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Farm Beginnings: Year-Long Farmer Training

The Goal of OGS Farmer Training

The goal of Farm Beginnings® and our other Farmer Training is clear. We want to see more farmers on the land and a system in which family farms 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. Our role is to facilitate the training, land-access, networks, and mentoring systems throughout the start-up years. Specifically we aim to be a solid, cohesive, and clear resource for beginning farmers.

The participants of our programs will be better prepared to start farming, add or change enterprises on an existing farm, approach creditors for financing, 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 plan. These whole-farm skills will bolster our regional economy by increasing the success and retention rate of beginning farmers in our region. We realize that the success of beginning farmers and the Western NC region are entwined.

Why OGS

Based in Asheville, NC, and serving the southern Appalachians, Organic Growers School has been raising awareness and capacity for sustainable food and farming systems for 20 years. In 2008, OGS created a local chapter of CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) serving Western NC and Southeastern farmers. Since that time, CRAFT has supported over 700 farmers and farmworkers with peer-to-peer, practical education and is active in 16 counties. CRAFT has not only graduated farmers, but also attracted more serious aspiring growers to our region, who have provided dependable labor for existing local farms. Many participants in the CRAFT program have moved on to improve established farm businesses or start new farms in the area.

Our CRAFT membership for 2014 was 84 and 100 for 2015. Direct participant feedback has allowed OGS to measure the success of CRAFT.

  • In 2014, 92% of CRAFT apprentices reported interest in farming at some time in the future, 58% of who plan to farm in Western NC. Additionally 41% of apprentices plan to farm full time, 17% plan to pursue work as agricultural professionals, and 41% plan to farm as a lifestyle with some off-farm income. 83% of CRAFTfarmers stated that the program positively influenced their farming practices either by implementing a change to their operation or adding an enterprise.
  • In 2013, 100% of participants report that they gained new knowledge and 100% report that they are ready to start farming or make a change to their existing operation.
  • In 2012, 90% of program participants reported that they had an increase in knowledge due to CRAFTtrainings, 52% of participants were ready to start farming or add a new enterprise to their farm, and 82% of participants indicated an interest in more targeted business management and financial literacy training.