Curriculum & Schedule
Farm Beginnings® includes a variety of educational opportunities: business planning courses, conferences, farm tours, mentoring, and networking—all led by experienced farmers. The listed 2019–2020 Farm Beginnings® details will give you an overview of program dates and curriculum trajectory (please note, some dates subject to change). Click on the items below to reveal course descriptions. To download a PDF version of the course descriptions, click here.
2019–2020 Farm Beginnings® Schedule
Oct. 13, 2019—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..
Oct. 30, 2019—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
Nov. 6, 2019—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.
Nov. 17, 2019—Our Food System & Racial Equity, Principles of Sustainable Ag, Soils 101
Sunday, 10-5 pm
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. In part two of the day, we explore the principles of sustainable agriculture and delve into soil health.
Dec 4, 2019—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
Dec. 15, 2019—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 .
Jan. 4th, 2020—Business Planning & Economy of Scale
Saturday, 10- 4 pm
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.
Jan. 22, 2020—Financial Planning 103: Cash Flow
Wednesday, 6-9 PM
In Session 8, 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.
Feb. 1, 2020—Marketing Basics & Principles of Sustainable Ag 102
Session 9 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. Principles of Sustainable Agriculture Part 2: Farm energy flow diagrams introduction and work time.
Feb. 12, 2020—Land Assessment & Access
Wednesday, 6-9 PM
Session 10 provides exposure to strategies and issues around farmland access including leasing, buying, conservation, land design, management and use.
Feb. 22, 2020—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.
Feb 26, 2020—Getting to Understand Buyers & Networking
Session 11 introduces a panel of food buyers and regional businesses who support local farms through purchasing are invited to answer specific questions about their product needs, how to best communicate with them, and the challenges and expectations they have when working with local producers.
Mar. 6–8, 2020—Spring Conference
Friday–Sunday, all day
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.
Mar. 18, 2020—Growing Season Learning Plan
Wednesday, 6-9 PM
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.
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.
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, 2020—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. 13, 2020—Final Project: Farm Proposal Presentations
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 Farmer Programs Coodinator, Nicole DelCogliano at firstname.lastname@example.org
OGS Farmer Programs are made possible by our farmer network and our funding partners: USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Grant #2016-70017-25341, USDA Rural Business Development Program, Community Foundation of WNC, Polk County Community Foundation, CLIF Bar Family Foundation Our Growth Partners (year-round program support) are: Carolina Farm Credit, Earth Tools, Biltmore Company, Buchi, Living Web Farms, and Chelsea Green Publishing. Our Media Sponsors are Hendersonville Community Co-op, and WNCW.