culturally appropriate outreach, education and technical assistance for Black, Indigenous and other historically marginalized farmers transitioning to more sustainable practices, especially for first time and beginning farmers.

 

5. Promotes food sovereignty for disadvantaged communities and ensures nutrition security for all.

Policy Priorities:

● Promote equitable accessibility to agricultural land stewardship through conservation programs

● Strengthen community economic and food system resilience to respond to climate shocks through deeper investments in Urban Agriculture

● Address land access challenges, especially for BIPOC communities

● Strengthen farmer-customer community control of the food system

● Support Worker-Owned Cooperative Growth in the Agricultural Sector

● Ensure access to regionally adapted seed, promote seed sovereignty

● Protect state and local rights to regulate pesticides

● Increase access to nutrient dense, organic food, promote nutrition security through increased support for SNAP/GusNIP

● Enable food donation by passing language consistent with the Food Donation Improvement Act (McGovern, 2021), extending liability protections to food donors

● Support the Farmland Preservation recommendations of American Farmland Trust

 

6. Eliminates the use of toxic substances on farmland and in our food system while supporting a just transition for farmers.

Policy Priorities:

● Saving America’s Pollinator Act – a federal version of the Birds and Bees Act to ban neonicotinoids that NOFA chapters have pushed for on the state level. ● Fully implement and enforce the Agricultural Worker Protection Standards – This updated version requires that farms train workers annually in pesticide safety.

● Adopt the precautionary principle in all environmental regulations: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.”

 

Marker Bills NOFA Supports

Agriculture Resilience Act
Establishes goal for agriculture to reach net zero by 2040, while investing in agricultural research, soil health, transition to pasture-based livestock, ensuring farmland preservation and viability, on-farm renewable energy, and reducing food waste. Strengthening Local Processing Act Comprehensive plan to increase slaughter options for local livestock and poultry producers, assist smaller facilities as they adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, and help consumers access locally-raised meat and poultry.

Farm to School Act
Expands funding for and scope of USDA Farm to School Grant Program, while prioritizing grant proposals that engage beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and serve high-need schools

Justice for Black Farmers Act
Enacts policies to end discrimination within the USDA, protect remaining Black farmers from losing their land, provide land grants to create a new generation of Black farmers and restore the land base that has been lost, and implement systemic reforms to help family farmers across the United States.

Milk from Family Dairies Act
The plan would pay dairy farmers a fair wage based on their costs of production – for huge taxpayer savings. It would incentivize family-scale dairy farms over megadairies and ensure a consistent supply of regional milk for processors and consumers.

Food from Family Farms Act
Sets price floors at fair levels above the cost of production; implement supply management to prevent oversupply; establishes grain reserves to protect eaters, industry, and livestock interests from price spikes during times of shortage; and enacts strong conservation measures that incentivize farmer participation.

 

If you have any questions or comments regarding the 2023 Farm Bill, please email ctnofa@ctnofa.org. We want to hear your opinions!

 

 

On Friday the 10th we hosted Emily Rauch, Native Plant Program Manager at Hilltop Hanover Farm for one of our Seed Cleaning Access Days to use the Winnow Wizard at The Hickories. These farmer trainings are designed to increase seed literacy and provide technical assistance around seed cleaning. Emily has joined the newly formed farmer-led seed collective Eco59, making these truly local pollinator seeds available throughout the landscapes of the northeast!

Pollinator enthusiasts, regenerative gardeners, and conservationists can now find a source of locally grown, native, ecotypic wildflower seeds: a much-awaited contribution to our northeastern ecosystem.  It is a good season for it: early winter holidays are the perfect time for sowing native wildflowers.  

 

Eco59: a farmer-led seed collective has launched its first season of sales.  Catalyzed by the work of the Pollinator Pathways and CT NOFA’s Ecotype Project, a group of farmers have been working together, learning to grow a new crop: seeds of regionally appropriate wildflowers, called ecotypes, for pollinator habitat restoration.  The new seed company seeks to build a “triple bottom line”: seed that is good for the pollinators and the planet, profitable for farmers, and adds to the beauty of our landscape. Profit from the sales of Eco59 goes to fund conservation work across our ecoregion.

 

Dina Brewster, farmer at The Hickories and a member of the Eco59 seed collective notes, “An important part of the Eco59 mission is to heal a broken landscape.  The systematic displacement of people, the destruction of the environment, and the consequent loss of abundance around us is a direct result of not honoring the relationship that indigenous people of this area had with land.  I view our work, growing ecotypic seed to restore native plants in the northeast, as a reminder of all that has been lost and all that we must work to restore.”

 

 

After three years of tending their crops of perennial wildflowers, Eco59 farmers have now harvested, cleaned, tested, and packaged their seeds for sale to “re-wild” the landscape of ecoregion 59, a broad swath of the New England corridor championed by the Pollinator Pathway, the Massachusetts Pollinator Network and other like-minded groups.  Rewilding is a term used extensively by Heather McCargo at Maine’s Wild Seed Project, another organization whose goal is to inspire people to take action in increasing the presence of native plants grown from wild seed.  McCargo’s work, in addition to the writing of Doug Tallamy and John Marzluff, motivates the farmers in this collective.  “Having a pesticide free corridor of native plants that provide nutrition and habitat for pollinators helps them to disperse into new areas and will improve the overall health of the farm and local ecosystem,”says Patrick Horan of Waldingfield Farm in Washington, Connecticut.  

 

You can shop for seed, gifts, and read about the participating farmers on the Eco59 website: eco59.com.  Each seed packet details where the original ecotype was collected (city and state) and which farm and farmer grew it.  “Know your farmer; know your seed; know your land.  We promote transparency in seed packaging and in growing practices: something we encourage gardeners and conservationists to be asking about more often through our educational outreach,” says Sefra Alexandra, CT NOFA’s Ecotype Project leader.

 

Early winter is the perfect time to winter sow native seed – instructions for growing are inside each order as well as on the Eco59 website.  In addition to the seed packets, the farmers are producing “seed bombs,” a dozen quail-egg sized balls made of clay and soil infused with a pinch of wildflower seed, for sowing “here, there, and everywhere.” Customers interested in larger quantities of seed for larger-scale restoration projects should contact the seed company directly through the website: eco59.com.  

 

On Saturday October 16th the Ecotype Project and our partner Geordie Elkins from Highstead and Deepika Saksena of the Darien Pollinator Pathway, joined the Urbanscapes Native Plant Nursery “All Things Pollinators” end of season celebration at their nursery in the Newhallville neighbrohood of New Haven, Connecticut.

The mayor of New Haven Justin Elicker joined founder Doreen Abubakar and Dennis Riordan of Menunkatuck Audubon Society in cutting the ribbon of their newly built greenhouse.

We demonstrated native seed cleaning techniques and discussed the importance of utilizing “truly local” native seed in establishing pollinator habitats “ecoregionally” to ensure we are putting “the right plants in the right place.”

Urbanscapes will be installing their first of three founder plots with White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) from the project. The nursery educates local youth in native plant propagation and their founder plot will provide a great resource for producing and sharing ecotypic seed with their neighborhood supporters and the work they lead with the Pollinator Pathway of New Haven.

The BOATanists had a great day assembling all their gear and Ecotype plants on the outrigger canoes and began their expedition “paddlin’ for the pollinators” embarking from Enfield, CT to a remote island just above Hartford. We are excited to talk to the folks attending tomorrow’s MakeFest at the Connecticut Science Center, showing them how to make “native Ecotype Seed balls” and the importance of planting local pollinator habitats to rewild our landscapes and ensure local food security!

Observations from this part of the corridor: the river is abuzz with a symphony of happy insects. Solidago is in bloom and dragonfly’s are flying about. The river is low this time of year but a dam release increased the flow rate. There is a nice riparian buffer along the river where you seldom see human development. Tomorrow we are sure will be different as we paddle to the largest city along a river in Connecticut.

Stay tuned for more expeditions updates over the next five days. Thanks for following along.

We at CT NOFA have been thinking a lot this year about what defines us – what makes us uniquely deserving of your support.  What always rises out of our conversations is that we are farmer-led, practical, adventurous, innovative.  At our best, what makes “organic” and “regenerative” special is that it gives more than it takes, sows more than we reap. We are on a mission to leave this Earth more beautiful and abundant than we found it.  And we like to have a good time doing it.  With our current pandemic putting a hold on our ability to gather and gala or feast – we are still itching to celebrate – to show how much we, the organic farmers, gardeners, landscapers, and advocates, can do for the land, the forests, and rivers and sea that gives so much to us.

CT NOFA has again joined forces with BOATanical and its powerhouse leader Sefra Levin, to launch this years’ expedition along the Quinnehtukqut (CT) River. Connecticut is named after an Alquonian term that references the place of the long tidal river. This river corridor has been a causeway of transport for flora, fauna, wind, weather, and the ancestral caretakers of these lands.

The fate of our organic farms and gardens is inextricably tied to the health of the ecosystem that surrounds them.  With that in mind, on September 17th, CT NOFA and BOATanical will launch an expedition of farmers and seed-keepers to paddle the length of Connecticut along the river from Enfield to the Long Island Sound.  The team will be planting native plant habitats, sowing restoration seed, and stopping to talk to groups about CT NOFA’s programs:

  • The Ecotype Project – our effort to fortify the Northeast by building biodiversity with pollinator habitats and a native plant supply chain
  • Farmer Circles – a refabrication of a practical and powerful regional support system among farmers.   This trip is not without its hardships and its hazards – and we are asking for your support.
  • Soil Health education – on the essential work of carbon drawdown with healthy soils.
  • Organic Land Care Program – extending the vision and principles of organic agriculture to the care of landscapes where people carry out their daily lives.
  • Winter Conferences, Landscaper Conferences, and Seed Conferences

This year when you consider your donation to CT NOFA, consider this- when our “boatanists” plant one seed, the next year or two one can harvest thousands of seeds from that single plant. The ‘return on investment’ that you get with Nature is extraordinary.  With that as our vision for change, our goal is to make our NOFA programs/resources available to as many people as possible in the upcoming year.

The donation that you make will provide more farmers with the building blocks they need to help safeguard the biological resilience of our region, create access for beginning farmers to the education and resources and community that they will rely on as their careers progress, and support the innovative work on climate change that has defined CT NOFA over the last 40 years.

In 2020 we paddled from New Hampshire to the Massachusetts border- in 2021 we will paddle from the top of Connecticut to the Long Island Sound, planting Founder Plots on farms and spreading the seeds of resilience. We hope you will follow along on our expedition this September.

 

Watch a recap of last year’s expedition through Massachusetts:

Donate to NOFA here

On Thursday, June 17 at 1:00 PM the Ecotype Project is honored to be presenting our work alongside six other regional native seed initiatives from around the globe at the Society for Ecological Restoration’s 9th World Conference on Ecological Restoration.
(this is a pre-conference workshop which you must be registered to attend)

The title of the workshop is:
W9: Networks and other strategies for developing regional native seed supply to meet restoration needs.
Join us to find out how other seed-based restoration initiatives are operating worldwide!
“This workshop will present and discuss a variety of native seed programs and initiatives and will provide information, models, and support to participants seeking to improve the supply of native seed in their region.”

“Ecological restoration initiatives are increasing in both number and scale globally. Native plant seed is the foundation of almost every ecological restoration project, and as the scale of restoration projects increases, so too the need for native seed is expected to grow. Restoration efforts regularly rely on the use of thousands of tons of native plant seed, requiring investments of hundreds of millions of US dollars. There is a global push to improve access to, and the supply of high-quality, biodiverse, and genetically appropriate seed to facilitate successful restoration outcomes. Ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality native plant seed from appropriate sources represents one of the most significant constraints facing restoration practitioners. This workshop will present lessons learned from ongoing efforts to establish seed supplies in various regions and at scales ranging from local to multinational. Presenters will talk about their network or initiative, what stage of growth they are in, and the key factors in their success, as well as lessons learned. They will include the political, financial, and cultural context of their seed program. Following the presentations, we will facilitate roundtable discussion with the intent of building collaborative connections and learning from each other’s experiences.”

The Ecotype Project is delighted to be included in the May/June 2021 publication of Connecticut Gardener magazine whose tagline is “because gardeners never stop learning.” Throughout our journey on this seed literacy project, we have consistently gained new insight into how we can efficiently support the amplification of native seed in our ecoregion of the northeast. What we do know, is the more gardeners, farmers and citizen scientists who are aware of this vital initiative to safeguard our “living seed banks” the more successful we will collectively be in reducing fragmentation across our shared landscapes and providing habitat for our friends the pollinators. 

CT Gardener Magazine Article