by Michael Wren
SYRACUSE, NY – Roughly 1,000 farmers, home gardeners and buyers came together on Jan. 17 for the start of this year’s NOFA-NY Annual Winter Conference. After a long stint of taking place in Saratoga Springs, this year the conference moved to the Oncenter in Syracuse and combined with the ninth annual Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference.
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) aims to “create a sustainable regional food system that’s ecologically sound and economically viable.” In 1984, this group became the first organic certifier in New York State and has since grown to providing education and help to both consumers and producers. The theme of this year’s conference, “Extending the Table,” aimed to recognize the need of making the community more inclusive and open to like-minded people in all parts of the industry. Attendees gathered from across the state to meet, learn and grow together.
The conference included a trade show with over 60 booths and the NOFA-NY bookstore. Throughout the three-day event attendees could visit the show between workshops to gather new information and learn about new equipment and services offered this year.
Over 100 workshops and seminars were offered, including sessions from how small farms can enter the wholesale business and how to communicate the value of a CSA to half-day workshops on planning and scheduling production to maximize profit and talks on organic pest and disease management. Seminars also included tracks directed to the hemp and dairy industries.
As is NOFA-NY tradition, over 90% of the food offered for meals was grown and donated by members.
Annual meetings for the New York Small Scale Food Processors Association, NOFA-NY and the New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association all took place throughout the conference.
Live music played by the Russet Trio and Rot N’ Roll rounded out each day – the Russet Trio playing blends of Celtic, folk, blues and pop and Rot N’ Roll playing “compost education parody music.” This group came together from the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Decomposter training in 2008. Book signings, farmer trivia and yoga were also offered at the end of each day as a way for attendees to unwind and network.
For more information on what NOFA-NY offers, membership and upcoming events, visit NOFAny.org.