Organic farming goes virtual with Zoom events

HOPKINTON – While most of what we do and how we do it has changed during the past few months, farming can now be added to that list.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, (NOFA-NH) is presenting virtual farming tours at farms around Merrimack Country (Merrimack was chosen as the county to launch this program in 2019 due to it having the greatest number of certified organic farms in the state of New Hampshire.)

The first on its tour is Work Song Farm, a certified organic farm located in Hopkinton.

Nikki Kolb, operations manager for NOFA said that Work Song Farm’s theme and message is on “starting small and staying small.” That virtual event is slated for Thursday, July 30, from 7-8 p.m.

“Each of the tours has its own specific farming topic,” she said. “What we have been doing is going to the farm ahead of time with our small team and filming a tour with our group and the staff of the farm, which in the case of Work Song, are farmers and hosts Dan Kilrain and Abigail Dixon Kilrain.”

That footage will be edited and screened via Zoom during a fifteen minute virtual tour, which will be followed by a live question and answer period with the farmers.

Attendees must register in advance to get the Zoom link. Tickets are free for farmers and NOFA-NH members. Otherwise, $5 for individuals, $10 for families, with ticket proceeds donated to the host farms.

“This is an opportunity to learn from one another,” Kolb said. “And also anyone interested in gardening or just wants to learn about local farms in their community, those are all audience members who we are looking to attract who can benefit from this program.”

The farm hosts gain exposure; this is the second year of the program and while last year’s was an in-person farm tour, the pandemic has forced NOFA, like so many other businesses and organizations to go the virtual route.

“This is a chance for viewers to learn more about their practices,” Kolb said. “And also for the farmers to create a peer-to-peer network amongst themselves, to learn from each other about organic farming and what their peers were doing.”

NOFA-NH will host six virtual farm tours as part of its CRAFT Program focused on peer-to-peer learning, and professional and workforce development in New Hampshire’s organic farming community. NOFA-NH’s CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliances for Farmer Training) Program will provide educational opportunities for farmers and farm workers in New Hampshire by developing a support network focused on best practices in organic farming.

The CRAFT Program will focus on the development of current and future farmers and farm workers by creating settings that provide technical education and social support. Farm workers will have opportunities to learn from experienced growers, share with peers, and to build stronger social networks among farmers, aspiring farmers and the public. This program will serve established and beginning farmers interested in organic farming careers, and anyone interested in growing their own food in the Granite State.

In addition to Work Song Farm, this year NOFA has partnered with Hip Peas Farm, located in Hooksett and will feature the virtual tour, “Market gardening efficiency and season extension, on Aug. 12; Mermaid Hill Vineyard, located in Concord and will discuss “Growing organic grapes in New Hampshire on Aug. 26; a tour of Kearsarge Gore Farm, located in Warner, will talk about “Four Season Farming,” on Sept. 9; Hop n’ Hen Farm, of Henniker, will feature a tour on “Starting an organic vegetable and poultry farm,” on Sept. 30; and Stonewall Farm, in Keene, will address, “Managing soil health: Grazing and specialty crops” on Oct. 15.

On how the farms were chosen, Kolb said the farms had to be certified organic and the aim is to create a cohort of farmers.

“Specifically, the farms had to be in Merrimack County,” she said. “This year, we doubled the number of farmers involved. Last year we had three farms and this year we have six.”

“We did expand to Keene, which we specifically wanted to do a story about soil health,” she said.

Stonewall Farm is a nonprofit working farm and educational center whose mission is to demonstrate regenerative farming while educating and engaging people to support food security.

More information about NOFA-NH’s “The CRAFT of Farming” can be found at www.nofanh.org/craft.