Good summer all!

A letter from the Executive Director
It has been a couple of months since we last put out a BFA newsletter, and the time has flown by. I was able to take a week off this past month, for the first time in at least ten years, and have time to stand back and assess where we have come and where we are going. I share my thoughts on this below for those who are interested.

Every year, as the capacity of the organization grows and word of our work spreads, I feel more and more heartened as the vision continues to come to pass. Starting really from a few tentative workshops in 2009, the BFA seems to have this past year grown into a national organization. Regular trips and events on the west coast, across the midwest and down to DC and Virginia, along with the core northeast base, is stretching the organization into its next phase.

Our core work of courses, lectures, chapters, the mineral depot and conference all seem to be up and running with a life of their own. There was a time not long ago when these endeavors were more aspirational than manifest, but at this juncture they are the steady core of the organization. As in many cases, the steady core goes unreported or insufficiently appreciated because of the apparently exciting new thing. Anyone ever noticed how that works sometimes? Reports on these projects can be found through this newsletter, and perhaps a deeper review for those not as well versed in the organization will appear in a future missive. Now on to the previously referred to "vision" and "next phase".

Coming as I do out of a background as a homesteader and small farmer in the organic movement for the past 30 years, I have watched the food movement evolve dramatically. Initially, as in many cultural splinter groups there were some fairly well defined “thems” that I essentially wrote off and considered, probably more unconsciously than anything, adversaries if not enemies. I refer here to agribusiness companies, large name brand food companies, most university and USDA people and probably, to be honest, conventional farmers. I guess that some people reading this might know what I am referring to. I understand that we have some visceral tribal instincts that support our framing of reality in this manner, but suggest that this propensity to see ourselves as separate, and different is not always correct.

To say it differently, in the past year, and years, in my role as E.D. of the BFA I have developed relationships with people who work for the USDA, the ARS, NRCS, and Extension agents, as well as major industrial food companies, big conventional farmers, venture capitalists, and major agribusiness companies. Interestingly, I have found the same type of receptivity in those audiences to the message and strategy of the BFA that I find with all of the homesteaders and small farmers, slow foodies and locavores, permaculturalists, biodynamicians and nutritionists etc.

We are all humans. (I would argue sentient souls enrolled in the school of life, but then again, a topic for another missive.) We all have families and bodies, and the community and the environment in common. As the understanding of biological systems deepens, we recognize that the best interest of the health of our children and ourselves connects to food that inherently tastes good, and plants that are healthy taste good and build soil, and that is what the environment needs. We understand that what works for nature works for culture. We understand that our real vote in this democracy of beings is for the well being of all that is around us.

As many who are reading this newsletter are aware, it has been a strategic position of the BFA for years that the topic of food quality is a potential high ground in the food movement that the various wings and streams all agree is in their objective. Nutritious food is what the various sustainable ag groups advocate through their modalities, is core to mission of the USDA and is entirely in line with the marketing and intent of many major industrial food companies.

While the data showing disparities in crop quality from a nutritional perspective is evident to those who are willing to see it, the ability to tease out the causal factors is much more difficult, and many who have looked through the published literature have found nothing on the topic.

Bringing more clarity to this topic is central to the mission of the BFA and in the past few months the level of engagement and openness to collaboration around this area has been thoroughly validating. As noted earlier, the receptivity amongst disparate constituencies to this message and openness to collaborate is thrilling.

At the core of the agenda moving forward are a few objectives.

1) An open-source database platform that can be populated and utilized by farmers, researchers, consultants, food companies and investors that identifies best practices for high quality crop production and empirical metrics for determining relative crop quality. Correlations for carbon sequestration, microbiome, epigenetics, pest and disease resistance, yield and economic ramifications baked in.

2) A tool or set of tools that can be used by consumers to identify crop quality, by growers to understand how to improve conditions in season and by industry and research groups to guide priorities.

3) A manifesto or call to action that lays out the broader movement objectives, rationale and strategy that can serve as a framework for collaboration.

So goes the process. Expect a more detailed and public rolling out of this project through the fall with a detailed presentation of where we are at, and what we are doing with whom, at our Sixth Annual Soil & Nutrition conference on December 4-6 at Kripalu Center in the Berkshires. Those who have expressed interest in collaborating in this endeavor in the past, or who are newly exposed should feel free to reach out for a deeper explanation of where we are at, and to see where they might be able to assist.

Dan

Announcing the 6th Annual Soil & Nutrition Conference


December 4-6, 2016
Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, MA


Learn more and register today!

Registration is now open!

Building off the momentum and success of the previous conference, the BFA team has invited a diverse, knowledgeable and highly-skilled group of presenters. We have put together a program featuring eight distinct themes, from intermediate to advanced biological farming practices for soil-building and crop quality to implications, impacts and solutions of food quality on human health. This year's conference has been specially designed with a focus on offering a variety of hands-on skill building sessions for farmers, homesteaders, gardeners, nutritionists, researchers, healthcare professionals and the health conscious consumer.

We have over 30 speakers scheduled, including Mark Fulford, John Navazio, John Kempf, Jean-Martin Fortier, Will Brownback, Jean-Paul Courtens, Julie Rawson, Jack Kittredge, and Vail Dixon to name a few. And we are very excited to welcome our Keynote Speaker, Joel Salatin — farmer, author, and vocal proponent of ecological and locally-focused farming methods.

We invite you to join us for this one-of-a-kind gathering! Bringing together the collective knowledge of the food movement, leading agronomists and researchers in agriculture, food quality and human health, as well as many others.  This conference is a nexus of information and networking for anyone interested in delving deeper into the connections and importance of soil and nutrition.  Learn more at https://bionutrient.org/snc

Wherein our agronomist talks drought

This year, many BFA members have been dealing with rather intense drought conditions.  For instance, over 65% of the northeast U.S. is currently experiencing some level of drought conditions. These conditions can make it extra challenging to grow bionutrient rich crops, but there are some tips to keep in mind.

One critical, overlooked aspect of drought conditions is the effect low moisture levels can have on soil biological activity and mineral availability. This is a critical time for many plants, when demands for nutrients like potassium are at their highest… and right when high heat and low moisture makes potassium availability low. This makes organic potassium foliar sprays (like Foliate K) extremely valuable to finishing off a crop.

If you can’t supply enough potassium, plants will sacrifice their lower leaves to pull out the potassium they need, and this leads to the death of that tissue and the appearance of “diseases” like early blight. Furthermore, suppressed biological activity due to low moisture, and excessive temperatures (have you taken your soil temperature lately? under the black plastic?), can make nitrogen you thought you had, simply “dry up” later in the season, leaving you with a pronounced nitrogen deficiency… plan for it now, and you can mitigate that with organic nitrogen and re-inoculation of the soil.

Calcium availability is also an issue in low moisture conditions, so things like blossom end rot can appear. Many people may also be dealing with issues like poor fruit set, especially on cucurbits like squash and zucchini, or even tomatoes and peppers, which can be caused by temperatures which are too hot. Maintaining adequate hydration, and making sure you have a good mulch layer (and mulching on top of your black plastic) of hay, straw, wood chips, leaves, white plastic, etc, will help to alleviate these issues.

This is also a good time to take stock of your soil health and assessing what you can do, longer term, to support drought tolerance. Increasing soil organic matter (have you ordered your fall cover crop seeds?, have you interplanted at the base of your crops so you will never have bare soil? how about living mulch/cover crops down your pathways?), getting potassium levels up to 5% (or even 6% for heavy feeding crops), balancing zinc levels (increasing or decreasing relative to phosphorus), and planning for irrigation system improvements are some things to think about.

I wish you all a successful and bountiful harvest and please contact me for agronomy questions, and remember to get your mineral depot pre-orders in soon!

Agronomy questions

with David Forster, BFA soil & farm consultant
The next Agronomy Conference Call with David Forster, our in-house soil and farm consultant, will be held on Thursday, August 25, 2016. These calls are 1-hour calls that are open to members and non-members alike, so tell your friends. Please post your questions ahead of time in the forum to be sure we get to them, and to make our limited time more effective and efficient. Check the Agronomy Consulting page for dial-in numbers and additional details.
Agronomy Conference Call
Thurs, August 25, 8pm EST
Click for details

Farm Evolutions - a workshop
Plus: New farm tour & walk!

Even if you missed the beginning of the workshop, worry not - and jump right in next week, August 23, on the last day of our three-day course with MARK FULFORD. Designed as a follow-up to our foundational two-day course for growers looking to follow the season with in-field wisdom, practical review and communion, this is an opportunity to learn from one of the elders of the movement, and rightly regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and experienced practitioners in the Northeast.  Learn more

Plus!  Mark has just added an additional one-day workshop/farm tour at his own farm in Monroe, ME. For anyone interested in a personal walk-through from one of the most highly-respected growers in the Northeast, this is a fantastic opportunity to see the philosophies and principles discussed in the workshop applied on Mark's own Teltane Farm.  Learn more
Farm Evolutions workshop with Mark Fulford
NEXT WEEK!  August 23
North Brookfield, MA
Register today
Farm Tour w/ Mark Fulford
Teltane Farm, Monroe, ME
August 30, 2016
Register today

BFA Workshops beginning soon!

Interested in a workshop near you? Though we are deep in the heart of the growing season, it is already time to look ahead to the Fall — both in your plantings and cover cropping, and in deepening your growing knowledge with the upcoming BFA workshops on High Bionutrient Crop Production!

Participation-based with questions and answers, the workshop is designed for farmers, growers, and gardeners of any type to learn current research and proven methods, and go step-by-step through the processes that will lead to optimum crop health and sustained yield.  Learn more at http://bionutrient.org/workshops

The 2016-2017 course year begins in the Fall, and now is a great time to start coordinating a workshop in your area. We've got a couple workshops already scheduled in NH, MI and CA, but if you are interested in scheduling one in your area, please reach out to Gary Neves (gary@bionutrient.org), BFA Course Administrator.
 

Keene, NH  Nov 6 & 20
Ann Arbor, MI Nov 12 & 13
Pomona, CA Feb 25 & 26

Learn more

BFA mineral depots

The mineral depot is operating with nearly a full stock of minerals, organic fertilizers, "custom blends", liquids, and inoculants. We have the full line of Agri-Dynamics liquids, soluble inoculant nutrient products (like "Complete") from Terra Biotics, and compost blended with micro-trace elements (Co, Mo, & Se) for ease of application. We have dedicated a significant amount of time (and several thousand miles of driving) to get this going so our members can access our assortment of excellent products at low prices. We have negotiated rates as low as we can right now and some of our items are available to BFA members at substantial discounts to retail prices. When more members take advantage of our mineral depot we'll be able to buy in larger quantities and pass along even better bulk pricing, so please help us, and each other, by checking out the materials we have available and get your orders in now for Fall applications! And remember, the mineral depot is for members only.

We have organic potassium sulfate, gypsum, k-mag, soft rock phosphates, organic nitrogen blend, humates, trace elements and preblended trace elements, granular borate, carbonatite, desert dynamin, basalt, garden blend, and spring blend (which isn't just for spring!).

Check out our listing and get your orders in. We are shipping out as orders are received, but we need to start gearing up for fall now and we WILL run out of some items, so place your pre-orders soon.
Looking for a list of available amendments?  Click here.

The mineral depot is open to BFA members only, so join now if you haven't already!

And if you want some last-minute advice about minerals and what to order, consider joining David for the next Agronomy Conference Call on August 25, 8pm EST. Click here for more details.

If you have questions, you can email me (David) at agronomy@bionutrient.org, and please join us on the next Agronomy Conference Call!

Local chapter highlights

Our chapter network is growing and chapters continue to spread the word about growing (and eating) high quality, bionutrient-rich food. New chapters are forming all over the country (hello Central Virginia!), meeting regularly, coordinating mineral depots, bringing in outside speakers to share insights, organizing seasonally-themed discussions and outings, and generally sharing knowledge, camaraderie and good food! See more information below about upcoming events and meetings to engage with your local group. Don't see one local and want to help start one? Reach out to chapters@bionutrient.org.

If you haven't had a chance, check out the Westchester/NYC BFA Chapter's YouTube channel, featuring Chapter leader Doug DeCandia - good stuff!

Upcoming chapter meetings:
Southeast OH  August 24
Westminster, MA  September 11
Hartford, CT  September 22

September 16-18, the Southeast Ohio Chapter will be presenting at the Ohio Pawpaw Festival with an exhibition booth promising good information and good conversation. Learn more

September 22, BFA Agronomist David Forster will be speaking at the Hartford, CT Chapter meeting.

An update of memberships

Membership Restructuring

We have updated the BFA member structure so that we may offer each of our members the opportunity to add on quality testing tools at our special member rate.  Previously, these tools were only available to the Participant level, and this change was triggered in part as response to regular requests asking why only the Participant level could acquire these tools.  Similar to the old membership structure, we offer Vital ($50), Grower ($250) and  Business ($500) memberships, but now, when one signs up or renews their membership, all levels have the option to add a refractometer/brix kit or, new this year, an electro-conductivity meter!  Each tool at $100 is significantly discounted from the retail cost as a benefit to our members. We hope that offering these tools to all our members will enable each of you to better test your soil, crops and even foods you purchase at the store, and continue to spread the word about bionutrient-rich food!

A quick note to Participant Members

All Participant memberships continue to be active and valid through your next annual renewal. In re-structuring memberships, yours is not impacted.  We decided to dissolve the Participant level, previously the only level offering a Refractometer & Brix kit, so that we could to offer this benefit to all BFA members. In effect, we have replaced the Participant membership level ($150), which automatically came with a Brix kit, with the Vital Membership ($50) with the option to add a tool ($100).  

Membership Renewal

Thank you to all who have taken it upon themselves to renew their annual memberships!  But, of course, many understandably forget.  Starting this September, the BFA will now send a gentle email reminder when your annual membership is due for renewal.  This new system allows members to stay active within the organization and continue their support and involvement in development, education and spreading the message of food quality, and increasing quality throughout the food supply.  As a member driven organization, we rely on the vitality and support of our members. In a very real way, your annual membership enables us to continue our program offerings, classes, Chapter development and much more!

Visit https://bionutrient.org/membership to renew your membership or to learn more about each member level, level benefits and about the tools we offer.

If you would like to check your member status or are not sure if you are a BFA Member, you can now do so at https://bionutrient.org/membership-status. Just input your email, and check if your annual membership is still active!

New membership structure:
- Vital ($50)
- Grower($250)
- Business($500)
**Going forward, Participant level has been discontinued.

New benefit now available to all members:
Option at time of sign up or renewal to add on to your membership at significantly discounted costs:
- Refractometer/brix kit
- Electro-conductivity meter

Sign up / renew today
Not sure about your membership status?
Click here

We envision a system that...

  • teaches you how to grow, or shop for, a better-tasting tomato,
  • tracks the shift of a particular plant nutrient concentration as a function of growing practices,
  • compares soil carbon levels over five years as different types of nitrogen fertilizers are used.

The BFA envisions the development of a system to allow everyone to collect, share, and analyze data about food quality and the qualities of the environment in which food is produced. We anticipate that this type of data platform could satisfy a diversity of functions; from personal recordkeeping for growers, to product marketing, to consumer education, to virtual environments for research. A farm quality informatics system can be a game-changer for all involved.

While developing this concept, we have found that the idea resonates with collaborators across the country. Clearly, there are many ways to grow food, but not all yield productive and nutritive harvests while providing resilience to changing growing conditions and biotic pressures. Finding such a solutions is a winning situation for the grower, the consumer, and YOU.

We are deep within the planning phase of the project, developing and positioning the concept to be able to garner additional, long-term financial support from food system funders and recruit our working team. Progress on this effort will be posted in upcoming newsletters – stay tuned!

In appreciation of Gaia Fund!

Our deepest thanks goes out to Gaia Fund, who once again is supporting the BFA's mission for 2016-2017. Your financial assistance helps to make our outreach and research efforts possible!

Learn about our program impact through the BFA "one-pager", available here. Distribution of this document is the perfect way to acquaint your community with the greater mission of BFA, and to forge new partnerships between BFA and other organizations with complementary objectives.  Personally support 2016-2017 programs and consider donating through the BFA website here: https://bionutrient.org/donate

We greatly appreciate your support!

 



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