WHAT IS THE ORGANIC GROWERS SCHOOL?
The Organic Growers School (OGS) is a non-profit grassroots organization based in Western North Carolina (WNC) that grew out of the volunteer efforts of farmers and extension specialists in 1993. OGS inspires, educates, and supports people to farm, garden, and live organically, and is the premier provider of practical organic education in the Southern Appalachians. We are building a mutually supportive network of prosperous farmers, productive gardeners and informed consumers engaged in creating healthy communities. We are most well known for our Annual Spring Conference, Collaborative Farmer Programs (CRAFT) and Apprentice Link.
WHAT IS CRAFT?
Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) is a coordinated effort to bring established farmers, farm apprentices, and students of agriculture together for a comprehensive training program in the art and science of sustainable agriculture, straight from the hearts, mouths, and fields of seasoned local farmers. CRAFT is designed as a program to mentor and teach the next generation of farmers while also building a stronger network for current farmers here in the Southern Appalachians.
HOW DID CRAFT START?
In 2008, the Organic Growers School (OGS) staff met with several farmers in Western North Carolina to gain a deeper understanding for how to generate and train future growers. Overwhelmingly, we heard the need for a networking and educational forum for local organic growers and their workers. Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT), a farmer led casual farm-touring program that originated in the northeastern US, was a perfect model. To take the administrative tasks off the hands of the farmers, so they could stay keep their minds on their fields, OGS stepped in to handle the organizing and facilitation of the program. In 2012, we launched the Southeast CRAFT chapter based in Chattanooga, TN which it’s own independent CRAFT chapter.
HOW DOES CRAFT WORK?
Farmers learn best from other farmers, and apprentices learn best from hearing how successful farmers in the region are running their farms. In this way, CRAFT training occurs through a series of on-farm tours led by experienced growers in the region. These tours are held monthly from April – October and are focused on a specific aspect of sustainable farming. During the winter months we also host a series of Farmer Round Tables. In addition to the workshops, members have access to a comprehensive CRAFT handbook rich with farmer generated, regionally specific information on all aspects of farming rooted in the valuable wisdom of CRAFT farmer members gained from many years of farming in the Southern Appalachians. Each tour is followed by an abundant and festive potluck!
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM CRAFT TOURS:
While each CRAFT Tour will focus on one specific aspect of farming (the “tour topic” for that farm), the tour will also cover many of the basics of an organic farm operation.
At each farm you can expect to hear about how that farmer addresses:
- Field preparation and planting
- Pest management
- Record keeping
- Season extension
- Greenhouse management
- Harvest, etc.
This gives you a chance to see the differences between each farm and to understand why each of the farmers chooses their particular production methods.
We want you to learn and have fun! We hope the farm tours and CRAFT handbook will be useful resources to you as you start out or continue on your path to farming. This is your time to learn, plan and dream. So ask plenty of questions, make lasting connections with local farmer mentors, and celebrate the rich local farming community we call CRAFT.
We continue to improve the program and build on successes to meet farmer and intern needs, and welcome your suggestions at any time. Welcome to the CRAFT program!
If you have any questions about CRAFT contact the Farmer Programs Coordinator: email@example.com