Plenty #11: No-till and Urban Ag at NOFA/Mass Winter Conference
Amazing no-till results, proof-of-concept urban agriculture, and learning “tracks” available for a curated conference experience

Charcuterie techniques demonstrated during a 2015 NOFA/Mass Winter Conference session (submitted photo).

Hey, how’s it going today? I am Jason  Velázquez, and we have arrived here at Episode #11. It’s good having you  here at the table of Plenty. What’s the date today? Well for me it’s  Sunday, December 18, 2016. For you it could be anytime after that,  right? This is a podcast—you can listen whenever you like. I can’t make  you do anything. And you know what’s great about this podcast? Even if  some of the info pertains to specific events on certain dates, the bulk  of the info is going to stay fresh for a really long time. Such is the  case with this show.

Do you remember back in Episode #6, we spoke with Dan Bensonoff of  the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Farming Association? If you  didn’t catch that episode, you should definitely go back and catch up  one of these days. But in the meantime, if you don’t know about NOFA,  you really should check them out.  Even though the word “farming” is in  the name, the organization provides educational programs for farmers and  foodsters alike. And, obviously, since their policy work involves  pretty much everything related to sustainable, responsible agriculture,  their local efforts end up having a global effect. As always, I’ve got a  link in the show notes.

Well, we have NOFA/Mass  back on the show today—this time in the form of Caro Roszell. Caro is  the Bulk Order Coordinator & Winter Conference Workshop Coordinator.  Why do we like Caro? Well for one thing, she puts her work title in her  e-mail signatures so I don’t have to struggle to remember what to call  her. Thank you, Caro!

Mainly though, we’re excited to have her on the show, because she’s going to tell us about the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference,  which is happening at Worcester State University on January 14th. The  Winter Conference, is basically like Pleasure Island for those of us in  the natural living camp. Massive amounts of useful food and farming  knowledge, coming direct from people who are actually living the life  day in and day out. If you go, and yes, there is still time to register,  you’re going to want to bring a notebook, and make sure you have room  on your phone or camera for pics. I’ll just snap a photo of a diagram,  or even a farm or business’ sign to remember rather than write it down.

Singing  Frogs Farm, in Sebastopol, Calif., is the very picture of compact,  intensive farming. This is made possible, the Kaisers say, by their  embrace of no-till agriculture (submitted photo).

After we hear from Caro, we are very, very lucky to have as guests on  Plenty a couple of serious rock stars of the new generation of organic  farmers, Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm  out in Sonoma County, California. I am NOT kidding about the rock star  thing, either. These two have taken the concept of no-till farming to  mythical proportions. I don’t want to throw any spoilers out there, so  let me just say that by just letting Nature do her thing, the Kaisers  may have taken the back-breaking out of farm work.

One of NUBIA’s nine urban agriculture plots in Boston, Mass (submitted photo).

And we close out this episode by speaking with Sayed A Mohamed-Nour,  the executive director, and Emily Barbour, the Office & Project  Manager, of Boston-based urban farming organization, NUBIA.  The group started with the humble goal of trying to preserve some of  the culture and way of life of a group of immigrants from a specific  region within Egypt and Sudan. Now, with almost no budget at all,  they’ve been turning vacant lots into the source of thousands of pounds  of food that they donate to feed the city’s hungry. Hearing Sayed’s  story, I am convinced that getting adequate nutrition to everyone has  never been about production, but about distribution, and, above all,  dedication.

Participants  in NUBIA’s urban gardening program practice the self-reliance that has  sustained their culture for thousands of years, (submitted photo).

Now, let’s get this show on the road with our conversation with Caro Roszell of NOFA/Mass/

I absolutely can’t wait for this year’s conference. People from  everywhere converge on this one spot to share information, yes, but also  to enjoy a little food solidarity, I think. And as Caro said, this time  of year, farmers and gardeners are in planning mode, so this is the  perfect time to do a little research to get your new ideas ready for  Spring.

Elizabeth  and Paul Kaiser (second and third from left) provide not only a healthy  life for their family, but robust, year-round employment for their crew  at Singing Frogs Farm (submitted photo).

Well, two of the people who traveled quite a ways to deliver the  keynote and to lead a learning track for the day are Paul and Elizabeth  Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm. Unless you’re into no-till garding,  there’s almost no introduction I can give that prepare you for the  marvels that these two innovators describe, so it’s probably better if I  just let them do the talking.

See? What did I tell you? And it doesn’t take a lot of math to figure  out that a network of small, intensive no-till farms could actually  meet the food needs of a majority of people in the United States.  Hmmm…maybe that’s why so much effort is spent on smearing the organic  movement…Ya’ think?

Well, we go from a modest eight-acre farm down to an even more micro  (can you say “more micro”) scale. Empty lots in Boston, one of the  Northeast’s largest cities, are cranking out food for those in need  thanks to NUBIA, started with aim to preserve cultural identity. The  organization has a number of programs that do that, but what brings them  to the Winter Conference is their amazing success in organizing and  running an urban agriculture program that could serve as a model for  programs nationwide. To talk about NUBIA, let’s welcome to the show  Sayed A Mohamed-Nour and Emily Barbour.

And that’s our show for this week! Remember—if you’re listening via  iTunes, Google Play: Music, Downcast, or any other podcatcher, you can  find links mentioned in the show in our show notes at greylockglass.com.  Find the link to Plenty in the main menu and select this episode from  Plenty’s page. Thanks for listening and we hope you join us next week  for another generous helping.