A letter from the Executive Director

Greetings to all on the cusp of spring. Although we are getting more snow in the northeast now than we have all winter, the vernal equinox is just around the corner, and preparations for the growing season are well under way...

We are at the conclusion of another successful winter education season, with only two workshops, in Colorado and New York, remaining. A special four-day course taught in partnership with the Savory Institute, "How to Produce Nutrient Dense Food", will occur in California next month as well.

Looking ahead, put the 8th Annual Soil & Nutrition conference in your calendar before the season hits - December 1-2, 2018, with pre-conference intensives held on November 30. Watch for registration details to come soon.

Progress on the Real Food Campaign continues apace. Our lab to test crops and soil, and calibrate the hand held spectrometer will be up and running this month. Many allies have come to the table with a desire to assist in our intention to populate the farmOS platform and send crops to our lab for sampling. Watch this newsletter and our social media pages for updates, and how you may be able to engage with your own crops. A public campaign launch for explaining our endeavors to a broader audience is set for April 15th.

To a wonderful growing season for all,

Upcoming workshops

Our workshop season is winding down as the growing season is getting under way, with just two courses remaining!  But if we're in your area, join us as we explore how a renewed focus on the food qualities that industrial agriculture forgot – flavor & nutrition – can transform our food system.
Longmont, CO   March 17 & 18
Bedford, NY   April 7 & 8
Learn more at http://bionutrient.org/workshops
Our core workshop series with Dan Kittredge, "Principles of Biological Systems", is for gardeners and farmers alike, whether you have a 100 square foot plot, or 100 acres.  This two-day workshop builds upon your knowledge and experience to find ways to increase the health of your soil and crops for greater yields, healthier produce and better marketability.

GOAT: Gathering for Open Ag Technology

Are you passionate about farming or open tech? Do you work to solve real world farming issues with open technologies?

If so, then the GOAT wants you!  Sponsored by the Bionutrient Food Association at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY from May 7-9, the 2018 Gathering for Open Ag Technology will bring together the nascent open ag tech community to meet, learn, share, and establish a common vision for creating open technologies for our food system. 

Backbone of the Real Food Campaign, and vital to our mission of increasing quality in the food supply, is the creation open-source hardware and software to increase transparency in the food chain, allow for data sharing among groups, engage the public, and make the benefits of shared data available to all. This conference aims to generate further collaboration and cross-pollination between the growing number of ideas and projects so that we may harness and amplify the collective wisdom of our allied efforts.

Learn more about the conference at http://goatech.org/conference/, or
click here to apply to the Gathering for Open Ag Technology

Soils for Life: Walter Jehne on the Soil Climate Connection

Co-hosted by NOFA/Mass & The Bionutrient Food Association

May 12, 2018 | Amherst, MA

In this day-long intensive workshop, internationally-recognized Australian soil microbiologist and climate scientist Walter Jehne will give a deep look at the evolving science of what he terms ‘the soil carbon sponge,’ or the living soil ecosystem that holds water, carbon, and nutrients. This living layer enriches and supports live aboveground, efficiently exchanging mineral resources with plants, mitigating precipitation, sequestering carbon, and performing numerous vital functions. By reversing our history of practices that deplete and deteriorate the soil carbon sponge, we can grow more nutrient-dense food, rebuild agricultural communities, reduce chemical inputs, improve water quality, reduce flooding, mitigate climate change and restore degraded landscapes. Designed for farmers, land managers, and students of natural resource conservation, environmental science, and sustainable farming & food systems, this program will provide guidance and inspiration toward a methodology for land stewardship that promotes the conservation and regeneration of the soil carbon sponge.

Walter Jehne is an internationally-recognized Australian climate scientist and soil microbiologist and founder of Healthy Soils Australia. Jehne was one of the early researchers on glomalin, mycorrhizal fungi, and root ecology, and has been a leader in the grassroots movement to educate farmers, policymakers, and industry alike on the crucial role of soil ecosystems in global climate change. He has since been working at the national (CSIRO - Australia’s scientific research organization) and international level (UN) to create global change in food systems and climate response.

Workshop to be held on May 12, 10:30am- 4:30pm in Amherst, MA. Stay tuned for more information, and watch the NOFA/Mass events page for registration details as they become available.

Seasonal agronomy tips

We frequently get requests for recommendations that start with "I know I should test my soil, but I haven’t gotten it done - what do you recommend as a general soil health program?"

While we certainly think everyone should test their soil before applying minerals, we also understand that sometimes, for various reasons, it is not possible.

Learn more about the
BFA mineral depot program
So, for those who want a generic recommendation, we usually recommend 1,000lbs per acre of “Spring Blend” or 2,000lbs per acre of “Garden Blend”. These are custom blends we have in the mineral depot that were designed exactly for this purpose. There is one caveat though, and that is if you have soil that is already high in calcium (and not also high in magnesium), or if you have very low (like under 5) total exchange capacity, the high levels of calcium in the spring blend and garden blend can actually hurt you a bit - not too much, but it will certainly be an inefficient use of your amendment budget.

Other generic recommendations include maximizing mineral diversity to encourage microbial diversity. This means adding things like rock dust (250-10,000 lbs per acre), azomite (25-250 lbs per acre), desert dynamin (25-250 lbs per acre), biochar (50-500 lbs per acre), humates (25-250 lbs per acre), kelp (25-250 lbs per acre), and sea salt (up to 50lbs per acre).

I always recommend inoculating the soil, again using as many species of beneficial soil microbes as possible.

Inoculants available through the BFA mineral depot:
  • TerraBiotics "Complete" – If you can only do 2 things, do this! Especially in spring. You can use it a couple times during the growing season as well, sprayed right on the plants and soil (at dusk)
  • Agri-dynamics “Rhizoshield”
  • Tainio “Biogenesis” or “Spectrum”

For seed and transplant inoculation:

  • Tainio “Mycogenesis” – If you can only do 1 thing, do this!

Liquids available through the BFA mineral depot:
I recommend a program of weekly foliar spraying (very early morning is best, or late evening) and soil “drench” (adding these to the irrigation water). Use 50% each week foliar, and 50% for the soil drench.

Use as both foliar and soil drench is best – split between the two:

  • Agri-dynamics “PlantSure” – 2-4 quarts per acre, per week (start at two and ramp up to four as the season progresses)
  • Agri-dynamics “Foliate K” on potassium-loving plants (tomatoes, potatoes, squash - anything with a "fruit", but not leafy greens), weekly once they start setting fruit. – 1-2 quarts per acre, per week (start with one and ramp up to two as the season progresses)

I like to use a small amount of PlantSure in my seed starting (once sprouted, very dilute in the water I water with), and I like to use it when transplanting (at 4 oz/gallon).

Happy growing, and hope to hear from you on the Agronomy Call!

Agronomy conference call

with David Forster, BFA soil & farm consultant

Tuesday, March 20 at 7:00pm EST – don't miss this free hour-long call – your chance to get your questions answered, and the answers to questions you didn't even know you had. Tell your friends... everyone's invited!  (BFA membership is not required).

If you have specific topics you'd like to hear about, please post ahead of time in the forum to be sure we get to your questions, and to make our limited time more effective and efficient.
Agronomy Conference Call
Tues, March 20, 7pm EST

Call-in details

Sign up here for our agronomy newsletter, and we'll keep you posted about scheduled consulting calls

The BFA Mineral Depot is now taking orders!

Orders are due by April 1, but all are filled first-come, first-served.

The mineral depot is a resource offered as a benefit for BFA members only, and delivery is to Grower members, or any paid member of a local chapter. So join today, and network with locals to form a chapter and get the minerals you need!

We now have greensand!

After the New Jersey greensand quarry was closed a couple years ago to make way for a dinosaur-themed park, there was a collective panic amongst organic and regenerative growers who suddenly found one of their favorite mineral resources no longer available. The BFA bought as much as we could at that time, but ran out a year ago. So we have been searching for a replacement since.

We have just found a source, coming from Brazil, that we are very pleased with. The supplier is a small company that shares our vision for environmentally responsible biological farming, and they have a large resource of very high quality greensand. It will be somewhat different than the material from New Jersey, but in many ways is actually better. For instance, it is higher in potassium, at 10% potash.

The company is very supportive of the work we're doing at the Bionutrient Food Association (they are taking the lead on starting up a BFA chapter in Brazil with an organic farm there!) and has offered our members a substantial discount to retail prices. We have several tons on order, which should be delivered and available in April. Pricing will be updated shortly on our mineral depot page and in our ordering system (foodclub).

The material we're getting now is micronized, so it should be more quickly available, and is likely to be best spread with a drop spreader, and of course, will be an excellent additive to compost. In the future, we'll be able to get the course (granular) and powder (sand-like) forms. The greensand is OMRI-certified for organic production.

Upcoming chapter meetings and events

Learn more about BFA local chapters here, or click on the links below. Mar 15  Chapter Meeting & Discussion: What is Biomimicry?
Apr 17  Chapter Meeting & Discussion: Seed Starting with Kris McCue, co-leader of Hartford, CT BFA Chapter Mar 17  Chapter Meeting Mar 17  Chapter Meeting
Apr 7  Chapter Meeting Mar 24  Soil, Plant & Human Health Effects of Glyphosate with Dr. Stephanie Seneff and Dr. Don M. Huber – Granby, CT
Apr 5  The Role of Soil Fungi in Resilient, Regenerative Agriculture with Melody Wright of Pleasant Valley Botanicals – Simsbury, CT Mar 25  Potluck & Chapter Meeting – Louisa, VA The Growing Great Food (and Flowers!) Working Group:
Apr 8  Basics of Soil Development: Balancing nutrients & the living plants digestive system
May 13  Basics of good planting: On-Farm Mineral Mixing Day
Backyard Grower Series:
Apr 17  Hugelkulture Beds for Drought and Flood Management
Apr 25  Increasing Quality in the the Food Supply with Dan Kittredge Apr 21  Speaking to the group will be Dane Terrill of Crop Services International, who presented at the 2016 (December) Soil & Nutrition Conference. Don’t miss!

The 8th Annual Soil & Nutrition Conference

Regenerating Vitality: Realizing nature’s potential

Southbridge, MA  •  December 1 & 2, 2018 – Save the date!

Interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at this year's SNC?

This unique gathering of farmers, scientists, professors, ecological designers, activists, researchers, nutritionists, naturopaths and food system advocates are coming together for a cross-disciplinary exploration of the potential to improve food quality through regenerative agriculture that builds soil, crop and ecosystem health. Help promote the growth of this movement around food quality to change the paradigm of the agricultural, environmental and human health issues facing us today. Join us in making the Soil & Nutrition Conference a catalytic event to advance food quality!  Download a sponsor/exhibitor packet to learn more, or register online here

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