Guest post by Erin Buckwalter, Development & Engagement Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT)
Each year, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s (NOFA-VT) Winter Conference provides a joyful, rejuvenating opportunity for farmers, homesteaders, gardeners, land managers, activists, educators, producers, and other food-system changemakers to participate in building vibrant community through ideas, resources, skills and connection.
Due to the pandemic this year will be different, but we promise it will still inspire and educate, as we nurture, grow, and celebrate the food system we all need for our shared future. Starting in early February, in lieu of our in-person conference, we will offer an incredible month-long series of events with many different opportunities for community building and connection through workshops, roundtables, speakers, film and community art. Workshops and speakers will take place over the course of the month from Sunday, February 7th through Thursday, March 4th.
2021 also marks a celebration of 50 years of NOFA-VT! Our conference’s theme this year is, “50 Years of NOFA-VT: Honor, Energize, Imagine.” We will HONOR our elders & our roots. We will ENERGIZE our community for a movement grounded in equity and ecology. And together, we will IMAGINE a thriving future for our land and people.
It was in 1971 that this scrappy and determined little organization was created by a group of farmers who wanted to do things differently. We still seek to do things differently, and a part of that means that we are still learning and growing into the fullness of our mission, calling us to an agricultural system that is just, ecological, and thriving—for all people and the land. We think the conference we have designed will invite all of you into that exploration and learning with us.
We are thrilled to listen to Sherri Mitchell as our keynote speaker, who will start the conversation on February 7th at 3pm. Mitchell, Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset, is a Native American attorney, teacher, activist and changemaker who grew up on the Penobscot Indian Reservation. She works at the intersection of Indigenous rights, climate change and conscious evolution. She is the author of Sacred Instructions; Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change.
Sherri Mitchell is the convener of the global healing ceremony Healing the Wounds of Turtle Island and also the founding director of the Land Peace Foundation, an organization dedicated to the protection of Indigenous land, water and religious rights, and the preservation of the Indigenous way of life. She has been a longtime advisor to the American Indian Institute’s Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth and was a program coordinator for their Healing the Future Program. She has also served as an advisor to the Indigenous Elders and Medicine People’s Council of North and South America for the past 20 years, and is a consultant and Advisory Committee member for Nia Tero’s International Indigenous Land Guardianship Program. She currently speaks and teaches around the world. Mitchell’s wisdom is needed now more than ever.
The conference will also feature two lively and very timely panel discussions: ‘Elders & Long Time Leaders of the Organic Movement’ and ‘Future Scouting: Innovative and Emerging Leaders for our Vermont Agricultural Future.’
The “Elders” panel discussion was created to celebrate (just a few of the many!) farmer leaders who helped build the organic food and farming movement through their daily hard work and dedication. (We also want to acknowledge that there are far more people out there who helped found this movement than can sit on one panel!) Join us on February 14th at 3pm for this panel to celebrate the collective knowledge and wisdom of our elders, hear about their challenges and triumphs, and imagine ways we can apply these past lessons towards a continued thriving future.
The “Future Scouting” panel is a space to hear from folks helping to innovate and energize a food movement for our future, rooted in people, land, and justice. This panel will raise up the voices of some emerging powerful leaders helping to build Vermont’s agricultural future. This panel will include farmers, sugar makers, community organizers, movement builders and visionary leaders across many aspects of food and farming. Join us on February 21st at 3pm for this important conversation.
Workshops & Roundtables:
Twenty workshops and roundtables will take place over the course of the month. Registration is open, with sliding scale options available. We hope you’ll join us! For more details and registration, visit nofavt.org/conference.