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Marcy Gregoire
The children’s parade at the Northeast Organic Farming Association conference.

NATURE’S TURN: August sun lights flowering, fruiting gardens and NOFA’s celebration of growers

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By Monday, Aug 28, 2017 Farm and Table

August 28 – September 10, 2017

Mount Washington — The thrill of contact with my garden is awakened when I see early morning sunlight begin its journey into that hallowed ground. There, a hummingbird hovers facing a purple morning glory then veers toward a cluster of scarlet runner bean flowers and puts his bill right into the blossoms. The darling little bird alights on a rung of the tomato enclosure that is supporting the bean and morning glory vines. Master Ruby Throat then flies to a neighboring structure with more scarlet blossoms, alights and, in a blink of an eye, is whisked away by another hummingbird. They lift and fly, one in pursuit of the other, over the air space of my garden.

Scarlet runner bean plants, flowers on the right, climb with morning glories, flowers left. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Scarlet runner bean plants, flowers on the left, climb with morning glories, flowers right. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Transformations. The black-streaked purple beans sprouted, leafed out, vined, leafed out luxuriantly and burst into vivid scarlet clusters. Green beans have been maturing on small, pink-flowering bushes that are growing from orca or black velvet beans I sowed and neglected to label. I have been harvesting and eating them julienned but will soon allow them to form shell beans to eat fresh out of their pods. Expecting an abundance of several varieties of pole and bush beans, I’m planning on pickling green beans, with the ubiquitous dill, to store for winter. Toward the end of the season, many pods will be left on the vines to dry fully; these will be shelled later for soup and baked beans.

Squashes seem to have just taken shape on their vines, privately, under their leafy canopy: buttercup, delicata, butternut and kakai pumpkins. I lost my favorite, kabocha, to squash borers. Potatoes vines are in slow decline. To harvest the largest tubers, allow vines to fully die down and dry before digging.

Delicata squash. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Delicata squash. Photo: Judy Isacoff

The Northeast Organic Farming Association’s summer conference, the 43rd annual, welcomed 850 enthusiasts and the curious of all ages to the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst the weekend of August 11-13. The conference, “gathering place for those that make up the collective fabric of the organic movement in the Northeast,” reflected the participation of seven NOFA state chapters: New York, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

A diverse roster of leading practitioners, researchers, teachers, authors, artisans and activists offered opportunities to learn of cutting-edge discoveries that revolutionize organic field practices, highlight areas of serious concern for consumers, and encourage creative thinking–for example, Lee Reich’s “Uncommon Fruits: Pomona’s Secrets for Backyard Garden and Small Farm” and Bill MacKentley’s “Sequestering Carbon, Improving Soil & Increasing Crop Yields with Mycorrhizal Fungi.” One of the keynote addresses was Don M. Huber’s “Failed Promises, Flawed Science and the Unintended Consequences of Genetic Engineering.” To be sure, we all took away inspiration, a deeper understanding of gardening and farming, and a renewed sense of responsibility to keep learning and working to effect change in the status quo.

‘Weedwifery’ plant walk with Jade Alicandro, Milk & Honey Herbs. Photo: Marcy Gregoire

‘Weedwifery’ plant walk with Jade Alicandro, Milk & Honey Herbs. Photo: Marcy Gregoire

Opportunities to Participate

Friday, Sept. 8, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., “The Hidden Lives of Animals” at Dewey Hall, Sheffield – illustrated presentation by Nancy Smith with guest Rene Wendell

Monday, Sept. 25, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Berkshire Grown Harvest Supper – https://secure.lglforms.com/form_engine/s/Fe-g4DMvdeVLayMtD8k75g

NOFA’s year-round programs:
Save the Date: Winter conference, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, Worcester State University

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