CT NOFA Holds Organic Standard High: Keep it Covered Campaign Emphasizes Role of Carbon in Agriculture and Climate Change
Mar 04, 2016 05:00PM
● By Nicole Miale
The Northeast Farming Association (NOFA) was founded in 1982 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healthy food, organic farming practices and a clean environment. The Connecticut chapter, known as CT NOFA, has taken an active leadership role in the community for decades through comprehensive educational and certification programs for farmers, gardeners and land care professionals along with conferences and workshops for the greater organic community. CT NOFA’s new Executive Director, Jeffrey Cordulack, is excited to have the opportunity to further the organization’s mission with a new “Keep it Covered” carbon farming campaign to be unveiled at CT NOFA’s 34th Annual Winter Conference in Danbury on March 12 and 13. He explains, “Our new ‘Keep it Covered’ campaign highlights the power for this one principle of organic farming—keeping the soil covered—to both combat climate change and improve the health of the soil.”
Keeping it covered explains how farmers can make relatively simple changes in the way they work their fields. By adding cover crops after the harvest, more moisture is retained, the biodiversity of the soil is improved, and the carbon content of the soil increases dramatically. Increasing the carbon content of soil is a key, but often overlooked, component of soil fertility. Carbon-rich soil feeds critical microbes and helps retain moisture, allowing everything to grow much better, and ultimately creating more nutrient-dense foods.
“Increasing soil carbon by 1 percent would allow a farmer to retain 16,000 more gallons of water per acre than typical farming practices make possible,” Cordulack explains. “The benefits of this for all farmers are obvious. We are very excited about reaching out to the 4,000 plus farms in Connecticut and helping them to adopt similar practices that will have a huge impact on their success as a farmer and health of the world.”
It may sound grandiose, but research shows he’s not overstating the importance of the soil carbon restoration process. All agricultural production begins with plant photosynthesis, using sunshine to combine carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air with water and minerals from the soil to produce plant material, above and below the ground. Common agricultural practices, which include frequent plowing, result in the loss of carbon from the soil, interruption of the natural biosystem and return of CO2 to the air. It is estimated that one third of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere driving climate change today stems from land management practices. Raising awareness about this connection and educating farmers about alternative, healthier farming practices is Cordulack’s passion.
“If all agricultural practices were switched to organic, we could reverse climate change within five years,” Cordulack says. “Organic agriculture is one of the best tools we have available to reverse the damage that’s been done and prevent further damage to the environment. Adopting organic approaches would have an immediate impact on reversing climate change and chemical exposure, as well as relieving food insecurity.”
Jack Kittredge, policy director at NOFA MASS, author of The Natural Farmer newspaper, farmer and soil carbon sequestration expert, will present a workshop on Soil Carbon Restoration at the CT NOFA Winter Conference on March 12. Kittredge has written an extensive white paper on the subject that is available for download on the CTNOFA website’s Carbon Farming page. Released in August 2015, the white paper has already been translated into multiple languages and is being studied all over the world. Cordulack believes this information is a game-changer, for farmers and for the world. “Organic agriculture and organic land care provide the solutions we’ve been looking for and I’m so excited to be a part of championing this message in Connecticut and beyond,” he says.
To connect with CT NOFA, visit CTNOFA.org, email [email protected] or call 203-308-2584. CT NOFA’s 34th Annual Winter Conference takes place at Western CT State University’s Midtown Campus at 181 White St, Danbury, on March 12 from 8:30am to 5pm and March 13 from 9am to 3:30pm. See ad, page 10.
What You Can Do to Support CT NOFA’s Mission
•Attend the March 12-13 Annual Winter Conference at WCSU Danbury.
• Become a CT NOFA member and commit to buying more organic food from member farms.
• Shop local-in-season. Visit CT NOFA.org for a list of organic farms, many of whom offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs and participate in farmers’ markets.
• Practice Keep It Covered in your own yard and garden.
• Expand your home garden or help a school establish a garden. CTNOFA programs and member businesses will help you choose organic.
• Plant an edible garden with children to foster and nurture a love of gardening and nature from a young age. Children should never be exposed to pesticides, so choose organic.
• Fight to eliminate chemical pesticide use on public lands and along roadways; there are plenty or organic alternatives to use instead. Visit TinyURL.com/DEEPUse.