Curriculum & Schedule

Organic Growers School: Farm Beginnings

Farm Beginnings® includes a variety of educational opportunities: business planning courses, conferences, farm tours, mentoring, and networking—all led by experienced farmers. The listed 2020-2021 Farm Beginnings® details will give you an overview of program context and curriculum trajectory (please note, some dates subject to change). Click on the items below to reveal course descriptions. (virtual class sessions descriptions coming soon!)

 

2020–2021 Farm Beginnings® Schedule

Starting on Solid Ground: Connecting Values & Goals

 

Session 1 introduces the Organic Growers School, Farm Beginnings program, and gives you an opportunity to get to know your classmates. You will also learn about Whole Farm Planning and the Holistic Goal,  proven tools for sustainable farm management..

Testing Questions & Decision Making on the Farm

 

In Session 2, Participants continue to develop their holistic goal and how our land, as well as our community and behavior must be in order to sustain our vision for generations to come.  You will also learn how to use the Holistic Goal in whole farm planning to develop an effective framework for decision-making that reflects your personal values, goals and life vision

Business Foundations

Session 3 covers topics related to the being in the “business” of farming,  including business structures, registering a business name, incorporation, farm taxes, insurance, and other legal and business requirements. Learn from a farmer’s perspective how they accessed land and capital to start their business and why they chose their business model. 

Our Food System & Racial Equity

In Session 4 we explore the U.S. Food System and agricultural history and provide a lens into racial equity in our current agricultural food system.  

Financial Planning 101

Session 5 examines your beliefs about money and introduces home and farm budgets. You will have the opportunity to see real numbers from an established farmer’s financial plan and learn about the realities of planning the financial part of the farm business.We will discuss minimum viable product and workshop enterprise ideas

Financial Planning 102

Session 6 digs deeper into enterprise planning. We will work with the enterprise decision guide.  Balance sheet exercises and aligning enterprises with resources will be explored. We will discuss minimum viable product and workshop enterprise ideas. A farmer will share their process for enterprise selection .

Business Planning & Economy of Scale

Session 7 explores what is involved in sound business planning, decision-making, and developing the skills to successfully start and operate a farm business. Economy of scale is explored to help participants align and ground farm enterprise ideas with financial needs and with quality of life.

Marketing Basics

In Session 8, introduces marketing concepts, including the 4 Ps and how to put these to use to develop a  marketing plan that pursues one’s goals. Participants develop knowledge of marketing channels and how to know your customer.  

Financial Planning 103: Cashflow

Session 9 introduces participants  will dissect the different components of management that occur on a successful farm business.  The farmer presenter will illustrate the value of budgeting annual income and expenses as a tool to help make decisions and plan for profit, including cash flow templates

Land Assessment and Access

Session 10 provides exposure to strategies and issues around farmland access including leasing, buying, conservation, land design, management and use.

Feb. 2021—Business of Farming Conference

Saturday, all day

Participants will attend Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s one-day Business of Farming Conference which includes workshops on business planning and financials, direct and wholesale marketing, agritourism, food safety, social media, and more. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in meetings with regional buyers and legal and marketing consultants.

Working Session

Session 11 provides time to work on growing season learning plan, enterprise development, marketing and holistic planning

March 2021—Spring Conference

Friday–Sunday,

The OGS Spring Conference offers a wealth of organic focused practical education opportunities. Over the course of three days, participants can choose from more than 100 different workshops. Students are encouraged to attend classes within the Farmers: Beginning Track and other workshops that align with their farm plan.

Growing Season Learning Plan

In Session 12 participants will reassess skill areas and identify the top five skills they’d like to develop in the upcoming season. They will also identify a specific farm enterprise to research for their farm proposal in September.

April–September—One-On-One Mentorship

Participants are matched with a Mentor Farmer for 15 hours of one-on-one support and skill building during the summer season. This time can be used both on and off the farm to develop production and business skills with an experienced farmer.

April–September—Field Days

Schedule TBD

Participants attend 8+ field days oriented toward farm production that are hosted at the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm and/or Living Web Farms

April–October—CRAFT Farm Tours

Schedule TBD – 1-2 Tours per Month, April – October

Participants can attend 10 farm tours hosted by CRAFT farm members. Topics change each year and cover practices like cover crops, vegetable production, livestock, marketing, production planning, and more.

September 2021—Harvest Conference

Friday & Saturday, all day (specific date TBD, usually first or second weekend in September)

The OGS Harvest Conference offers a wealth of organic focused practical education opportunities through 1 day intensives. Students are encouraged to attend workshops that align with their farm plan.

Sep. 12, 2021—Farm Proposal Presentations

Sunday, 10AM-3PM

This final session participants present their farm proposal in the context of their growing season experience, that synthesizes the work done throughout the course.  It is also a final end-of-program celebration to motivate students as they move forward on their own in pursuit of their farm dream.

For questions, please contact our Director of Programs & Human Resources, Nicole DelCogliano, at nicole@organicgrowersschool.org

OGS Farmer Programs are made possible by our farmer network and our funding partners: CLIF bar Family Foundation, Southern Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education UNFI Foundation, WNC Bridge Foundation, Harry Chapin Foundation, Walnut Cove, New Visions, and USDA Rural Development. Our Growth Partners (year-round program support) are: Carolina Farm Credit, Earth Tools, Buchi,  Living Web Farms, Gaia Herbs and Chelsea Green Publishing. Our Media Sponsors are WNCW, Asheville FM and BPR. .