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 2018–2019 Farm Beginnings® schedule is coming soon. In the meantime, check out the curriculum from the 2017–2018 program which will give you an overview of what to expect. Click on the items below to reveal course descriptions.
2017–18 Farm Beginnings® Schedule—2018–19 coming soon!
Oct. 15, 2017—Starting on Solid Ground: Connecting Values and Goals
Session 1 introduces the Organic Growers School, the 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. 25, 2017—Holistic Goal: Future Resource Base
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. 8, 2017—The Formalities of Operating a Farm Business
Session 3 provides how-to and lessons related to the being in the “business” of farming. This session will include business structures, registering a business name, incorporation, farm taxes, insurance, and other legal and business requirements. Learn from a farmer’s perspective key steps for start-up and capitalization.
Nov. 18, 2017—Agroecology 101 and Soil Health
Session 4, we explore the U.S. food system and agricultural history. We’ll also cover ecosystem processes, soil health, and incorporating on-farm observation and monitoring skills utilizing the water, mineral, and energy cycles, as well as community dynamics to gauge ecosystem health.
Nov. 29, 2017—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. Begin to evaluate enterprises and how to match numbers with your ideas.
Dec. 13, 2017—Financial Planning 102
Session 6 digs deeper into enterprise planning. We will work with the enterprise decision guide, discuss minimum viable product and workshop enterprise ideas.
Jan. 10, 2018—Business Planning and Economy of Scale
Session 7 explores the value of developing sound business planning skills: what is involved in business planning, what decisions should be considered, and how to approach 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. 20, 2018—Introduction to Marketing and Agroecology 102
Session 8 introduces marketing concepts and how to put concepts together in a marketing plan that pursues one’s goals. Participants develop knowledge of farm business trends: what customers want and how to make the marketplace work for farmers. In the afternoon, we will delve deeper into ecosystems processes, on-site observation and monitoring.
Jan. 31, 2018—Financial Planning 103
In Session 9, 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. 10, 2018—Agroecology 103 and Land Access
Session 10 provides exposure to strategies and issues around farmland access including leasing, buying, conservation, land management and use. In the afternoon, we will cover last section of ecosystem processes, on-site observation and monitoring.
Feb. 24, 2018—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. 28, 2018—Getting to Understand Buyers and Networking
In Session 11, a panel of food buyers—both wholesale and retail—will share realities from the end consumer. Regional businesses who support local farms through purchasing are invited to answer specific questions about what their product needs are, how to best communicate those needs to local producers, and the challenges and expectations of working with local producers.
Mar. 9–11, 2018—Spring Conference
Friday–Sunday, all day
OGS Spring Conference offers a wealth of organic focused practical education opportunities. Over the course of two 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. 14, 2018—Growing Season 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.
Participants are matched with a Mentor Farmer for 10–15 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—CRAFT Farm Tours
Participants 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.
Participants attend 8+ field days oriented toward farm production that are hosted at the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm.
Sept. 2018—Harvest Conference
Specific dates TBD
The OGS Harvest Conference is a fall event featuring fall and winter growing, home cooking, fermentation, preservation. Participants will attend the Friday half- or full-day workshops and Saturday’s conference.
Sep. 15, 2018—Final Project: Farm Proposal Presentations
Saturday, all day
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 also serves as an 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, New Belgium Brewing, Simply Organic 1%. Our Growth Partners (year-round program support) are: Carolina Farm Credit, French Broad Food Coop, Mountain Rose Herbs, Earth Tools, Biltmore Company, Red Moon Herbs, Living Web Farms, and Chelsea Green Publishing. Our Media Sponsors are Hendersonville Community Co-op, and WNCW.