Organic Educator Award
29th Annual Spring Conference // March 18-20, 2022
Each year at the OGS Spring Conference, we recognize a local leader for their dedication, steadfastness, civic commitment, and responsibility with regards to organic education. In the last few years we’ve given the Organic Educator Award to folks who have been at it for decades, but this year we wanted to also recognize those folks who may be just getting started, but are already making a deep impact.
This award honors the individuals in our midst who have made ongoing and important contributions to the sustainable agriculture community in Western NC and the Southern Appalachians.
The idea originated from Carl & Julie, from Mountain Harvest Organics, who in 2016 suggested the award and nominated our first recipient, Tom Elmore. They had this to say “For as long as we can remember, we have been so impressed with all the things Tom Elmore has done for the Organic Growers School and our farming community. We can remember him teaching us a class at AB Tech in Madison county when we first started farming, sharing his growing experiences with greenhouses, and those learning experiences were instrumental in the development of our farming career.”
2022 Organic Educator
Eileen has been farming for over 25 years and is the farmer of Ol’Turtle Farm in Marion, NC and and due to the COVID pandemic is now selling 100% of what they grow to a local food pantry. She has mentored countless apprentices and young farmers in the Northeast, Midwest, and right here in North Carolina. Nominees described her saying, I cannot imagine anyone more giving, encouraging, and enduring than Eileen.
Eileen Droescher is the proprietor of Ol’Turtle Farm in Marion, NC. Ol’Turtle Farm is a 2-acre sustainable vegetable farm. They grow a wide variety of organic (non-certified) vegetables, blueberries, herbs, and flowers. As a result of the Covid Pandemic, they are now selling 100% of what they grow to a local food pantry.
Eileen has been farming for over 25 years—12 years were spent in the Northeast where she had a large CSA and this will be her 14th year in North Carolina. Throughout her career, she has been involved in education as a CRAFT farmer in the Northeast and has mentored numerous apprentices and young farmers in the Northeast, Midwest, and here in North Carolina. She has mentored with the OGS Farm Beginnings program for 4 years and her mentors sing her praises,
“As a farm mentor, I cannot imagine anyone more giving, encouraging, and enduring than Eileen. She has shared every bit of her masterful knowledge of vegetable growing and marketing with us. She continues to mentor us as we enter our first year of market gardening even though our mentoring agreement is long long past. She has given so much of her time, energy, and years of gleaned knowledge to us. Without her guidance, we might still be stumbling lost through the maze of resources and techniques needed to develop our dream of a sustainable, soil-enhancing, community health-improving market vegetable garden.”
“Talk about giving! Over the year (or two) Eileen taught me so much about farming, with really practical, step-by-step instructions on how to succeed with any number of crops. She told me what worked for her and what didn’t and why. Then, she opened up her Rolodex (likely, it was, actually, a Rolodex) and gave me her chef contacts, her buyer contacts, her special sources of the best seed stock and root stock, and every other secret source you can imagine. How could I not succeed with this level of support? Eileen has been farming for decades. As her mentee, I was showered with her accumulated knowledge, sources and secrets. How could anyone ask for more???
As a farm mentor, I cannot imagine anyone more giving, encouraging, and enduring than Eileen. She has shared every bit of her masterful knowledge of vegetable growing and marketing with us. She continues to mentor us as we enter our first year of market gardening even though our mentoring agreement is long long past. She has given so much of her time, energy, and years of gleaned knowledge to us. Without her guidance, we might still be stumbling lost through the maze of resources and techniques needed to develop our dream of a sustainable, soil-enhancing, community health-improving market vegetable garden. More than that, she has helped me personally with resources for growing my dairy goat and fiber sheep operation, even though that was not what was required of her. Eileen is a valued member of her community and the farm community at large. A gracious and generous human with a wonderful sense of humor, there are no words for me to tell you how very grateful we are to have Eileen as our mentor and now as our friend. Through her, we are fulfilling our heartfelt dream to produce healthy food for our local community, including those who could not otherwise afford healthy produce. She sparked our love for farming in this way and we are forever thankful.”
Stephanie is the owner and proprietor of AppaLatin Farmstead. She is a graduate of the Organic Growers School’s Farm Beginnings program and a local farmer and food advocate. She is the recipient of the 2022 Emerging Organic Educator award for already having a significant impact on her community. Although her farm is young, nominees lauded her commitment to providing food for her community and for her dedication, steadfastness, and deep civic and community responsibility.
Stephanie is a former sales director turned regenerative farmer. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from the University of Central Florida in 2004. She began her career teaching and later transitioned to the financial sector. She is an avid traveler and spent two years traveling internationally with her husband. During her travels, she earned her Permaculture Design Certificate from Punta Mona Center for Regenerative Design & Botanical Studies and her 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Certificate from Himalaya Yoga Valley. She and her husband purchased an old tobacco farm in 2018 in Madison County, NC where they operate The AppaLatin Farmstead – a small regenerative farm practicing permaculture, indigenous agriculture, and food justice. She focuses on growing culturally significant crops and celebrating her Cuban-Puerto Rican heritage through her value-added food products.
“I am nominating Stephanie because as a POC farmer and OGS facilitator, she has been on the path to bridging the gap in Madison County around food justice. Stephanie has been so dedicated to not only farming but the education of what stands out for me is her commitment to food justice, particularly in Madison Co. She provides food for the community but also healing and a sense of community. This is exactly what the world needs. She farms using permaculture and regenerative agricultural practices. Stephanie is a woman of dedication, steadfastness, and feels a deep civic and community responsibility.” –
2021 Emerging Educator Awardee
Tamarya Sims is a Farm Beginnings graduate and launched their farm business, Soulfull Simone Farm, focusing on cut flowers, in 2021. They graduated from UNC Asheville with a degree in Environmental Studies, and after college pursued environmental education and learning how to grow food. Tamarya is a dedicated grower, pivoting last spring in their role on the SAHC community farm to grow food to give away to those in need due to the pandemic.
They volunteered at numerous community gardens showing their commitment to food access and education, like the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens. Tamarya loves teaching, photography, gardening, herbalism, beekeeping, and raising chickens. They are passionate about food justice and making farm and garden education accessible to all people. Check out their Black History month project on @plantswitht, featuring Asheville’s African American led community gardens.
2021 Organic Educator Awardee
Patryk Battle is a teacher, mentor, and farm and garden manager for Living Web Farms in Mills River, NC. He has developed agricultural systems including intensive cover cropping at Sparkling Earth Farm, Highland Lake Inn, and Mountain Air Community Organic Garden. He has written for local and national publications and has been featured on local and national radio and television.
Patryk is a dear friend of OGS having served on the steering committee that helped found OGS! He is certainly one of the more beloved presenters in the annals of OGS. Quirky and kind, he brings a new spice to a seasoned presentation each and every time. His audience leaves his sessions both educated and entertained.
Dr. Jeanine Davis
2020 Organic Educator Awardee
Jeanine Davis, PhD. is an extension specialist and researcher in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. She is located at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center near Asheville in western North Carolina. The objective of her research and extension progras is to help farmers improve the sustainability and profitability of their farms. An emphasis is placed on exploring new crops, such as hops, truffles, hemp, medicinal herbs, and organic farming. Jeanine is the lead author of the book ‘Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals”.
2019 Organic Educator Awardee
Ira Wallace is an organic grower, author, speaker, visionary, and worker/owner of the cooperatively managed Southern Exposure Seed Exchange which offers over 700 varieties of open-pollinated heirloom and organic seeds. Ira serves on the boards of the Organic Seed Alliance, the Open Source Seed Initiative and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF). She is an organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello in VA. Her book, The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, is available online and at booksellers everywhere.
2018 Organic Educator Awardee
Chuck Marsh (1951–2017) was a permaculture educator, horticulturalist, consultant, popular speaker, ecovillage designer, and dedicated activist. He was the founder and operator of Useful Plants Nursery, is co-founder of Earthaven Ecovillage near Black Mountain, NC, and was steadfastly dedicated to restoring the sacred relationship between humans, plants and the whole of nature. He will be sorely missed.
2017 Organic Educator Awardee
Tom Elmore is co-owner and operator of Thatchmore Farm, a certified organic, mixed vegetable farm in Leicester NC. He has grown certified organic fruits and vegetables for 25 years and serves on the Boards of the NC Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association. He was a founder and long-time board member of Organic Growers School. He is dedicated to organic education, sustainable agriculture, and local community.