Gaining Ground Selected for USDA Conservation Innovation Grant
Gaining Ground (GG) has been selected to participate in a three-year Conservation Innovation Grant funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Northeast Organic Farmers Associations (NOFA) of Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey have been awarded the $170,000 grant, as one of 22 projects funded nationally in 2018. GG was invited to be one of nine organic farms for this three-state research project on no-till farming methods.
For several years, GG Farm Manager Doug Wolcik has led workshops at the NOFA/Mass summer conference. NOFA leaders were impressed by his thought leadership and successful transition to no-till farming with significantly higher production. In the past four years of incorporating no-till practices, GG’s annual produce donations for hunger relief have increased 50% from 60,000 pounds to over 90,000 pounds. GG stands out as the smallest farm selected for the study (3.5 acres compared to 20-40 acres) and the only non-profit.
No-till farming is a method of growing crops without disturbing the soil through cultivation. No-till provides a strategy for growers to protect their soil, conserve its natural properties and nutrients, plant earlier and ultimately save time and money. With no tilling or plowing, weed control is the largest challenge, solved by conventional farmers with herbicides (ex. Glyphosate/Roundup). Alternatively, organic farmers have been slowly developing other successful systems and tools for suppressing weeds without tillage or herbicides.
According to the NOFA project leader, Caro Roszell, “the goal of the project is to help accelerate the development and adoption of organic no-till and reduced till methods for smaller scaled organic farms in the Northeast. The project is organized around nine well-respected farmers experimenting with tillage reduction methods.” Research includes tracking of soil health, pest and weed pressure with discussion of outcomes, challenges, data and observations. The experiences and success stories will be compiled and shared widely through workshops, field days, conferences and media materials with the goal of encouraging additional organic farmers to integrate no-till into their operations.
During this three year study, Wolcik and his team will host several “Field Days” to share no-till practices at GG with the other participating farmers. Wolcik will also participate on panels and teach through conferences and webinars. GG is pleased to have Wolcik as farm manager and thought leader, participating in this significant national grant focused on innovative farming practices while pursuing GG’s mission of growing healthy organic produce for hunger relief.