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Organic Growers School and Growing Rural Opportunities Partner on  offering Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training in Western NC. – Applications Open!

    Organic Growers School’s Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training is partnering with Polk county’s Growing Rural Opportunities (GRO)  in 2018- 19 for our year long farmer training. Organic Growers School has graduated 36 farmers in the last 2 years and will graduate 50 by September 2018.  Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training is a 12-month training that uses a mix of farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours, and an extensive farmer network, tapping into the  knowledge of the most innovative & skilled farmers in Western NC.

Organic Growers School (OGS) will begin this year’s program in October 2018 at the Mill Spring Agricultural Center in Polk County and is currently  accepting applications. New in the 2018-19 program will be local farm tours offered by Polk county farmers, plus the support of GRO. According to Patrick McClendon of GRO, “ Connecting farmers to one another is a critical component of success and providing the education that assures their operation will stand the test of the time is one of the most important things that any organization could do. OGS’s program fills a void of training in our region that assures not only are farmers  becoming more resilient, but our communities as well.”

According to current student, Nikki Hamblin, who is developing her urban farm business, Big Hava, with her partner Jess Critchlow, “ Farm Beginnings has help me to articulate my goals,  short term and long term. Nicole (DelCogliano) and the course have helped me to be  more methodical and see the value of each step along the way.” Jess and Nikki plan to launch their farm business in the next year, after their mentorship with Eileen Droescher of Ol Turtle Farm, who has over 20 years of farming experience here and in the Northeast.

Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training is designed to offer beginning and expanding farmers the practical skills and knowledge needed to start and grow successful long-term farm businesses. With a focus on sustainable agriculture practices, the course is taught by established farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs from across Western NC, such as Balsam Gardens, Beacon Village, Against the Grain,  Green Toe Ground, Rayburn Farm, Bluebird Farm and A Way of Life Farm. The course is open to aspiring, beginning and expanding farmers in Western NC and surrounding Southern Appalachian states – Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Farm Beginnings Farmer Training was developed to address the needs of the regional farming community and offer a comprehensive farmer-led training course to better prepare the next generation of farming professionals in Western NC.  It is a part of the national Farm Beginnings® Collaborative, recognized as “a model that is creating strong new farm businesses across the country” by Kathleen Merrigan, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture (in her 2012 remarks to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program directors).

The one-year farming training program consists of 200+ hours of training time including: 60 hours of whole farm business planning sessions; 45 hours of production training through field days on sustainable farms around WNC and on the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm; 40+ hours of classes at Organic Growers School’s Annual Conferences; and 8 hours at ASAP’s Business of Farming conference. The mentorship component adds an additional 15+ hours of one-on-one guidance from an  experienced farmer mentor.

Nicole DelCogliano, Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training Coordinator, states, “We have moved our program to Polk County this year to be able to have farmers from outside the Buncombe region access our programming. We know there is a need for this training and by offering it in different locations year to year, we hope to be able to reach more beginning farmers.” Patrick McClendon of GRO knows, “ the struggle for any entrepreneur is massive but to also couple the woes of starting a business with the risks of weather, pests, and disease is stressful for new farmers & potentially catastrophic for their endeavor. This program helps guide the process of creation, smooths the bumps of expansion, and create a sustainable model for a career in agriculture.”

Applications are being accepted for the program on a rolling basis until  September 15th, 2018. This program is a part of the Farm Pathways project, funded by the USDA BFRDP, with  partners WNC Farm Link and Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy. The program fee for the one-year, 200-hour program  is $3000, similar to other national and regional year long training courses. Scholarships and payment plans are available. For more information and to apply for Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training visit:




Nicole DelCogliano

Author: Nicole DelCogliano

Nicole DelCogliano is Farmer Program Coordinator at OGS. She teaches the year long Farm Beginnings program to new and beginning farmers. She also farms in Yancey County with her husband, at Green Toe Ground farm.

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