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It’s the Year of the Child at NOFA-NJ’s Winter Conference

January 24, 2011

By Pat Tanner

When the 21st annual Winter Conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) takes place this coming weekend, it’ll be with key changes. Sure, it will still include expert-led talks and workshops aimed at farmers, home gardeners, and consumers who are interested in local, organic, and sustainably grown products. But, for the first time, it will also have a track just for the kiddies. In fact, the conference will feature a complete series of hands-on workshops directly solely at children ages six to twelve.

The Kids’ Conference, as it’s called, is being presented in collaboration with the New Jersey Farm to School Network and will feature experts and educators in the fields of food, cooking, gardening, agriculture, and science. Among the topics are worm composting, becoming a supermarket “spy,” agriculture in the classroom, and exploring the fundamentals of flavor.

There are two other changes this year: the conference will take place at Princeton University (it had in recent years been at Rutgers New Brunswick), and it will expand from one day to two.

In fact, the idea for including children came about in part because the conference now stretches over Saturday and Sunday, NOFA-NJ’s co-executive director David Glenn tells me. “In the past, we found that some participants with children at home may have fretted or not stayed as long as they would have liked – perhaps because they had a babysitter to relieve. This way, we hope participants will feel more relaxed, knowing that their kids are also involved in structured programs each day. And for the kids themselves, we want to offer them opportunities to learn in a fun environment.”

One of those opportunities comes via Stacey Antine, founder and CEO of HealthBarn USA, which has locations in Wyckoff and in North Salem, NY and provides hands-on programs that teach children about healthy lifestyle choices. At the conference, Antine will turn kids into “supermarket spies” by pairing older and younger in a game that has them going up and down simulated supermarket aisles comparing side-by-side jars of peanut butter, jams, cereals, tomato sauces, and other kid-friendly favorites.

For a child to attend the conference, a parent (or guardian) must be registered as well. Some of the protocols in place to ensure parents’ peace of mind include personally signing children in at the start of each day and showing ID when picking them up, leaving a mobile phone number, and completing a food allergies form. In addition, all children’s activities will take place in one room throughout the conference. For a complete listing of policies, pricing, and the full schedule of activities – both for little ones and adults – visit nofanj.org.

The NOFA-NJ Winter Conference (for adults and children) takes place on Saturday, January 29 and Sunday, January 30. It is not necessary to register for both days. Cost varies, depending on that and several other factors. For information, and to enroll, visit nofanj.org, or phone 908.371.1111, ext. 5.

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