Pre-conference Workshops

Pre-Conference Event Registration

Online registration for the WEEKEND of the 27th Annual OGS Spring Conference will close on Wednesday March 4th at 11:59pm. But registration for all pre-conference events (day-long workshops and the evening lecture) will remain open. 

If you have already registered, check here for details. 

Please note that walk-in’s are welcome for the weekend conference. Directions here. 

Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice

Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice

Leah Penniman

Some of our most cherished sustainable farming practices – from organic agriculture to the farm cooperative and the CSA – have roots in African wisdom. Yet, discrimination and violence against African-American farmers has led to our decline from 14 percent of all growers in 1920 to less than 2 percent today, with a corresponding loss of over 14 million acres of land.  Further, Black communities suffer disproportionately from illnesses related to lack of access to fresh food and healthy natural ecosystems.

Where:Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center, 285 Livingston St, Asheville, NC 28801

When: Friday, March 6, 2020, 5:30-8:30pm

Cost:  $5 to $25 sliding scale.

Video Interviews of Leah Penniman

Leah’s Upcoming Lecture & Workshop

Farmland Stewardship by BIPOC

Soul Fire Farm

Awareness of Farmers of Color

The Structure of Soul Fire Farm

Mushroom Cultivation at the Farm & Home

Mushroom Cultivation at the Farm & Home

William Padilla Brown & Leif Olson

Edible mushrooms available at the grocery stores have traditionally been produced at huge industrial scale farms using expensive equipment. However, advances in accessible small scale cultivation techniques have made it much easier to grow on small farms and even home! In addition to being a highly nutritious food containing vitamins and macronutrients, mushrooms can improve the health of the farm and garden through turning carbon “waste” into high value food, providing a saleable harvest in the off-season, increasing the quality of animal feed, and improving the quality of crops and soil.

Where: Creekside Farms Education Center, 339 Avery Creek Road, Arden, NC

When: Friday, March 6, 2020, 9:30 to 4:30


More about the Mushroom Cultivation workshop

In this all-day workshop, participants will learn low cost techniques for growing mushrooms on commonly available materials as well as the logistics of mushroom growing at various scales. Workshop will cover: 

  • Growing Mediums: Learn how to use heat (pasteurization) and other methods to prepare substrate materials like straw, sawdust and woodchips as growing mediums for growing mushrooms.
  • Mushroom Logs: Discover straightforward methods for growing mushrooms on logs. We’ll discuss tree species, tree health, mushroom species, time of the year, methods for efficiently adding spawn, and maintenance of the logs from inoculation to fruiting.
  • Mushroom Beds in the Garden: Use materials such as woodchip, straw, or compost to grow mushrooms in your soil, either in gardens or elsewhere in the landscape. Get tips for higher yields and soil improvement.
  • Harvesting and Marketing: Explore the setup of both indoor and outdoor growing systems including the maintenance of moisture, temperature, and fresh air for ideal fruiting conditions. Once the mushrooms are fruiting, learn the proper techniques for harvesting and storing mushrooms as well as ideas for marketing and processing them into value added products.

Do-it-yourself mushroom cultivation can be fun and profitable. Whether you’re supplementing your income or growing for friends and family, learn the basics and give it a try at your farm or home.

Videos Featuring the Mushroom Instructors

The Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms

Techniques for Storing and Preserving

How to Start a Mushroom Business

Mushroom Marketing: What Varieties are the Most Saleable

The Best Small Scale Cultivation Systems

How They Got Involved with Mushrooms

Healing Our Soils through Compost, and Compost Tea: Safe & Natural Fertilizers

Healing Our Soils through Compost, and Compost Tea: Safe & Natural Fertilizers

Troy Hinke

Soils are the basis of all terrestrial life. A teaspoon of healthy soil contains close to a billion bacteria, many yards of fungi, and thousands of protozoa and nematodes. Through decades of poor management techniques such as ongoing tillage, chemical inputs, and compaction, soil has become degraded the world over. This results in a massive decline in fertility and structure, changes in salinity, loss of organic matter, erosion, and contamination. Composts and compost teas can bring life back to the soil through living organisms that help plants thrive.

Where: Living Web Farms, 174 Kimzey Road, Mills River, NC

When: Friday, March 6, 2020, 9:30 to 4:30

Cost: $60 with Saturday and/or Sunday conference registration, $75 without.

More about the Compost & Compost Tea workshop

Learn to steward and regenerate the soil-food-web through the use of soil amendments, compost, and compost tea (for plants not humans). Join Troy Hinke, former Rodale farmer and apprentice to Dr. Elaine Ingham, for an all-day workshop covering both knowledge and applied techniques. The workshop will cover:

  1. Overview of soil microorganisms and their relationship to plants
    • Roles of the main beneficial microorganisms in the soil food web.
    • Essence of compost and compost tea are microorganisms.
    • Cycling of nutrients and the interplay between soil microorganisms and plant nutrient availability.
    • Protective barrier on plant foliage and roots to shield against disease and pathogens.
  2. Review of large and small scale composting and compost tea setups
    • Tour of a windrow compost operation at Living Web Farms.
    • Pros and cons of thermal composting systems such as the Johnson-Su compost bioreactor. 
    • Tips on successful vermicomposting.
  3. Explore the difference between compost tea and compost extract
    • Tour of a commercial tea brewer using Living Web Farms’ equipment. 
    • Tips for brewing superior compost tea.
    • Design and structure of tea spraying programs for farms and gardens. 
    • Tips for brewing teas to favor different microbes, making infusions, and using organic additives with teas and compost extracts. 
  4. Navigate the confusing world of shelf-stable microbe products.

The aim of all of these topics is to get life in the soil and keep it there. Microbe-activated natural fertility is the safest and most natural way to rebuild the life in our soils.

Videos Featuring Troy Hinke

Applying Compost and Compost Teas:

The Effectiveness of Compost:

On Studying with Elaine Ingham:

Composting on a Home Scale:

Shifting Our Farming to Heal the Soil:

On Soil Health:

Upcoming Workshop on Soil Health:

Chickens & You: From Egg to Table

Chickens & You: From Egg to Table

Pat Foreman & Meagan Coneybear

There is a back to the land movement and it’s happening in backyards and on small parcels across the world. Raising chickens is fun, empowering, and assures that your food is grown that way you want it: clean soils, heritage breeds, and with proper and high quality food inputs. Some people are finding they can’t eat commercial poultry because of food allergies and sensitivities to the grain that the birds eat. With pastured production methods and heritage birds, you can become a backyard poultry grower and raise birds that you couldn’t otherwise source or afford. Learn everything you need to know from egg to table for small-scale backyard chicken operation including how to minimize work and maximize production and how to have fun doing it. Keep you and your family good health—occupy your backyard with chickens! In this all-day workshop, we’ll cover:

Where: Franny’s Farm, 22 Franny’s Farm Road, Leicester, North Carolina

When: Friday, March 6, 2020, 9:30 to 4:30

Cost: $60 with Saturday and/or Sunday conference registration, $75 without.

More about the Chickens & You workshop

The Art & Practice of Incubation: Incubation is critical to sustainability. Understand how to successfully raise replacement birds for the rest of your life. Through learning about embryology and seeing into eggs at different stages of development you will have the basics to become a solid incubator. We’ll cover:

  • Selecting eggs
  • The incubating process both artificially and with broody hens.
  • Broody hen management & feeding.
  • Hatching eggs (pipping).
  • The critical first week of chick-hood.
  • Chick nutrition for optimal health.
  • Primary chick health care. 
  • Chick-ability and why you must understand it as a life or death matter


Yard Pastured Poultry: Learn how you can turn your yard into a mini pasture and raise heritage birds in small batches throughout the seasons for year-round food. Practical and effective ways to employ chickens on the farm, garden, and homestead. We’ll cover:

  •   Use your yard as a mini-pasture (including rotational grazing systems)
  •   Chickens build topsoil, enrich soil fertility, and control insects, including ticks and fleas.
  •   Home-grown food sources, how chickens forage, what they prefer to eat, and how to provide fresh graze.
  •   Fencing, what works, and what doesn’t.
  •   Handling and communication for trust, gentleness and an emotional bond.
  •   Birdscaping, which is planting trees, shrubs. perennials and annuals that your flock will perpetually love.


Home Processing—Using Tools You Already Have or Can Make: Process your own chickens for healthy, high-quality meat and bones. You don’t need thousands of dollars of equipment to process birds. Learn how to humanely, safely, sanitarily and skillfully process your birds. Harvest as needed or all at once. We’ll cover:

  •   The power of knowing your meat source, how it was raised, fed and processed
  •   The sacred significance of taking a life—so that you can live
  •   The science & chemistry behind skilled meat processing
  •   Processing equipment that you have—or could easily borrow
  •   Hand plucking made fun
  •   Super simple evisceration & an educational anatomy lesson
  •   Nutritional differences of meat from heritage vs. commercial breeds
  •   Cold shorting & effective freezer packaging for long-term storage

Videos Featuring the Chicken Instructors

About Meat Birds:

How Meagan Got Involved with Chickens:

Why Heritage Breeds:

Sourcing Chicks:

Best Breeds for the Home Flock:

Getting the Most Nutritious Eggs:

Keeping Backyard Chickens:

POSTPONED: Water, Water Everywhere: Management Solutions in a Changing Climate.

POSTPONED: Water, Water Everywhere: Management Solutions in a Changing Climate.

This workshop is postponed until later in 2020. We’re very excited about it. Stay tuned for more details.

Lee Barnes, Tim Ormand, Melanie Brethauer, Ben Portwood, John Henry Nelson, and Emily Nelson

Water events are quickly becoming the most common and impactful of the climate change manifestations in our region. 50, 100, and 500 year floods are occurring multiple times over the course of a year as well as dramatic and ongoing drought. How do we prevent, prepare, adjust, and remediate? How do we design with adaptation and resilience in mind? 

Where: Auditorium at Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, 455 Research Drive, Mills River, North Carolina

When: Friday, March 6, 2020, 9:30 to 4:30

Cost: $60 with Saturday and/or Sunday conference registration, $75 without.

More about the Water, Water Everywhere workshop

For this all-day workshop we bring together thought leaders, farmers, engineers, and land designers for lectures, information sharing, design sessions, coalition building, and conversations on water solutions. Designed for land-owners, interested citizens, and growers of all scales, participants will come away from this workshop more water literate, specially through understanding the problems, the context, where to turn for support, best practices in land design systems, and a do-it-yourself toolkit of solutions (on a personal, local, regional, national, and global level). The curriculum will cover:

  1. Geological, Geographical, and Typographical: Understanding water in the mountains, microclimates, how run-off works, changes over time. 
  2. Water Damage: What’s possible with too much. What’s possible with too little. What we are facing with climate change.
  3. Water Systems: How is water being managed on your property but more importantly, on a city, county, state, national, and global level? How does both the natural and built environment contribute to water damage or water resilience? 
  4. Land & Site Design & Planning: Earth moving, keylines, berms, swales, drains, gullies, detention holding places, layers in the landscape, bodies of water, erosion control, rainwater collection and irrigation.
  5. Soil Health: The importance of water absorption and containment on land systems.

Solutions: Through breakout groups, panel discussions, interactive instruction, case studies, and Q&A explore all possibilities of this emergent and reparative thought process.