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 weekly classes includes presentations, activities and farmer panels aimed at teaching students the core pieces of planning a farm business: goal setting, matching production to market strategy, assessing feasibility, basic financial and accounting concepts, the legalities of farming, and sources of capital.
Woven into the curriculum are the topics of equity and justice in the food systems, including examples of realistic ways to approach these within the scope of your business models. Students enrolled have access to individual guidance and feedback from course instructors during and after the course, develop a strong farmer to farmer network and have the opportunity to share personalized farm business plans with instructors and peers in order to receive constructive and individualized feedback.
2021–2022 Farm Beginnings® Schedule
(Note: the 2022-2023 schedule will be available closer to the course start date)
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
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.
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. 2022—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.
Session 11 provides time to work on growing season learning plan, enterprise development, marketing and holistic planning
March 2022—Spring Conference
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 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.
Participants are matched with a Mentor Farmer for 15 hours of one-on-one support and skill building during the growing 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.
Sep. TBD—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 our Director of Programs & Human Resources, Nicole DelCogliano, at firstname.lastname@example.org
OGS Farmer Programs are made possible by our farmer network and our funding partners: Blooming Prairie Foundation, Community Foundation of WNC, CLIF Bar Family Foundation, Cornell Douglas Foundation, Harry Chapin Foundation, New Visions Foundation, Patagonia, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, UNFI Foundation, Walnut Cove Members Association, WNC Bridge Foundation, and USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Award #2021-70033-35717. Our Growth Partners (year-round program support) are: Carolina Farm Credit, Buchi, Living Web Farms, and Gaia Herbs. Our Media Sponsors are WNCW, Asheville FM and Blue Ridge Public Radio.