2022 Agriculture & Food Conference

Save the Date!

Sunday, February 27th is SEMAP’s 15th Annual Agriculture & Food Conference! Farmers, foodies, and agricultural advocates alike are all welcome. Join us for 12 engaging virtual workshops and panels with more than 20 speakers – farmer and academic experts from our region!

Keynote Speaker: Ray Archuleta

We are excited to welcome our keynote speaker, Ray Archuleta. Ray is a farmer, soil scientist, and the founder of the Soil Health Academy.

With over 30 years of experience in soil science at NRCS which led him across the entire country, Ray is an expert on all things soil. Prior to that, Ray served with the Peace Corps in Guatemala as a Livestock Specialist. After his retirement from the NRCS in 2017, Ray founded Understanding Ag, LLC, and Soil Health Academy, LLC. Ray also owns and operates a 150-acre farm near Seymour, Missouri along with his wife and family.

Tickets will be sold on a sliding scale and you should choose the level that makes sense for you; if cost is still a barrier, scholarships will be available. Please email for more information.


February 27th Schedule of Events

The day kicks off at 9:00am with an announcement of this year’s TIE Award recipients, followed shortly by our keynote presentation from Ray Archuleta. We’ll continue the day with 4 sessions of exciting workshops. Find a complete workshop line-up below!


Session 1: 10:15–11:15am

Prison Gardens: Strategies for Therapy and Job Training

Since 2013, The New Garden Society (TNGS) has gardened alongside over 600 incarcerated and detained students in Greater-Boston. Every week in prison classrooms, they teach core horticulture concepts. In prison gardens and greenhouses, students apply these concepts, find healing and build job skills. TNGS’ prison-based trainings are taught by horticulturists, farmers, landscapers and other green industry professionals. In this workshop, they’ll share strategies for providing therapeutic and vocational garden training on a minimal budget. They’ll also discuss opportunities for local green industry businesses and organizations to support incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated growers.

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Erika Rumbley, The New Garden Society


Supporting Native Bees (and Other Beneficials) through Habitat on Farms

The most important driver of native bee declines is habitat loss, especially in agricultural areas. Lean how to improve bee habitat on your farm, and support other beneficial insects too. This talk will focus on some basic approaches, as well as lessons from new scientific research: do flowering strips boost pollination or pest predation in nearby fields? Which flowering cover crops attract the most bees? What are the benefits or drawbacks of annual vs. perennial flowering resources? This talk will help you to understand some of the pros, cons and data behind different habitat enhancement strategies.

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Hannah Whitehead, UMass Extension


Understanding Soil Health for Better Production & Sustainability

Continue the morning keynote conversation with farmers and soil scientists! Local experts in soil data collection & interpretation, water capacity, and rotational grazing systems will lead us in a conversation about this past (wet!) growing season and how to prepare your soils for extreme seasons going forward. Commercial growers will be especially interested in this talk, but soil preparation is crucial for home gardeners, too!

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Chuck Currie, Freedom Food Farm
Jack Algiere, Stone Barns Center
Dr. Julie Snorek, Dartmouth College and Northeast Healthy Soil Network



Session 2: 11:30am–12:30pm

Alternative Strawberry and Raspberry Growing Systems in Canada

This session will discuss soilless strawberry and raspberry systems that growers in Ontario are adopting, including different production systems and the benefits & challenges of these systems. Learn about substrated (in-pot) production, marketing strategies, and pest and cultural management involved in these systems. Join us for this field trip of alternative berry growing systems in Ontario.

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Medicinal Herb Production

Let’s step into the garden and explore the world of herbalism! Herbalism is the practice of working with plants to support wellness. It’s an age-old practice made all the more powerful when paired with growing our own herbs and making our own medicine! We’ll discuss a handful of new and familiar medicinal plants, tips for cultivation, harvest and preservation, as well as herbal benefits and uses. This class will be focused equally on cultivation and plant uses, geared towards beginner herbalists and those interested in seeing their garden in a new way!

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Carissa Wills-DiMello, Town Farm Tonics


Adventures in Silvopasture: Making the Transition for Profit, Livestock Nutrition & Sustainability

Curious about silvopasture, forest management, livestock nutrition, and climate change mitigation? Integrating livestock and agroforestry operations can diversify your farm income streams and increase the ecological sustainability of your farm operation, not to mention improve the flavor of your meat products! Join this conversation for tips on transitioning, implementing silvopasture practices, and avoiding common mistakes.

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Sarah Cogswell, Cluck & Trowel Farm and The Livestock Institute

Brett Chedzoy, Cornell Small Farms
Joe Orefice, Yale School of Forestry
Nick Weinstock, BOTL Farm



Session 3: 1:30–2:30pm

Maple Sugaring: Challenges & Opportunities for Backyard and Large-Scale Tappers Alike

Whether you have your own sugar shack or boil sap on the stove, join this session to hear from field experts about current successes and challenges facing the maple sugaring industry. Panelists will talk about value-added opportunities, climate change impacts, and more!

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Winton Pitcoff, MA Food Policy Council
Adam Wild, Cornell Uihlein Forest
Mark Isselhardt, UVM Proctor Maple Research Center
Bruce Hopper, Pure BS Maple Farm


Working Well: People Skills for Farm Leaders

Farm help is essential! Nonetheless, like most professionals, farmers have limited access to the most up-to-date thinking on how to most effectively recruit, retain and promote the return of valued workers. People management is a skill; Like all learned behaviors it takes study, practice and patience. This session will present both an overview of successful management practices and practical suggestions for how to implement them. It will also offer guidance about how to assess your current practices in order to spot its strengths and weaknesses.

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Jeffrey Kerr – Jeffrey retired from a 40 year career as a family therapist and then an organization consultant and coach to work as a community gardener. He has taught communication and leadership skills internationally. He lives in South Dartmouth where he works with friends to develop Mishaum Farm.


Pest Management Updates in Brassicas

Learn about the latest recommendations for pests old and new in the brassica family. The UMass Extension Vegetable team has been conducting research on insect and disease management in cold crops for the past several years and this talk will highlight new findings from our trials and cover best management practices for organic and conventional systems.

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Sue Scheufele, UMass Extension



Session 4: 2:45–3:45pm

Growing for the Hunger Relief Market: How to Make Gleaning Work for You

Local producers and emergency food distributors are a natural pairing. At a time of increased uncertainty for farmers and communities, find out how growing for hunger relief can offer a new market opportunity. Join Hope’s Harvest and Boston Area Gleaners in a discussion of how gleaning & surplus donation can align with farm goals, priorities & mission.

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Dee Levanti, Ivory Silo Farm

Eva Agudelo, Hope’s Harvest
Dylan Frazier, Boston Area Gleaners


Starting and Maintaining a Flower Operation

Farmers and home gardeners alike will enjoy this conversation around how to begin or expand your flower operation. Whether your motivation is pollination, profit, or primping up your lawn, join some of the region’s young floral farmers to talk about flower crop planning, growth strategies, and marketing techniques.

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Tucker Manley, Russells Mills Flower Company
Christina Russell, Wild Bean Flowers 


Maximizing On-Farm Mental Health: Resources, Strategies, & Policy Recommendations

The last two years have been stressful for all of us, especially frontline essential farmers and farmworkers. What are existing resources, barriers to accessing those resources, and long-term solutions for on-farm mental wellness? Moderated by Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture Ashley Randle, this panel will discuss existing resources, individual strategies, and policy suggestions for improving farmer mental health and access to resources.

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Ashley Randle, MDAR
Rachel Van Boven, FarmAid
Polly Shyka, Maine Farmer Resource Network and Villageside Farm

We’ll finish out the day with some light networking. Bring your favorite drink (alcoholic or otherwise!) to the virtual happy hour to chat with local producers, reflect on the day’s learnings, and form connections with other players in the regional food system.


Conference Sponsorship

We are currently seeking sponsors to support this year’s conference. Several different tiers of sponsorship are available, and include benefits such as being featured in the conference program, in the introduction slide for presentations, and on the SEMAP website. Check out the Conference Sponsorship Opportunities page for more details, or fill out this form to register as a sponsor today.

Thank you to our Conference Sponsors!


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