City Market has long been a sponsor of the annual NOFA-VT Winter Conference, and this year was no exception. Each year, the NOFA-VT Winter Conference provides a valuable opportunity for farmers, homesteaders, gardeners, land managers, educators, students, producers, policy-makers, and other food-system advocates to share ideas, resources, and skills. NOFA-VT presented this year’s conference as “an invitation to pause, collectively dream the agricultural future we long for, and learn together about seeds to plant today to grow the fruits of tomorrow.”
City Market staff had the opportunity to attend the conference and appreciated the chance to reflect on how we relate to the land and to our food system, as individuals and as professionals within that realm. We asked attendees about some of their biggest takeaways from the conference and compiled them to share with all of you!
What was your favorite talk, and what made it stand out?
“I sat in on Experimenting with a Gift Economy: Looking Back at Three Years of Brush Brook Community Farm. People shared heartfelt stories about how their perceptions of themselves had changed through their relationship to the farm. It was refreshing to hear a discussion about success and failure that was not measured in conventional ways. I appreciated that there was no unilateral consensus and that there were obvious disagreements within the community. This gave me a little insight into what it might be like to have more farms, businesses and communities that embrace a culture that doesn’t have to have all the answers.” – Adrienne, Community Engagement Coordinator
“The conversations about land access and systemic inequities within land access I found to be interesting, helpful, and thoughtful. As a beginning grower, I really appreciate the honesty and generosity of farmers that share their personal paths to land access. One specific example of this was learning about the new cooperative land sharing agreement in the “White River Land Collaborative: One Case Study of an Alternative Land Access Model” session.” – Alyssa, Media Coordinator
“My favorite talk was the one from one of the owners of Lynbreck Croft on “wilder farming”—working with the land and the animals they raise to improve the natural landscape of the derelict croft they brought back to life. It was awesome to hear how the pigs help turn over the soil to clear it for planting windbreak/shade trees and how the chickens help revitalize the pasture by scattering the cow pats from the grazing herds. The presenter shared beautiful photos of the landscape and animals on the farm. I’ve already asked the library to get a copy of their book!” – Carrie, Assistant Outreach & Education Manager
“I had so many that I loved, but my favorite was probably on How to Write a Farm Cookbook – Ellen Ecker Ogden gave lots of valuable tips on how to bring our relationships with food to life on a page and how to share our favorite dishes in an engaging way. I really liked having the back-to-back workshops on Farming as Repair and Gardening on the Wild Side: Growing Perennial Fruits and Vegetables – it’s encouraging to listen to firsthand accounts on how soil health is imperative to restorative the health of the earth, and how important biodiversity is to our local ecosystems.” – Emmy, Retail Sales & Category Coordinator
What did you learn about our food system that you didn’t know before?
“It was exciting to see recipients of our Seedling Grants sharing what they’re working on in a wholly separate context. I got to hear from folks from Milk With Dignity, 350 VT, and the Abenaki Land Link Project, and see how those organizations are anchoring efforts to promote a more just food system. I gained a better understanding of how all of our work is interdependent and integrated. And it felt awesome to know we played a part in that work.” – Carly, Communications & Media Manager
“I appreciated the seed-storage techniques from the training From Seed to Harvest: Optimizing Your Seed Investment. I’ve definitely been doing it wrong but will change that now!” – Emmy, Retail Sales & Category Coordinator
Are you growing anything this spring? Did you learn anything at NOFA that you’ll be taking into the garden?
“I’m in the middle of planning out my garden space at home for the season, and I’m hoping to create an “herb spiral” in my front garden. I enjoyed hearing the Wild Kitchen Herbalism talk and getting ideas on which herbs I want to include in my spiral from the talk. I’m focusing on a mix of culinary herbs like basil, rosemary, and mint for the kitchen, and healing herbs like calendula, lemon balm, and yarrow for some salves and teas.” – Carrie, Assistant Outreach & Education Manager
“I learned about perennial fruits and vegetables during NOFA and am interested in checking out sea kale. One important takeaway from NOFA to bring to the garden is the importance of crop rotation – we will continue to switch up which raised beds our different crops are planted in every year.” – Emmy, Retail Sales & Category Coordinator
How will what you learned inform how you think about your work going forward?
“I plan to take NOFA sessions into my food system future by supporting creative, collaborative, farmland access models and by continuing to assure my own relationship with land is thoughtful, intentional, equitable and accessible.” – Alyssa, Media Coordinator
“The session reflecting on the VT Climate Action Plan was incredibly valuable for anyone tackling challenging, multidimensional projects with diverse stakeholders. Members of the agriculture and ecosystem subcommittee shared what it took to bring folks from agriculture and environmentalists to the same table and work thoroughly and with integrity on a shared challenge, despite having very different assumptions and priorities. I want to take that energy – of hard listening and consensus-building – into my professional life.” – Carly, Communications & Media Manager
“I think from now on I will be more skeptical of products labeled “USDA Organic.” Finding products and brands that support actual organic processes for our stores is going to be really important going forward.” – Emmy, Retail Sales & Category Coordinator
Thank you to the conference organizers at NOFA-VT for putting together a fantastic conference, and to the many speakers and panelists for sharing their stories and expertise. For more information about NOFA-VT, you can check out their website.