Northeast Organic Farming Association Organic Practices Handbook Series
The project is to create with farmer participation eight new manuals on organic agricultural practices: Whole Farm Planning; Crop Health; Compost/Vermicompost/Compost Tea; Crop Rotation/Cover Cropping; Eggs & Poultry; Marketing/Community Relations; Seed Production & Saving; and Milk & Dairy Products.
The project will also add to two previously created manuals, Weed Management and Soil Fertility Management. Designed for practical use by relatively experienced organic growers and commercial farmers transitioning to organic in the Northeast, the manuals are up-to-date, illustrated, highly readable and around 100 pages in length. They are being created specifically to complement each other in approach, format, philosophy, and content and form a reliable, integrated information resource in organic agriculture.
“Of the 35 farmers directly involved in creation of the manuals series, 25 will report a change in their farming/ business practice after a year as a result of their involvement.
“Of the 2,000 farmers who bought a copy of one or more of the manuals, the NOFA project coordinator will establish contact with 150 a year after publication is complete, and 80 of those will report that reading the manual made a change in their farming.”
—From the project application.
Four farmers are on the Manuals Project Committee. Approximately four others join them for the creation of each manual. These farmers will be questioned at the end of the project to assess the impact of the project in their lives, but already I’ve received anecdotal evidence like “Here are some edits, Jonathan. I think this is a fantastic manual. It has lots of info that I want to utilize this next season.” [Julie Rawson, farmer/reviewer, re. Crop Rotation manual]. Or: “I would again like to express my thanks for your help and patience in this process. It was a great learning experience for me and I hope the end product will be an asset to the manuals series.” [Seth Kroek, farmer/writer of Crop Rotation manual]I intend to poll those involved at the end of the project to more methodically ascertain the effect of the work.
The project has essentially met its milestones—specifically Nos. 1-4, the organizational ones. Milestone #5, by which the first four new books were to have been published by December 2003, has been nearly met in that the first four new books are written and edited, the artwork is done, and only the layout and printing are still to be accomplished.
A change occurred beyond our (NOFA’s) control when Chelsea Green lost its executive editor (Stephen Morris), with whom we had been working, and decided to drop its role as publisher of the series. (I reported this to David Holm and Andy Clark earlier). Chelsea continues to offer its services for distribution, but the change meant a delay while we decided whether to look for another out-of-house publisher or to publish ourselves. As reported to David and Andy, we have since decided to act as publishers ourselves, and I will do the layout and arrange for the printing. The decision process just set us back a couple of months while we waited for one of the NOFA Interstate Council’s quarterly meetings. I’m catching up again already.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We have the content—text and illustrations—of four manuals on key aspects of organic farming (Whole Farm Planning, Crop Health, Composting/Vermicomposting/Compost Tea, and Crop Rotation/Cover Cropping). The quality of the information and presentation are a credit to SARE, NOFA, and the people involved.
The next two manuals are in the pipeline. We have worked well together and strengthened the network of organic farmers in the Northeast. Farmers from Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine have participated, along with a scientific reviewer from Arkansas.
As I said, we have writers commissioned for the next round of two manuals and they are already at work and on schedule. A great many people in the organic farming movement—farmers and educators, as well as many consumers—are aware of the project. The manuals will join the two already published that have already been distributed to around 1,400 buyers in three printings. Plans for distribution “post-Chelsea” are taking shape and will be finalized by the May 11 meeting of the NOFA Interstate Council. There is a good spirit around the project, and I believe good reason for it.