The Farm Beginnings graduates are starting to make an impact in WNC as they spread out into the farming and marketing community. Sam Finkelstein, 2017 Farm Beginnings graduate is a crew leader at Full Sun Farm in Sandy Mush, NC where he runs a crew of three and does the weekly North Asheville Tailgate market every other Saturday.   Full Sun Farm is a long time CRAFT member and organic farming mentor to many new and aspiring farmers in our region. Another Farm Beginnings graduate, Julia Grigg also apprenticed for Full Sun Farm and managed their farm crew. 

Sam began farming in the Asheville area in 2017 when he and his partner started an internship for Green Toe Ground farm. After two seasons with Green Toe Ground farm, Sam took a season off from farming to travel and work on a carpentry crew. His time away made him realize he wanted to get back into farming and find a way to pursue it as a marketable skill, one that would allow him to stay in agriculture but not necessarily start his own business. 

He accepted the job from Full Sun farm in order to continue learning from experienced growers and gain managerial skills. He hopes to one day be a farm manager and feels that his time within the seasoned operation is giving him valuable experience for the future.

Headwaters Market Garden (2018)

 Will and Savannah Salley of Headwaters Market Garden are currently in their third season as farmers, growing a mix of vegetables and specialty greens.  They are 2018 graduates from the Organic Growers School’s Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training  program and are incubator farmers on the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s community farm.  They sell at the Asheville City Market, bringing beautiful vegetables and attention to aesthetics in their market display. for them, The mentorship is an aspect of Farm Beginnings® that has been extremely helpful for us. Evan Chender of the Culinary Gardener is an amazing farmer and incredible mentor and we are so thankful to have him as a resource. His experience and guidance is immeasurable for us as new farmers.” 

New Roots Market Garden (2017)  

Krista Fayette and Stephen Rosenthal of New Roots Market Garden, in  Marshall, are entering their third full season as beginning farmers and selling at  three of Asheville’s premier farmers markets, North Asheville Tailgate market, West Asheville Tailgate market and Asheville City Market.“The connections that we have created through Farm Beginnings is what we cherish the most. Many different farmers took the time to share their stories, mistakes, successes and business models with us. These stories helped us in making many of our own first-time decisions. We now have a network of dear friends whom we can call on if we ever have a problem, need assistance, or just simply to talk, vent, and relate.” They graduated in 2017 and are active CRAFT members, hosting our inaugural Apprentice gathering the last 2 years at their farm. 

Krista and her hand tools.

Black Trumpet Farm (2018)

Gwen Casebeer graduated in 2018 and has begun marketing this year at Asheville  City Market south. She and her partner Jay Englebach were recently featured in WNC magazine with their Farm Beginnings mentor, Tom Elmore of Thatchmore Farm. At Black Trumpet farm in Leicester, they grow a variety of beautiful medicinal and culinary mushrooms, specializing in a cornucopia of mushrooms, including lion’s mane, oysters, and shiitake. while also engaging in wild foraging. They have a range of animals on their small acreage farm, including donkeys and ducks. Gwen’s mentorship with  Tom Elmore was a huge benefit to her and allowed her to access “a huge wealth of knowledge in the community.” He lends them tools, shows them how to fix equipment, and shares hands-on wisdom that can’t be learned from books.

Organic Growers School has graduated 43 farmers in the last 4 years and will graduate  55 by September 2019.  Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training is entering its fifth year offering a year long farmer training. Organic Growers School will begin this year’s program in October 2019 at Creekside Farm & Education Center at Walnut Cove in Arden, NC and is currently accepting applications. The 2019-2020 program will continue a partnership with Living Web Farms who offers a diversity of farm and organic living workshops that students will have full access to, in addition to on-farm workshops at the The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC . Applications will be accepted for the program on a rolling basis until  September 15th, 2019. Early bird discount of $100 off for applications received by August 1st. For more information and to apply for Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training visit:

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.