The Outcome of Farmer Training
The goal of Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training is clear. We want more farmers on the land and a system in which family farmers can flourish. As farmers thrive, they care for the land, strengthen their communities, generate income for themselves and others, and produce food for their region. The outcome of supportive systems for farmer training is beginning farmers who will start to farm, enhance their farm plan, improve their farming systems or receive significant training & assistance with production & comprehensive farm planning, and gain access to farmland & support in the Southern Appalachians.
Participants of Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training will be better prepared to start farming, add or change enterprises on an existing farm, approach creditors for loans, or delay farming to increase their likelihood of success. In addition, graduates of this program are more likely to find a successful land match after completion of our certified training programs, as it will prepare them with a network of support, a farm mentor, and a strategic business plan. These whole-farm skills will bolster our regional economy by increasing the success and retention rate of small-scale farmers in our region. The success of beginning farmers and the Western NC region are entwined.
I don’t have a farm yet but one day I will. Farm Beginnings has made me realize that getting and starting a farm is a process. It takes a lot of patience and there are a lot of steps. The best thing is to start small and get there eventually. Don’t take on too much too fast. It is possible for anyone to do.Heather Roy
The Role of OGS
Our role is to facilitate the training, land-access, networks, and mentoring systems throughout the start-up years. Specifically we want to be a solid, stable, cohesive, and clear resource for emerging, start-up and beginning farmers in the following ways:
- Offer a structure of comprehensive, holistic, whole-farm educational opportunities for beginning farmers to plug into at multiple phases on their journey.
- Provide resources for equitable and affordable access to land.
- Participate in ongoing mentorship and networking opportunities.
- Provide increased regional leadership and support of farmers that results from the collective impact and synergy of the Farm Pathways Collaborative.
Lack of Regional Resources
Fortunately, the needs of beginning farmers are emerging. Unfortunately the support systems are slow in coming. There are no programs of this scope and breadth in our region or in the Southeast. The needs of emerging, start-up, and in-training farmers are very different from the needs of seasoned farmers. Several regional organizations serve seasoned farmers in production and marketing and offer stand-alone programs and conferences. Warren Wilson College is the only institution of higher education in the Western NC area to offer a Sustainable Agriculture focus. It also has a student run farm on campus and excellent curriculum but requires a four-year commitment and private college tuition.
OGS has designed programs to support beginning farmers through membership in peer networks, access to apprenticeships, formal classroom and experiential agricultural education, coaching programs, guidance in gaining access to capital, support negotiating equitable land leases and purchases, access to land on an incubator farm, and help finding affordable farmland. In addition to the comprehensive and far reaching nature of the Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training programming, Farm Pathways also differentiates itself as being farmer-led, focused on sustainable agriculture, and community based, a set of values that is unique and progressive in our region.