Introducing NOFA-VT’s New Organic Practices Team!

NOFA-VT’s Farmer Services team has recently expanded to include new staff and resources to support farm viability across the triple bottom line of financial, environmental, and social resilience. We are thrilled to have expanded capacity to provide greater focus on supporting farms interested in improving their soil health and water quality, adopting organic practices, and building climate resilience. The Organic Practices team offers a range of support services including climate risk assessment and planning, organic practice technical assistance, organic certification support, funding for implementing climate-smart practices, and shared learning and educational opportunities.

Climate forecasts for our region indicate a need to be prepared for a range of weather conditions including extreme precipitation, short-term drought, heat stress, warmer winters, late spring freezes, and increased pest pressure, as well as the increased production costs associated with mitigating these conditions. Organic farmers employ soil health and conservation practices that build greater resilience in the face of these challenges, and the Organic Practices team is eager to work with farmers to integrate more of these practices so that we can be proactive and well-positioned to meet the changing demands. In coordination with the Farm Business Development Program team, Farmer Services will provide holistic and customizable services that support farms to increase their climate resilience and business success.

The Organic Practices team has been quickly orienting to the work, meeting and talking with farmers and project partners, and diving into active projects, like Resilience Grants and workshop planning. The team is also excited to dive into longer-term projects, which are discussed in more detail below.

Climate Risk Assessment, Planning, and Resources

Farmers, our communities, and our society depend on successful, thriving farms that are resilient to the impacts of a changing climate. Through organic farming practices, farm adaptation, and mitigation planning, Vermont farms can strengthen their climate resilience while growing their profitability, improving soil and water quality, supporting ecosystem and biodiversity health, and cultivating community resilience. The Organic Practices team is currently developing a toolkit of resources to help farms identify what climate impacts they should expect, assess their strengths and risks to the impacts of the climate crisis on their farm, and assist farms in making plans that will increase their resilience.

In addition to the assessment of strengths and risks, the planning process includes supporting farms to clarify their goals, prioritize strategies, and create an adaptation plan that includes finding needed resources, implementation, evaluation, and consistent reassessing. Knowing that each farm is unique and at a different point in their farm development, we are developing tools and resources that are flexible and adaptable to provide the level of planning each farm needs– from quick self-assessments to in-depth months-long assessment and planning processes. The Organic Practices team will also work closely with the Farm Business Development team to conduct cost-benefit analyses to ensure that farmers are implementing practices that make fiscal sense for their farms.

One of the tools in the Organic Practices team toolbox is funding support to help farmers invest in their soil health and climate resilience. NOFA-VT is a partner on Pasa Sustainable Agriculture’s Climate Smart Commodities Program project, “Climate-Smart Farming and Marketing - Financial Support and Technical Assistance from Maine to South Carolina.” This 5-year collaborative grant provides funding and technical assistance for farms to adopt climate-smart practices. As part of this project, NOFA-VT will be able to provide proactive support and grants to farms to incentivize their implementation of a suite of climate-smart practices that positively impact soil health and climate resilience on farms.

NOFA-VT Organic Practices team staff members will serve as Technical Assistance Providers (TAPs) throughout this 5-year grant program, working closely with Vermont farmers to identify and implement appropriate climate-smart practices that will promote the health and resilience of their operations. Farmers will get paid for the implementation of these practices, with the average contract award projected to be around $15,000 per grant contract which will vary according to the practices implemented. We anticipate working with 40-50 farmers per year through this program, but the project is still in the development phase and we expect to have more information to share about this opportunity in May.

Going beyond implementation, a key component of this project is to develop a network of farmers engaged in community science around climate-smart agricultural practices. Participating farms will be involved in the monitoring and measuring (depending on the practice) of the impacts of adopting climate-smart practices through soil health testing. Participating farms will be eligible to join the Pasa-led Soil Health Benchmarking Study. In future years, this project will also include financial benchmarking, offer marketing strategies to help farmers communicate the benefits of these practices to their customers, and develop tools to help climate-conscious consumers find climate-smart farms near them.

Shared Learning & Resources for Organic Certification

Central to NOFA-VT’s mission encouraging farmers to transition their farming operations to organic practices. In close coordination with the Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) team, the Organic Practices team will develop educational opportunities and resources to support farms with the certification process.

To lower the barriers and ease the transition for Vermont farmers seeking to become certified organic, NOFA-VT is a core partner in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Regional Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP). With the Organic Practices team, producers transitioning to organic will find support through the transition and certification process through one-on-one technical assistance, workshops, webinars, and on-farm events. Educational events across the state will offer opportunities for farmers to learn about organic production, the certification process, market opportunities, and more.

We are also coordinating a Farmer-to-Farmer Mentorship program as part of the TOPP project that matches experienced certified organic producers or processors with those interested in certification and/or improving their organic practices. The year-long mentorship is an opportunity to be in community with peers and share knowledge that will increase organic practices and resilience. If you’re interested in learning more about this mentorship program, please contact Zea at [email protected].

Shared learning and educational opportunities are fundamental to increasing the adoption of organic and other conservation practices. Virtual forums, workshops, and intensives at our annual Winter Conference, and workshops on farms in the summer will all include farmer-driven topics and content. Last month, The Organic Practices team, in collaboration with partners, hosted the Winter Conference intensive “Mapping for Farm Resilience.”  The all-day workshop introduced the adaptation assessment and planning process with 40 attendees and heard from a panel of farmers about how they manage their farm with resilience in mind.

Aside from these new additions, the Organic Practices team will take the lead on overseeing the Jack Lazor Memorial Soil Health Stewards Cohort and the Resilience Grants. We are excited to connect more with you soon. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!


Meet the Team

  • Nancy LaRowe, Organic Practices team Director, has been supporting farm viability for ten years as a service provider after operating a pasture-based livestock farm for 15 years.
  • Eric Boatti, Climate Resilience Specialist, has worked on and/or managed diversified livestock and dairy operations for eight years in the Carolinas and Vermont.
  • Kevin Haggerty, Climate Resilience Specialist, has more than ten years of production and management experience at certified organic farms in Vermont and Washington.
  • Zea Luce, Organic Practices Specialist, has certificates in permaculture design and Ecological Horticulture along with many years of experience on farms and in environmental education.


The Big Picture for Farmer Services

watercolor of a farmer holding a basket of veggies
Our Farmer Services Program provides customized technical assistance and business development services for farms that are certified organic, transitioning to organic, and non-certified farmers using organic practices. Services are delivered at the individual farm level and also through the cultivation of peer learning opportunities. Farmer Services includes two complementary departments. The Organic Practices team provides production technical assistance, resources, and educational opportunities for farmers interested in implementing organic and climate-resilient practices. The Farm Business Development team supports farmers at all stages of business development to develop plans and build the skills needed to meet their business and quality of life goals.