At the MOFFA Winter Meeting – soil health tops the agenda

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Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune

Face it. Most humans treat soil like. . .well dirt. At USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), there is a new urgency for people to know more about our soil, as good soil is disappearing due to erosion, compaction and loss of organic matter. NRCS has created a new Soil Health Division to focus on education. Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association (MOFFA) attendees were fortunate to have the Division’s new Chief, Dr. Bianca Moebius Clune, to be the featured speaker at their Winter Meeting.

Of course, organic farmers must know and appreciate the value of healthy soil. But withoutScreen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.04.55 PM being able to use herbicides, most organic farmers have to till their soil. Dr. Clune says that intensive tillage is “like a little earthquake” for the soil. It breaks up soil structure, damages the biota, and can compact soil and reduce absorption. It can even affect pest management. For organic farmers, some tillage is inevitable to reduce weed pressure, but they can take actions to reduce the impact and they can monitor the conditions of the soil.

Dr. Clune provided information on how to take shovel tests to check for  compaction and how to evaluate the roots for soil health and where to send your soil for testing to get a more complete analysis of soil condition, such as the Cornell Soil Health Assessment.

She urged farmers to get in touch with local NRCS offices for assistance and to  be aware of the EQIP Organic Initiative that “provides financial assistance to implement a broad set of conservation practices to assist organic producers in addressing resource concerns including, but not limited to assistance with:

  • Developing a conservation plan
  • Establishing buffer zones
  • Planning and installing pollinator habitat
  • Improving soil quality and organic matter while minimizing erosion
  • Developing a grazing plan and supportive livestock practices
  • Improving irrigation efficiency
  • Enhancing cropping rotations and nutrient management”

To learn more contact Lindsay Haines, Lindsay.haines@wdc.usda.org, an EQIP program specialist.

Re-posted from the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission blog by Greg Bowen

MOFFA Winter Meeting Schedule Available

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WINTER MEETING 2015
Emcee: Erroll Mattox
When: February 21 (snow date Feb. 28) 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Where: Maryland Dept. of Agriculture 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis
Only $5 for members; $20 for non-members
Hope to see you there!

Please note: Presentations and times are subject to change.

8:00-8:30    Registration, Coffee
8:30-8:45    Welcome & Announcements
Holly Heintz Budd, MOFFA Chair
8:45-9:00    Introduction to the United Nations International Year of Soils                              Tanya Tolchin, MOFFA Vice-Chair
9:00-            Keynote Speaker on Soil Health:
10:00           “Turning your Dreams of Healthy Soil into Reality”
                      Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Ph.D.
Director, Soil Health Division, USDA-NRCS, Washington, DC
10:00-         Coffee Break
10:30           Silent Auction, Seed Swap, Display Tables, Book Sales Table                                      (Donated by Storey Publishing, 100% of proceeds for MOFFA)
                      Break into separate rooms

10:30-11:00
A) Connecting with Chefs & Distributors
Chris Miller, MOM’s Organic Market
Jonas Singer, Union Kitchen
Terrance Murphy, We’ll Juice Mobile Bar and La Fromagerie
B) Can Reduced Tillage and Cover Crop Residues be used to Manage Weeds in Organically Grown Vegetables?
Cerruti RR Hooks, Ph.D. & Guihua Chen, Ph.D., University of Maryland

11:15-noon
A) Pollinators in Peril
Kirsten Traynor, Ph.D.
University of Maryland and Bee World magazine
B) The Ethnic Crops Program at UDC
Yao M. Afantchao, Extension Agent, Ethnic and Specialty Crops Program, Cooperative Extension Service, CAUSES, University of the District of Columbia (UDC)

12:00-      Homegrown ‘Eat Local’ Potluck Lunch, Silent Auction, Seed Swap,
1:20          Networking
1:20-         Board Elections & Announcements
1:30

1:30-2:15
A) Outreach to Low & Moderate Income Shoppers at Farm Markets
Michael Tabor, Licking Creek Bend Farm, will screen his video and share questions & skepticism about current approaches to increasing access to fresh foods.
B) Integrating Horsepower & Livestock into the Diversified Farm
Tom Paduano & Sarah Rider, Owners and Farmers, Flying Plow Farm

2:15-     Silent auction winners announced, Seed Swap, Display Tables
2:30      Grab some coffee, Break into separate rooms

2:30-3:15
A) Farm to Faith: Growing Connections
Rev. Rebecca Iannicelli, United Methodist Church
Rev. Darriel Harris, Baltimore Food and Faith Project
Mike Klein, Good Fortune Farm
B) Organic Certification FAQ
Deanna Baldwin, Maryland Department of Agriculture. Certified Organic or considering certification? Deanna Baldwin will update you and answer questions about NOP interpretations and compliance with all of the rules.

3:15-4:00
A) Bio-Fuels
Jay Martin, Provident Organic Farm
B) Good Agricultural Practices
Shirley Micallef, Ph.D. & Sarah Allard, University of Maryland, will give updates on GAP research and practices for organic farming.

4:00-4:45
A) The Monsanto Experiment: What GMOs & Pesticides Are Doing to Human Health & the Environment
Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq. Political Director, Organic Consumers Association
B) MOFFA Discussion Session
Holly Heintz Budd, Chair, MOFFA & Tanya Tolchin, Vice-Chair, MOFFA Are you new to MOFFA? Have you been a member for a long time? Join this session for a chance to meet others and share your interests, what you’re working on, and why you’re part of MOFFA.

4:45- 5:00 Wrap-up