A new cohort of farmers graduate from year-long farmer training program
It was a sunny, perfect September day, that 20 of us gathered inside at the Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy’s incubator farm to share our dreams and future visions. After almost a year of learning together, doing introspective work, retooling dreams, seeing farms in action, and listening to myriad farmers and speakers, students gathered together one last time to graduate from Farm Beginnings®.
Each Farm Beginnings® student has gone through a full year of training, 13 winter classroom sessions, 3 conferences, participated in CRAFT and SAHC Incubator farm workshops, completed readings and farm proposal assignments,and over 200 hours of trainings, to fully graduate and complete Farm Beginnings®. These aspiring farmers came to this training with a dream and idea, and dedicated themselves to learning the field they want to enter. After a year of hearing direct from farmers about what they need to know and prepare for, one of our students reported, “ I don’t know of any way you can get all this information other than going door to door and stalking farmers!”
Our students have a range of interests that they distilled down over the course of the year to develop a Growing Season Learning Plan that they implemented April through September. This plan was a roadmap to continue skills and enterprise development and refinement. One of our students, Rolando Boye, has an extensive background in quality control for medicinal herb products, but is interested in moving into the production of these herbs. He grew 4 different herbs this season in a small space to begin to understand their specific needs, he has networked with the WNC medicinal herb community and stepped into offering his expertise on good quality control practices to other aspiring medicinal herb growers! He is currently searching for land with his family.
Another presentation focused on the first year successes of New Roots Market Garden, an ½ acre leased property that was spearheaded by Krista Wesch and Stephen Rosenthal. They began a diversified market garden this year, selling at a regional Asheville tailgate market and to some restaurants. As their season progressed, they responded to the wishes of chefs and began offering some foraged items. This also dovetailed nicely with their Holistic Goal, which includes time for nature, solitude and exercise. They have already broken even on their expenses this season and are on their way to making a profit!
The recurring theme throughout the student’s presentations this year was, “Be true to yourself.” This mantra was spoken by Franny Tacy at Franny’s farm during a CRAFT tour this year. Dreaming of a farm and having a farm are two very different things and Farm Beginnings® really helped students to understand why they wanted to farm and how they wanted to do it. Some of our students have concluded that they want their land enterprises to pay for themselves, but have shifted away from a livelihood generating farm. All referenced their holistic goal as a guiding principle that helped them to make decisions that reflected their values and desired quality of life. Others are on their way to implementing enterprises that will be income generating on leased or owned land, undertaking more education and apprenticeships or looking for land to own or lease to start their farm business. These outcome are all great successes!
We are so proud of our Farm Beginnings® graduates and will continue to watch and support them as they continue along their Farm Pathway! Thank you to our partners as well, WNC Farm link and Southern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy.
Quote from Farm Beginnings® graduate:
“Honestly, Farm Beginnings has changed my life for the better. I am leaving the course with functional knowledge of farm business, a wealth of resources and direction for my life. I can’t thank you all enough
Farm Beginnings is a year long farmer training course open to aspiring and beginning farmers. Check out more here.
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.