Bright and early on Saturday January 14th I got up to go to the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Conference in Worcester! It was the first time I’d ever been to a NOFA event, the first time I’d met my fellow intern and ride, Kat, and the first time I’d been to Worcester, which I still mentally call War-chest-er. Nonetheless, the day proved to be a success, tiring as these events always seem to be but interesting, fun and educational.The event started off slow with people trickling in for registration, looking for coffee and friends and scanning the booths of wares. Kat and I set up our own table, full of information, our T-shirts, totes, brand new notecards and pictures of our volunteers. More and more people began showing up before the first workshop started at 9am, and Kat and I began answering questions, telling people about the work BAG does and also how they could be involved. With all sorts of people coming up to us we had some trouble determining who was a farmer, who was local, and who thought we were the registration table!
Nonetheless the people were always friendly and we got many interested people who were amazed that an organization like BAG existed. Some were immediately invigorated with the possibilities of expanding this type of work and one friendly man, after hearing only a sentence or two about what we did immediately asked if we took donations, handed over a crisp $50 bill, thanked us for our work and walked away. In fact in the three events I’ve been to representing BAG I’ve noticed that this behavior isn’t unusual. Typically once an event we meet a kind samaritan who is so inspired by the work we do that they immediately donate.
Additionally Kat and I were able to meet Representative McGovern, who in October co-sponsored a bill currently before the House to provide a tax credit to gleaners. Ironically I had been telling people about this new bill, which would give farmers a twenty-five cent per mile tax credit for transporting their crops to non-profits, all day before suddenly the man who had proposed it showed up in front of us. After firmly shaking my hand Rep. McGovern talked fondly about his time gleaning on Food Day as I told him how we had been able to go gleaning at The Food Project with Governor Patrick. After taking our brochure and wishing us well, Rep. McGovern moved on, speaking with one of his constituents who had approached him as we talked.
In between the sessions Kat and I were able to wander around the other booths and stalls set up at Worcester State and I became particularly enamored with the beehive one woman was displaying. Throwing question after question at her, I was delighted to learn about the temperature of bee hives, how to capture my own bee swarm (after my Dorm days are over of course) and that urban bees often have less exposure to pesticides since their typical range does not include heavily pesticide-covered farms (not with NOFA farmers though!). Later in the day one of our most active volunteers, Allison, stopped by our table and we talked bees again! As an urban beekeeper Allison shared some of what she’s learned, and in typical gleaner fashion we also discussed recipes for kale, a standard conversation topic for any BAG trip.
On our next break we ventured into another room and I was able to taste some local honey and ended up purchasing some Blueberry Blossom honey which Kat and I agreed was the best. Further down the aisle I explored books about canning and preserving and then spoke with a man about Kohlrabi, which we had gleaned on my last trip at Kimball Fruit Farm. He let us sample the largest Kohlrabi I have ever seen while discussing his favorite recipes for radishes and other root vegetables. I also heard about Ganoderma, a mushroom that benefits many medical conditions and is being sold to Americans in coffee, and was able to learn about our table-mates, the Quabbin Regional High School Gardening Program, an amazing group of high schoolers who not only run their own garden but also sell their produce at a local farmer’s market, create salves and lotions from their crop and harvest their seeds to sell and for future use.
At the end of the day I had accumulated a page of information from farms to look into to a woman to contact in relation to my Senior Thesis paper! Also on the page were suggestions Kat and I had brainstormed for expanding and improving BAG and on our way home we talked them over and remarked on the people we’d met and things we’d learned. Driving back to Boston with the sun setting behind us, we were happy to have had, if nothing else, the opportunity to talk about food and our interests all day to a diverse set of people.
-- Natalie, BAG Intern