Overview of OGS Farmer Programs
Organic Growers School has been providing farmer education since 1993 with a focus on peer-to-peer education, regionally appropriate topics, and farmer-led programming. Since 2008, OGS has trained more than 600 farmers and farmers workers through CRAFT, Apprentice Link, and Farm Dreams. The OGS Farmer Programs saw a 75% increase in demand for training from 2011 to 2014. The 2016-2017 OGS Farmer Programs Team is working on these projects concurrently:
- WNC CRAFT: Facilitate, organize, plan, and manage the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) program for farmers and farm interns including 10-12 on-farm workshops annually.
- ApprenticeLink: Facilitate, oversee, and manage the changes to the Apprentice Link (AL) program, which provides a free, online, searchable matching service for farmers looking for qualified farm apprentices and aspiring farmers serious about farming.
- OGS Farm Network: Create and maintain this online platform featuring profiles of organic and sustainable farms in the OGS network targeted towards customers looking for organic farm product in WNC. Apprentice Link & OFN share the same profiles but come at it from two different landing pages.
- Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training: An annual comprehensive, year-long, 180+ hour farmer training program.
- Farm Pathways: Access to Land, Livelihood, and Learning: Participate, as a collaborative partner, along with SAHC and WNC FarmLink, in the strategic alignment that leads to a region-wide approach to supporting sustainable farmers. Through this solid working partnership, which creates joint programs, shared evaluations and marketing plans, and infrastructure, we have a much greater collective impact on the complex social problem of increasing successful farmers in our region.
- Farm Dreams: Provide this one-day workshop several times a year to provide an opportunity for beginning farmers to explore their farm-dreams.
- Regional Collaboration: As the region’s only Farm Beginnings® member, we continue to cross-pollinate with other farmer training programs and explore the opportunity to bring this vital farmer training program to other areas in our region. Additional we are continually building relationships to explore teaching partnerships, funding collaboration, and collective impact projects.
- National Collaboration: As the newest member of the Farm Beginnings® Collaborative, we continue to skill-up, train, engage, and collaborate with the Farm Beginnings® Collaborative through annual meetings, visits to collaborative-member projects, and opportunities to cross-pollinate.
- Development of Local Allies: OGS continues to deepen our understanding of the educational assets of our regional allies in the area of farmer training with the following goals:
- To incorporate their best practices and programs into our training program.
- Partnering to provide technical assistance for graduates.
- Explore pre-qualification with lending institutions for “certified” graduates.
- Develop and build relationships between sustainable farming organizations in order to create more regional resilience, healthy interdependence, and robust community.
- Regional Asset Mapping: OGS continues to explore funding and collaboration regarding the creation of an infographic to map the region’s offerings for farmers of all stages.
- Voice for Farmer Training and Support: OGS is an ongoing ally to regional farmers and seeks opportunities to be a voice for the local farming community, advocating support, training, mentoring, and recognition.
- Ongoing Curriculum Development & Programming Excellence: OGS is in an ongoing process of assessment, farmer input, and regular additions and improvements to our Farmer Programs including some of the following ideas:
- Address labor management, rural revitalization, and communication skills.
- Mentoring for Success Program
- Advanced farming topics offered through Continuing Education
- Development of a certification process for graduates.
- Farmer Teacher Training: Our programs are farmer-led and therefore ongoing funding is sought and utilized for farmer-presenter training, as well as training to farmers to participate in curriculum and class leadership.
These programs reinforce and are strategically aligned with one another. We are poised to make a big difference in the lives of organic farmers by creating a cohesive trajectory for ongoing training and support that is missing in our region.