Northeastern Organic and Sustainable Farmer Network: Manual of Current Practices, Extension Training and Field Days
There is no comprehensive source of information on organic farming and other low-input farming systems readily available to farmers, agricultural agents or researchers. This project was designed by a committee of the Natural Organic Farmers’ Association (NOFA) Interstate Council to fill this substantial gap in information. This project will remedy this lack in three ways: 1) establish a network of experienced organic and sustainable farmers in the northeast states who will provide information for researchers, hold field days for other farmers and farm demonstrations for agricultural Extension Agents; 2) write, publish, and distribute a manual of current practices on farms using organic and sustainable methods; and 3) design and disseminate an in-service training program for Extension agents and other agricultural consultants on organic and sustainable farm production systems and management.
(1) Create a network consisting of at least three organic and sustainable farmers in each northeast state and conduct a series of field days for farmers and farm demonstrations for extension agents at fifteen of these farms.
(2) Produce a manual documenting the production practices currently in use on certified organic farms in the northeast: Organic farming represents one end of a continuum from chemical-intensive to chemical independent agricultural systems.
(3) Expand the range of options which Cooperative Extension agents can suggest to the increasing numbers of conventional farmers who are inquiring about low-input systems, by training agents in the production, management and marketing issues involved in organic and sustainable agriculture.
The project implemented both a set of concrete activities and a collaborative process aimed at increasing the mutual understanding and knowledge-sharing between the organic farming community and the “conventional” agriculture community.
Three major activities were undertaken:
On-farm field days were held on 21 farms throughout the Northeast during the summers of 1989 and 1990. The series featured producers of organic and low-input field crops, vegetables, tree fruits, dairy, beef, sheep and poultry, as well as on-farm composting operations. Nearly 1,000 farmers, extension personnel and other attended the series.
Experienced farmers were identified and interviewed to provide documentation of the farming practices currently used by organic and low-input farmers in the Northeast. Specific production practices documented included crop orations, use of cover crops and green manures, composting, soil amendments, tillage and cultivation regimes, livestock health and nutrition, pest management strategies, and marketing practices. A draft publication, Organic and Low-Input Farming Systems in the Northeast, has been produced and reviewed. Arrangements for publication of the book are under negotiation.
In-service training for Cooperative Extension agents and other agriculture professionals was offered in three states.
The process of organizing these activities brought together organic farmers, Extension agents and Land Grant specialists in a variety of context, and helped to clarify differences as well as similarities of perspectives, values and methodological approaches to the problems faced by farmers.