Having personally launched a farming venture, I am struck by the many parallels between farming and managing a nonprofit organization such as the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ): the cyclic and seasonal nature of the work, the need for planning but also risk-taking, and the process of not just providing a product, but of building community. The analogous verbs are many: cultivate, nurture, tend, grow. Perhaps the one word that truly defines NOFA-NJ throughout its 30-year history of challenges and opportunities, as well as a key trait in a successful organic farmer, is resiliency.

There have been some major changes at NOFA-NJ this year. With the loss of U.S. Department of Agriculture funding at the end of 2014, concerns about our financial stability arose. While our USDA grant was an important funding source for NOFA-NJ, we have broad financial support that is not dependent upon any one source. This past year the organization has experienced an unprecedented outpouring of support from the board of directors, individual and institutional donors, and volunteers. The evidence is everywhere that our mission has never been more important than now, and your support has empowered us to expand our community, bringing more people the knowledge and resources they need to live healthy, sustainable, purpose-filled lives.

Plans for the 2016 educational programming season are underway. Although we will continue to provide beginning farmer education opportunities and scholarships, since we are no longer limited to the constraints of the USDA funding, we plan to broaden our programming and strengthen partnerships in a variety of areas.

In 2016 Duke Farms will be transforming NOFA-NJ’s first pilot incubator site into an Urban Agricultural Regional Training Center (http://dukefarms.org/rtc), a new partnership between Duke Farms, Growing Power Inc., and CityFood. We are very proud to know that our incubator farmers Kyle Goedde of Harvest Moon Organic Farm and Jon Knox of Dogwood Farms will continue their successful farming operations at this site, which received organic certification for Harvest Moon Organic Farm this year.

We currently have six working committees of the Board in place, all helping to do the work of the organization, including Finance, Education, Resource Development, Winter Conference, Policy and Governance. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our website, www.nofanj.org. We also have staff positions available. Please consult our website for more details.

With 2016 upon us, it is timely to reflect upon the lessons of our past and our aspirations for the future. Without a doubt, our success will depend in large part upon our resiliency. Together, as a community, we must cultivate, nurture, tend, and grow. It is truly an honor to once again be part of the burgeoning sustainable agriculture movement in the region, and this great team of individuals who are committed to building on NOFA-NJ’s many recent successes. I look forward to meeting you at the upcoming Winter Conference or on a farm tour this coming season, and I am sincerely grateful for all your encouragement, advice, and support.

Pat Huizing is acting executive director of NOFA-NJ.

About the NOFA-NJ’s Food and Farming Winter Conference:

More than 50 workshops on food, farming, and gardening will be offered at the NOFA-NJ winter conference at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft on Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and 31, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The conference will include five tracks: Beginning Farmer, Advanced Farmer, Gardening, Food & Nutrition, and Homesteading & Livestock. Anyone interested in learning about local organic and sustainable food, nutrition and related policy are invited to attend.

Keynote speakers are Dr. Kathleen Delate on Saturday and Pamela Boyce Simms on Sunday. Delate, who was the first faculty hired by a land-grant university to work 100 percent of her time on organic agriculture in the U.S., will speak on “The Mainstreaming of Organic Agriculture.” Boyce Simms will speak on “Relocalized Food Production in a Regional Resilience Framework.”

Farmers and homesteaders of all levels can choose from a broad selection of workshops on soil fertility, growing nutrient dense fruits and vegetables, no-till agriculture and the husbandry of livestock. Home and community gardeners will find classes on growing fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and garlic. There will be a special visit from WHYY’s Mike McGrath, host of “You Bet Your Garden,” who will give talks on composting and pest control.

Visit www.nofanj.org for the complete schedule of workshops and registration information.

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