Winter is wrapping up, and while the land has been at rest, NEFA’s been busier than ever. Coming soon to the Finger Lakes region of New York and mid-coast Maine, we’ll be preserving hundreds of acres of working farmland with the creation of two new Agricultural Centers. In the Finger Lakes, NEFA is partnering with the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, a racial-justice advocacy organization and farm incubator. They’ll be preparing the next generation of sustainable farmers, in particular people of color, women, refugees and immigrants. In Unity, Maine, we’ll be working with local biodynamic farmers whose Bowspirit Foundation will teach at-risk youths crafts and farming skills through experiential learning. Find more on this below.
Taking direction from one of the leading innovators in the field of social investment, NEFA is currently exploring next steps towards establishing a NEFA Capital Fund to further secure resources for our Agricultural Centers. With this strengthened financial model, we hope to avoid the capital shortfalls often experienced, create more flexibility for our investors and new opportunities for our farmers.
Now in our sixth year, NEFA is proud to look back at our efforts to secure the next generation of working farms. We’ll be sharing these successes with you soon in our upcoming NEFA Five Year Report, documenting where we began, where we are now, and how your investment is put to work. Keep an eye on your inbox!
NEFA has always conceived of our Agricultural Centers as places where knowledge would be shared, where farmers could grow and learn together. Now we’re taking that a step further. NEFA was recently approached by two local schools in the New England area who aim to bring the classroom to the farm. When ready, we hope these programs will take place in our Unity Agricultural Center, in Maine, and at the Monadnock Agricultural Center, in New Hampshire.
In addition to the environmental benefits from organic farming, our Agricultural Centers also provide great opportunities to implement Agroecology. This means renewing the land by strengthening its native plant species and pollinators, restoring soil health, and securing a diversity of resilient biomes. NEFA will be raising funds in Spring of 2019 for the Agroecology program to ensure the areas of our Centers not currently in food production become more healthy, vibrant, and beautiful.
Unity Agricultural Center Farmers Graziella Cervi and Peter Brady
The Unity Agricultural Center will be NEFA’s first foray into Maine after having thought up the ag center model in 2010 there based partly on Maine Farmland Trust’s Buy-Protect-Sell program. It will also be our first strongly biodynamic-oriented initiative. In addition to farming, there will be a teaching craftwork community offering experiential educational opportunities for youth through the creation of a nonprofit modeled after Ruskin Mill in England.
Farmers at the UAC will include those like Graziella Cervi and Peter Brady (photo above), who have decades of experience working with at-risk youth, and their Bowsprit Foundation, which will provide life-training through farm work and crafts-making.
Over in the Finger Lakes, NEFA is partnering up with the Groundswell Center, whose farm business incubator program has had a wait-list two years running. Their mission couldn’t be more aligned with our own: supporting underrepresented growers, including people of color, refugees, women, and those with limited resources, to start new farm businesses. To further our common cause, we’ll be establishing the Finger Lakes Agricultural Center and purchasing nearby Woodwind Farm so the folks at Groundswell have more facilities to expand their good work.
Established in 1850, Woodwind Farm is a 103-acre farm of prime soil that is part and parcel of the region’s legacy of food production. With a Greek revival farmhouse and farm infrastructure on site — including five barns and a walk-in cooler — this property is ready for farmers to get in the ground. NEFA is scheduled to close on the property in late Spring or Summer of 2019.
NEFA’s NEW STAFF
Rocio joins NEFA as the new Director of Development. She recently earned a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Science and Policy, focusing her dissertation on land conservation and, specifically, on the motivations of agricultural-land owners to protect their land in perpetuity from non-agricultural forms of development. Born and raised in Spain, Rocio completed two master’s degrees in the fields of Sustainability, Corporate Responsibility and Rural Development Project Planning there before moving to the United States. Her professional and volunteering background include positions as management consultant for entrepreneurs in rural areas and director of human resources for a regional environmental nonprofit.
Matt will split his time between working with Dirty Boots Farm at Arrowhead and writing for NEFA. A former political journalist and teacher, Matt is excited to put to words his experience as an Agricultural Center farmer and all the model has made possible for his farm.