This year is a very special year for NOFA as we celebrate the birth of NOFA in 1971 and also the oldest organic farming association in the country together with MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association). Individual state chapters would begin to appear in the late 1970s beginning with VT and NH. Back in 1971 there was a loosely organized group of passionate people connecting with one another primarily based on an intention to push back against the formidable powers and harmful influence of big Ag. Their respective work led them to begin enterprises that provided healthy food systems in a marketplace dominated by chemicals and saturated with low cost, low nutritional, food-like substances.
Unlike today, the primary communication channels were word of mouth and a steady stream of potluck invitations. The Natural Farmer was begun early-on by founder Samuel Kaymen as a mimeographed newsletter but by 1973 had had been transformed into a newspaper by the first formal editor Robert Houriet. This was used as the primary source of sharing the techniques and information on sustainable agricultural practices that would yield healthy foods and nourish the environment better than conventional agriculture.
During this year’s conference we will celebrate our 50th Anniversary with three special sessions that will include various founding members and folks from across five decades of NOFA’s work in education and advocacy. In the session, Thrilling Tales of Yesteryear, we will visit with founding members and hear their stories of what was happening around 1971 that led to the creation of an organization as a platform for their passion. As you might expect, there were numerous trials and tribulations — and wild times — and we’ll get a glimpse into that period, guided by long time NOFA Policy Director, Steve Gilman.
In 50 Years of NOFA History, NOFA New Jersey’s Al Johnson will present recent interviews and thoughts from many NOFA members woven into a video panorama of the last 50 years. Al has recently collected interviews across the Northeast with various members to mark this milestone with personal testimonies and insights into their experience with NOFA.
The final session of the conference will be The Next 50 Years of NOFA. This session will be guided by NOFA NY’s Elizabeth Henderson and will bring together a collection of founding NOFA members with a collection of much younger NOFA members to dream together about the next 50 years of NOFA’s work. This meeting of the generations will be a passing of the torch that honors the past and frames the next chapter of NOFA’s history to come.
We hope you will join us in these celebrations and take part in the 47th Annual Summer Conference. 50 years of NOFA and 47 years of the Summer Conference. Do you know who the first NOFA Conference keynote speaker was? Some of you may have been there. Hope to see you at this year’s conference!