This is the ‘script’ for a special presentation at last summer’s NOFA Conference, co-presented by Grace Gershuny and Liz Henderson, to commemorate NOFA’s 40th anniversary.
Past Accomplishments: We’ve come a long way! Look at how much we have done to develop and spread the organic vision – locally as well as globally:
Local Foods for Local Markets – Farmers Markets, Producer Coops, CSAs, Farm to School, 40 years of Locavoring, Local Food sovereignty and domestic fair trade (we just thought we were supporting local farms, buying from local businesses, supporting food coops, and generally practicing self-reliance, good neighborly behavior, fair pricing and respectful treatment of one another – farmer-gardener-farmworkers and customers – little did we know!) Over these 40 years, we have made it easy for citizens to buy from local farms by multiplying the numbers of farmers markets, CSAs, producer coops, and most recently, finding ways to insert our food into school lunches and summer feeding programs.
Grassroots Democracy – Strong state organizations connected through a confederated interstate structure – starting in 1971 as a loose bi-state organization we blossomed into 7 democratically managed chapters – and get better every year.
Empowering Women Leaders – At least half of our leadership are women, and we have cultivated strong women as leaders from the beginning. Education – Where it was once hard to find information on organic practices, we provide more and more opportunities for Education – Summer & Winter conferences, TNF, farm handbook series, on-farm workshops, apprenticeships, technical hot lines, mentoring assistance. Easy access to information on organic farming practices, soil management and composting, pest and disease control, livestock husbandry, food processing, seed production, and much more. We have shared what we learned freely and spread the knowledge widely.
Organic Standards & Certification – NOFA developed its first organic standards and certification program in 1977, serving as a model for other programs throughout the country. We were founding members of the Organic Trade Association and helped develop its Guidelines for the Organic Industry, on which the National Organic Program regulations were based. NOFA chapters operate three USDA accredited certifying agencies that certify hundreds of organic farms and processors. MA & CT collaborate on an organic land care certification program, and VT now has the highest per capita number of organically farmed acres of any state!
Advocacy – For many years, NOFA involvement in public policy relied totally on volunteers. We were active during the winter and strangely quiet spring-fall. With the addition of a staff person to head up IC policy, we have become perennials and we are strengthening our participatory democracy i n the policy arena on the state, national and even international levels to organic farmers, homesteaders, and eaters. NOFA took a lead in lobbying to help pass the OFPA; NOFA representatives attend NOSB hearings, and make comments on issues that our members care most about –for example, we put a lot of energy into backing the dairy farmers on the pasture policy.
Networking – Locally, regionally, internationally – Connecting like-minded people, sharing ideas, creating community. Conferences & other events have built social relationships & solidarity throughout the region. Participation in national & international networks strengthens alliances in support of our vision. Networks we (NOFA Interstate Council) belong to include: National Organic Coalition, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, The Agricultural Justice Project, Domestic Fair Trade Association, IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).
Future: There’s lots more to do!
Expand Organic as “foundation” approach to agriculture and landcare: maintain and continuously improve organic quality and integrity: increase domestic organic production & US farm share of organic products in the domestic marketplace while supporting organic expansion in other countries too. Protect the environment – Organic farming to mitigate climate change, save farmland and soil, conserve biodiversity and help the world feed itself Challenge agribusiness domination – stop the spread of GMOs, reduce contamination. Let’s win battles to place liability on manufacturers and label all food. Counter the lies that ‘organic can’t feed the world,’
Change the Research System – Farmer-scientist research collaboration to develop practical information that is site-specific, ecology based through a whole systems approach.
Support family farmers and their workers – expand market diversity, infrastructure, agriculture as respected career path with living wages, benefits.
Grow new farmers – Access to land, financing & training for new farmers, urban agriculture – Get more people on the land.
Food Security/Sovereignty for All – Access to healthy, local, organic fairly traded food for people of all income levels and ethnic groups – establish food as a right. Make our movement more welcoming to people of all cultures, ethnicities, income levels.
Don’t Give Up the Fight – Continue to push the envelope and stand up for organic principles, not just market share. Diversity is key – change the system organically!
Imagine a future where organic is the way things are done, and farmers who want to use GMOs and toxic chemicals have to get certified!
More History on the history of NOFA read, A Partial History of Early NOFA and Our Alliances From 2018 Summer Issue of The Natural Farmer.