We’ve all heard the stats that farmers are aging, and the total number of farmers in the US is predicted to keep falling. As Mark Bittman wrote in his recent article, “Let’s Create More Farmers,” in the New York Times, “Just about everyone agrees that we need more farmers.”
At the Organic Growers School, that is the very issue that has been the impetus for our farmer programs and continues to be our driving force for Farm Pathways: Access to Land, Livelihood, and Learning partnership with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy & WNC FarmLink. We are working to provide a trajectory in farmer training for WNC that provides whole farm production & business training and innovative land access opportunities. Over the course of 2015 we are developing our capacity for implementing Farm Pathways with funding in part from Clif Bar Foundation and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2015-70017-22854
And, we have been able to bring Nicole DelCogliano on board as our Farmer Programs Associate with funding support from the Community Foundation of WNC. She is working to execute a comprehensive outreach & research plan that will help us fully understand the needs of farmers & assets within community, and inform the development process of Farm Pathways.
In the Farm Pathways partnership, OGS’s role is expand our current CRAFT Farmer Network & Apprentice Link programs by providing a comprehensive whole farm business, marketing, & financial planning classroom based course. OGS has been working with the Farm Beginnings Collaborative (FBC) for support in this process. So who is the Farm Beginnings Collaborative? It is a national alliance of independent regional groups pf farmers and farmer-training support organizations working together to promote Farm Beginnings, a farmer training model that is community based, rooted in sustainable principles, and farmer led. Originally, Farm Beginnings began 18 years ago at the Land Stewardship Project, and was so successful other farmer support organizations asked to be able to use the course and the FBC was born. Currently, the FBC is made up of seven partner programs that cover 13 states. And collectively they’ve trained 1500 new farmers, and seen a 75% success rate of participants still actively farming. OGS is in the process of becoming the first organization to offer Farm Beginnings in the southeast!
On May 20-21, 2015 OGS brought Amy Bacigalupo the Farm Beginnings Program Director from the Land Stewardship Project to Asheville to facilitate that process and get some initial training in Farm Beginnings. It was an incredibly inspiring two days of meetings & trainings with a dash of fun thrown in for good measure. Amy’s first night in Asheville we invited OGS board members and farmers from the CRAFT Steering Committee to learn more about how Farm Beginnings works, get their buy-in, and their input on how we can adapt the training to meet the needs of farmers in our region. Thursday, we spent the day with Amy and were joined by Annie Price from Bird’s Eye Business Planning & Consulting to be trained on these three topics:
1. Adult Education 101: Experiential Education, adult learning styles and developing Training Activity Outlines (TAO) that set measurable learning objectives
2. Introduction to Holistic Management: a decision-making model that promotes farmers success – financial planning/financial literacy
3. Meeting the needs of beginning farmers who are 1 to 10 years into farming (pathways)
We finished off the day with a second meeting with OGS board members and CRAFT Steering Committee members to dig into what a Farm Beginnings course would look like in WNC. And, the training fun continues as Nicole & Cameron head to Angelic Organics Learning Center in Rockford, IL in early July for Farm Beginnings Facilitator training!
Update: Check out a great article on Farm Pathways in the Mountain Xpress!
Cameron Farlow is the Farmer Programs Director.She grew up in Greensboro, NC with dairy farming in her blood, and has made her home in Western North Carolina. After earning her undergraduate degrees from UNC – Chapel Hill in Anthropology and Geography in 2006, Cameron dove headfirst into the realm of sustainable agriculture and local food systems, and later completed her Master’s Degree in Appalachian Studies and Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University in May 2011. Gaining as much experience as she could she worked with several other regional nonprofits in the realms of farmland preservation, food security, farm to university, and land access for farmers. She came on board with OGS in April 2012. When she isn’t visiting farms all around this end of the state as Farmer Programs coordinator you can usually find her digging in her garden or adventuring alongside her husband Walker, the farm manager at Hickory Nut Gap Farm.