So what do farmers do all winter?

nofa2014If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that, this farming thing could actually be a profitable endeavor. Believe it or not, there is actually a fair amount to be done in the off season; mostly projects that got pushed aside in the mad rush of summer production and activity. There’s wood to split, snow to clear, tools to sharpen, oil to change, fences to repair, compost to turn, seeds to order, maps to draw, planting calendars to prepare and accounting to…account, to name a few.

But for me, the most enjoyable and important winter activity is learning. I get to build a roaring fire and finally dive into the stack of books, articles and catalogs that’s been steadily rising on my coffee table since the summer. I also get to go to amazing farming conferences like the one hosted by NOFA-NY in Saratoga Springs every winter. This year’s conference hosted a gang of bad ass farmers who were kind enough to share their time and knowledge with the rest of the local organic farming community. There were dozens of workshops led by different organic New York farmers, each one interesting and inspirational in their own way. I learned about a whole range of topics, from adapting to climate uncertainty to controlling problems with organic potato and cucurbit cultivation to maximizing greenhouse space. Several farmer-presenters were generous enough to share the details of their bookkeeping to help everyone on the journey toward profitable organic farming. A keynote speech by Brian Bennett, the NOFA-NY farmer of the year, was both touching and humorous, reminding us all why we do what we do and inspiring us to share the bounty – both edible and spiritual – that we reap from the land. And finally, it was truly inspirational to just be in a place where hundreds of organic farmers, young and old, with different approaches, business models, backgrounds and aspirations convene to further the cause.

Now I’m pumped up and ready to get started on on the 2014 season. Onward and upward!