You know that agriculture has entered a new era when a farmers’ conference features presentations by an investigative journalist, a winner of the MacArthur genius award, and a lawyer/activist whose aim is to add a “green” amendment to the federal constitution.
Those speakers are just part of the line-up at the 29th annual winter conference of NOFA-NJ (the New Jersey chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association), on Saturday and Sunday, January 26 and 27, at the Rutgers University Douglass Student Center, 100 George Street, New Brunswick.
The winter conference will offer more than 50 workshops in five tracks: crops, gardening, livestock, business, and policy. According to the organizers, “the conference theme, ‘Collaborate, Regenerate, Celebrate!,’ emphasizes the opportunities for positive change through building community and sharing information on regenerative agriculture.”
One-day tickets are $120; two-day passes are $220. NOFA members pay $100 or $180 for two days. Optional lunches, catered by Jammin’ Crepes, Contemplate Kitchen, and the Ryland Inn, cost $16 per day. Beginning farmers with a current student ID are eligible for a 20 percent discount. To register or obtain more information, visit nofanj.org or call 908-371-1111.
The luncheon keynote speaker on Saturday is Carey Gillam, investigative reporter and author of “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.” Gillam, the winner of the 2018 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, has more than 25 years of experience covering food and agricultural issues. She has developed an expertise on the impact of glyphosate on the environment and human health.
According to the conference press materials, Gillam is “a former senior correspondent for Reuters’ international news service, and current research director for the consumer group U.S. Right to Know,” who “specializes in finding the story behind the spin and uncovering both the risks and rewards of the evolving new age of agriculture. Her areas of expertise include biotech crop technology, agrichemicals and pesticide product development, and the environmental impacts of American food production. Gillam has been recognized as one of the top journalists in the country covering these issues.”
The Sunday morning keynotes are a husband and wife team: David Montgomery, a MacArthur fellow, and Anne Bikle. The couple have written a trilogy of environmental books, “Dirt,” “The Hidden Half of Nature,” and the most recent, “Growing a Revolution.” The latest book discusses ways to transform farming practices so that agriculture can help cure the land naturally. Montgomery reports on farmers from around the world who are creating a soil health revolution. He shows how and why regenerative agricultural practices can benefit both farmers and the land. For more information about Montgomery and Bikle’s views on soil health and how it relates to restoring the environment and serves as a natural system of checks and balances, visit the website, www.dig2grow.com.
Maya van Rossum, an environmentalist, lawyer, and activist, has been the Delaware River Keeper since 1994. The author of “The Green Amendment: Securing Our Right to a Healthy Environment,” she will speak Saturday at 3:15 p.m. In her role as river keeper, the conference press materials say, “van Rossum has taken on corporations, governmental entities, and even the U.S. Army to prevent further harm to the river.”
Van Rossum teaches individuals “how to empower themselves to stand up for their environmental rights. The Green Amendment movement is inspiring people and communities across the nation to secure their constitutional right to a healthy environment by creating Green Amendments for every state constitution and, ultimately, at the federal level,” the statement continues.
Van Rossum grew up in an environmentally conscious home. Her father, a scientist, and her mother, a mathematician, were both college professors who bicycled rather than drove whenever possible, reused and recycled what they could, and turned the neighborhood leaves into mulch. As a child she played in Ithan Creek, a tributary to the Darby, which in turn is a tributary to the Delaware River. After law school she returned to the Delaware River watershed, and lives there now with her husband and children. Since 2002 van Rossum has served as an adjunct professor and director of the Environmental Law Clinic, which she founded, at Temple’s Beasley School of Law.
The conference organizers says the van Rossum “has inspired countless people — in three states — to become environmental activists for the Delaware.” In 2005 she inspired some Philadelphia-area musicians, the Donuts, to write a song, “Maya van Rossum’s Blues,” about an oil spill that poured 165,000 gallons of heavy crude into the river.
As reported in U.S. 1 on June 20, 2018, Van Rossum’s proposed environmental amendment is a constitutional provision that would recognize an inalienable right to clean air and clean water. It would protect these rights in the same way it protects other fundamental rights like free speech and the freedom of religion.
Among the other panelists:
Ken Roseboro is one of the nation’s leading experts on issues relating to genetically modified foods. Acres USA magazine has called him “the nation’s reporter on all issues surrounding genetically modified foods.” He has written extensively about the non-GMO trend since 1999.
Roseboro is the author of “Genetically Altered Foods and Your Health” and “The Organic Food Handbook [Basic Health Publications]. He has spoken about the non-GMO trend at many gatherings and conferences around the U.S., including the Acres USA conference, the Organic Farming Conference, and All Things Organic, among others. Roseboro, a founding member of the board of directors of the Iowa Organic Association, edits and publishes a magazine, “The Organic and Non-GMO Report,” and corresponding website, www.non-GMOreport.com.
Bryan O’Hara has been growing tasty, nutrient-dense vegetables at his Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut for more than a quarter century. O’ Hara, recently chronicled in The New York Times for his innovative growing techniques on open land and in a series of hoop houses on his farm, speaks throughout the Northeast about how to grow vegetables organically. O’ Hara has been credited at his talks for “providing mountains of details in a concise, practical, and cohesive manner.”
Tobacco Road Farm produces high quality vegetables using no pesticides and working with nature as much as possible. With a determined focus on building soil health naturally, he employs no-till natural farming methods. O’Hara also introduces indigenous microorganisms (IMO’s) from the surrounding forest into his compost systems and foliar sprays to feed, protect and invigorate his vegetable fields. O’ Hara will speak about carbon sequestration techniques and take a range of questions from the audience about the many ways to grow healthy, nutrient-dense vegetables.