by Michael Wren
GHENT, NY — Oct. 17, 2016 marked the final on-farm field day put on by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY). These events are hosted by farms in New York State and are held from June through October. NOFA-NY’s Executive Director Adrianna Natsoulas and the Grain and Field Crops Coordinator Robert Perry helped to put on the field day. This field day outlined the importance of sustainable practices for the future of agriculture with an emphasis on on-farm fixes for fertilization and production.
The Director of Farm Operations at Hawthorne Valley Farms, Steffen Schneider and his wife, Heather, began the discussion on biodynamic farming and also gave the tour of the farm. They believe that the future of farming must include a biodynamic approach. As the group toured the grounds they became more aware of the sustainable practices implemented on the farm. Biodynamic agriculture is a type of farming that has been around for almost 100 years and takes into account the ecological, social and economic impacts of farming.
The attendees came from all across New York. Their interests ranged from farmers looking to make their farms more ecologically sustainable to first generation farmers hoping to pick up tips on reducing waste and running a farm more efficiently. During the discussion the group learned how to work the farm in a way that benefits the community as well as the environment.
Hawthorne Valley Farms is a 700-acre Demeter certified Biodynamic and also certified organic farm located in Columbia County, NY. The farm includes dairy cows, a vegetable farm, creamery, bakery, sauerkraut cellar and a Farm Store that carries natural foods. Hawthorne Valley Farms has been supplying the local community and New York City with clean sustainable food as well as furthering the education of biodynamic agriculture since 1972.
The farm is also an advocate of educating others on the positives of biodynamic farming. Some methods used by Hawthorne Valley Farms that help them to be sustainable include a compost pile that is used to fertilize their crops, pigs that are fed whey from cheese production, and a 12 field vegetable garden that they rotate with cover crops and two fallow fields a year. The farm also allocates 10 percent of their land to remain undeveloped in order to maintain the local flora and fauna and has also implemented an environmental creek crossing for their cows. Another method of restoring soil quality on-farm is the use of cow horn manure, which is generally the first step farms make when converting over to a biodynamic farm.
The farmers at Hawthorne Valley use many of Rudolf Steiner’s methods for biodynamic farming. As part of their education program the farm also offers apprenticeships and internships for those interested in furthering their knowledge and skills in agriculture.
NOFA-NY has put on 22 similar events this summer to help educate and help strengthen New York’s organic farms and markets. NOFA-NY has events going on throughout the winter as well. More information on the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York can be found on their website at www.nofany.org.
NOFA-NY’s final on-farm field day at Hawthorne Valley Farms: An eye to the future
by Michael Wren