BFA Chapter Spotlight: Westchester/NYC

Doug DeCandia and Ellen Best, co-leaders of the Westchester/NYC Chapter, sit down for an interview to discuss the growth and success of the Chapter.

Starting from the beginning, what attracted you to better quality food?

Doug DeCandia (DD) – Health is #1, and taste is right up there, too.

How did you first learn of the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA)?

DD – I attended an introductory lecture held by Dan Kittredge, at Hilltop Hanover Farm, about 7 years ago now.

Ellen Best (EB) – A mutual friend of Doug and mine told me about the BFA 2-session Workshop in Bedford Hills, NY.

How long have you been implementing the information shared during that workshop?

DD – 6 years or so.
EB – Over a year.

Please share the story of how the Westchester/NYC BFA Chapter started, as well as how it's developed and grown.

DD – A small group of us, after attending one of Dan’s Workshops, started meeting at the Westchester Land Trust (WLT) and other local farms for potlucks and meetings. We have been able to use the gardens at the Land Trust to demonstrate different practices. Folks reached out to friends and others they thought would be interested in attending the meetings, and our small group got bigger. We meet once a month, usually at the Land Trust, and share a potluck and discussion around natural food and farming.

EB – Word is spreading all over the place, via Doug’s contacts!

What are some steps you use for planning topics, agendas, events, and so on for Chapter meetings?

DD – Good question. Last year and until recently, although we had a general topic idea to cover, the meetings were more free form, including a potluck. Feedback was that people wanted more of an in-depth discussion, beyond just having a general one. Also, it is important for our group to be mindful of the hours of the WLT, when the meetings are held there, to best utilize the time at the WLT. So we structured it much more – devised an agenda, and stick to it.

Please share your thoughts on organizing a BFA Chapter event, as well as running it.

DD – Be organized and structured, but have platform(s) for communication that is sparked at meetings. It takes a while to catch on, but worth it. I’m talking YouTube videos, Facebook page and now a Google Group. Next up, a doc to share recipes, food preservation, etc.

What was the most enjoyable event that the Chapter organized?

DD – Every time we meet in the garden for meetings, it just feels right.

How do people learn of the upcoming events?

EB – Was emails, now a Google Group. Doug spreads the word wherever he goes.

How have chapter members benefited via participation with the chapter?

EB – We have started demos, both on YouTube and at meetings: how to make soil blocks, biochar, scheduling seed sharing at meetings, opportunity to share amendment orders, get a discount locally at a supply store for cover crop seeds, tools.

Please share your experiences tabling at local events, as well as what "things" that are done to reach the most people at such events.

DD – I haven’t tabled much, except with Mark and Kris this past winter at the NOFA-CT Conference. The table was set-up with pictures, recipes, rock dusts and seeds, and the collage of the Hartford CT BFA Chapter’s demonstration garden, were all very helpful.

What do you believe attracts people to your BFA Chapter/events, as well as to the BFA?

EB – I feel Doug attracts people through his work for the Food Bank and just the way he is! He’s so welcoming and committed to gardening in the big picture: for overall health and on a global, spiritual level, too.

What impacts do you see the Chapter making in your community?

DD – It’s definitely connecting and re-connecting people through this common denominator of this makes-sense approach to growing food and helping each other do it.

Do you have a story how the Chapter has made an impact?

EB – Personally, just covering my soil has – as I just recently discovered – improved my soil so much. Worms everywhere!

How has the BFA Soil & Nutrition Conference impacted the Westchester / NYC BFA Chapter.

DD – We further realized the connection to so many aspects of growing food – what we can explore as a Chapter.

With marketing and spreading the word of your BFA Chapter events, what have you found works best?.

EB – Reaching out personally is #1 – inviting friends and telling others. Having a potluck at each meeting is a good vehicle for attracting people, as well as garden demos. We don’t do much other marketing, but are considering making a card to put in local nurseries, etc. The article I wrote for Bedford Magazine helped to get the word out. Article is found here:

Are there plans for demonstration garden(s), utilizing information shared in the BFA 2-session Workshop, of acknowledging, supporting, and working with biological systems?

EB – Doug’s garden at Westchester Land Trust is our demo garden at Chapter meetings. We are planning on having samples of various amendments and materials on hand at meetings.

What is the motivating factors behind your enthusiasm and energy with maintaining and building the Chapter?

EB – Learning more for myself is primarily why I do it! It takes repetition! Also, connecting with like minded people, in our area, is rewarding.

What “connections” have been made with those in your community through the work of the Chapter?

DD – Links to the YouTubes have made it onto local environmental and gardening websites and spread the word.

Going forward, what and how do you envision the growth of the Westchester / NYC BFA Chapter?

EB – I would love to visit other gardens (either as a chapter meeting or just Doug and me) – both individual’s and community gardens – to see what BFA approaches are being used and to discuss how people can do more. We already have a relationship with a local garden supply store, but would like to put info at area businesses to alert them and their customers about the BFA approach, of working with biological systems or Nature's Basic Operating System (Nature's BOS).