Farm Beginnings: Year-Long Farmer Training. $100 Early-Bird Discount! Apply by August 1.

Farm Beginnings® Instructors

Audio Clips

Listen to audio clips of facilitators below:

Against the Grain – Holly Whitesides

Holly Whitesides owns and operates Against the Grain in Zionville, NC with her husband, Andy Bryant and 2-year old daughter, Beatrice.  ATG was founded in 2012 and is a 35 acre diversified, direct market farm that located 15 minutes from downtown Boone.  In the spring of 2013, ATG began practicing Biodynamic farming, and became certified under Demeter, Int. in the spring of 2016.  Approximately 2 1/2 acres of certified Biodynamic and Organic vegetables are grown on the farm, in addition to a hand full of seed crops.  The farm also produces Animal Welfare Approved, pastured chicken, turkey, pork, beef and goat on the remaining pastures and woodlands.  The focus at ATG is to nurture the soil in order to grow high quality, nutritious food for our local community.

A Way of Life Farm – Sara Jane & Jamie Davis

Sara Jane and Jamie started A Way of Life Farm in 2009 and have since added two boys, Alder anawayoflife1d William to the scene.  We grow vegetables, strawberries and pasture-raised pork for sale. This commercial production fits within a broader permaculture design that also includes the development of fruit and nut orchards and mushroom production.  In addition, we have perennials including blueberries, blackberries, and a wide array of home-use fruit trees, as well as bees. A combination of sustainable practices including bio-intensive raised beds, cover cropping, Kinsey-Albrecht method, keyline plowing, Holistic Management, and permaculture design are used throughout our land.  About 90% of our time is spent growing vegetables. We start our own vegetable transplants from seed and propagate perennials in a permanent greenhouse.  Over 30 types of vegetables and herbs are grown primarily outdoors in raised beds.  We also grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and winter greens in a large hoophouse and other veggies in low-tech, movable “caterpillar tunnels”.   A tractor is used for initial bed preparation, but most of our work- planting, weeding, harvesting- is done with hand tools.  We both work full time on the farm, selling our products through farmers’ markets, CSAs, restaurants, and wholesale.


Balsam Gardens – Steven Beltram & Becca Nestler

Balsam gardens is an urban farm in Asheville, NC.  In the 2015 season we produced 12 acres of certified organic produce, several thousand broiler chickens, 250 thanksgiving turkeys, 10 pigs and managed 450 laying hens on two properties within the city limits.  We wholesale all of our products at this time.  We started our farm in 2007 in Sylva, NC on a 1/16 acre market garden that we sold at the Jackson County Farmers Market.  We moved our farm to its current locations in the winter of 2014-2015.


b.village2Beacon Village – Mike & Danielle Hutchison

Beacon Village Farm is family-owned and operated by Mike and Danielle Hutchison. Equipped with more than a decade of agricultural experience and education, the pair has been growing produce for the local community on land in Black Mountain and Old Fort since 2012. Mike and Danielle are dedicated to growing high-quality annual vegetables, while cultivating a viable farm operation where the couple is able to teach their two sons, Coen and Max to grow, learn and live sustainably. By participating in the New Sprout Network Grower program which sells organic produce to regional wholesale markets, Beacon Village Farm has been able to expand from one sustainably grown acre in production in 2014 to over thirty certified organic acres in production in 2017!


Bluebird Farm – William Lyons & Marie Williamson

William Lyons owns and operates Bluebird Farm with his wife, Marie, in Morganton, NC.  Bluebird Farm produces vegetables using organic methods. Pork, chicken, beef and lamb are all rotationally grazed and fed certified organic feed.  Their passion is feeding folks wholesome foods and managing a healthy farm ecosystem. Marie and William have been using holistic goals and financial planning to make Bluebird Farm provide full-time compensation for both of them for their full-time work. They continue to refine record keeping processes, management styles, and decision making tools to work toward a farm that is truly economically sustainable, properly compensating labor, paying for land, and providing long term stability.  They met at Warren Wilson College, where William worked in the organic garden and Marie worked with pastured sows and hogs.  After studying biology, ecology, and sustainable agriculture and gaining experience on farms around the United States and in Europe, Marie and William returned home to Western North Carolina in 2009 and started Bluebird Farm.


Laura-Lengnick copyCultivating Resilience LLC – Laura Lengnick

Laura Lengnick has explored agriculture and food system sustainability and resilience through more than 30 years of work as a researcher, policy-maker, educator and farmer.  Her work in soil quality and sustainable farming systems was nationally-recognized with a USDA Secretary’s Honor award in 2002 and she contributed to the 3rd National Climate Assessment as a lead author of the 2012 USDA report Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Effects and Adaptation. After more than a decade leading the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College, Laura left the college in 2015 to create Cultivating Resilience, LLC a private firm offering climate resilience planning services.  She is an affiliated researcher with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Local Food Research Center and a climate resilience planning consultant with Fernleaf Solutions, both located in Asheville, NC.  Her new book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate was released in May 2015 by New Society Publishers.

Full Sun Farm – Vanessa Campbell

Vanessa Campbell and her husband Alex have been growing vegetables, cut flowers, and strawberries in the Asheville area since 1996.  For most of that time, they have run the farm with the help of 1 – 4 seasonal apprentices. They strive to offer their apprentices an educational experience while getting the work done on the farm and having fun. Vanessa was a board member of the Organic Growers School from 2010 – 2017. She uses natural growing methods on their 4-6 acres of production and she sells her produce and cutflowers at two farmers markets and through a small CSA.



andrea1Grassroots Farm & Dairy – Andrea Van Gunst

Andrea began her farming career in western N.C. working for several long-time organic farmers in the region. After 3 years of working on other farms, she began her own 2 acre vegetable operation on leased land. This was her full time work, along with contract work in farmer support programs at Organic Growers School. In 2015, after a 5 year search for farmland, Andrea and her husband found and purchased a 25 acre farm with the help of a USDA – FSA loan. With this move they shifted their focus from vegetables to dairy sheep. Sheep dairying is a common practice in Europe and on the west coast of the U.S. but their farm will be the first commercial sheep dairy in North Carolina when the dairy is up and running in 2017. Andrea also holds a Masters in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from UW-Madison and teaches online environmental science courses for Ashford University.




Mountain Bizworks – Kimberly Hunter, Entrepreneurship Program Manager

Kimberly is a writer, speaker, and small business owner dedicated to developing the next four generations of entrepreneurs. She brings 25 years of business acumen and multiple sector experience and is a well-respected educator, strategist, and consultant to hundreds of leaders in WNC and the US.  Kimberly enjoys various aspects of agriculture, including: field crops, livestock, weaving, sewing and writing.

Rayburn Farm – Lauren & Michael Rayburn

Rayburn Farm is a small diversified herb, berry, and seed-growing farm in Barnardsville.  Michael and Lauren established the farm in 2013 and currently have 1.5 acres in crop production.  They primarily market their crops to Asheville’s value-added sector and restaurants. The Rayburns view their operation as an everyday experiment in producing flavorful ingredients and quality seed.  Michael is a horticulturist with 10+ years’ experience and now works full-time on the farm.  He is responsible for crop planning, all field operations, deliveries, and sales.  He also enjoys maintaining the farm’s Instagram feed.  Lauren has fulltime off-farm employment and handles the farm’s numbers and general farm administration.  She loves looking at spreadsheets and grant writing.


casara_chrisSouthern Appalachians Highlands Conservancy – Chris Link

Chris Link manages the operations on the trusts Community Farm.  He works on building and sustaining the infrastructure, farmer education workshops, and the Beginning Farmer Incubator Program.  Chris holds a degree in Planning & Landscape Architecture from Clemson University and a PDC from The Permaculture Institute.  Previously, Chris farmed on a year-round CSA community land trust farm in New England, and then most recently on a small, bio-intensive farm in Bostic, N.C.  Both farms practiced organic methods and incorporated a variety of rotational livestock.  Chris chose to learn at these specific farms because they demonstrate a symbiotic, productive relationship he sees as the future of sustainable land management, serving both the environment and the community.





t.shoalsTumbling Shoals – Shiloh Avery & Jason Roehrig

Shiloh Avery and Jason Roehrig farm at Tumbling Shoals Farm in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Tumbling Shoals Farm is a certified organic vegetable and fruit operation with about four acres in production.  Tumbling Shoals sells produce through an 80 family CSA, at the Watauga County Farmers Market, at the Downtown Hickory Farmers Market, through a multi-farm CSA, and to a few restaurant and grocery clients.  Shiloh has been employed full-time on the farm since 2008 and Jason since 2010.  The farm also now employs a crew of six seasonal workers.  Shiloh and Jason moved to Wilkes County from Pittsboro, North Carolina where Shiloh attended Central Carolina Community College Sustainable Agriculture program and Jason was a program director at RAFI-USA—an agricultural non-profit.  The two of them strive to practice sustainable farming, including being good environmental stewards, economically successful, and ensuring a good work environment for themselves and their employees.

WNC Farm Link – Suzanna Denison

Suzanna Denison is the land access coordinator for WNC FarmLink. She has been family farming all of her life, from growing up on a conventional turned organic vegetable farm on 150 acres in mid-Coast Maine, to currently working on a fourth generation cow-calf operation in the Big Sandy Mush community of western North Carolina. Suzanna’s background in variety of different farming practices has given her a realistic approach to farming, and encouraged her to believe that there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ farmers or farming, if it is in the service of either one’s family, community or region in the world.


cameronCameron Farlow – Farm Beginnings Facilitator

Cameron Farlow is the OGS Farmer Programs Director. She grew up in Greensboro, NC with dairy farming in her blood, and has made her home in Western North Carolina. After earning her undergraduate degrees from UNC – Chapel Hill in Anthropology and Geography in 2006, Cameron dove headfirst into the realm of sustainable agriculture and local food systems, and later completed her Master’s Degree in Appalachian Studies and Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University in May 2011. Gaining as much experience as she could she worked with several other regional nonprofits in the realms of farmland preservation, food security, farm to university, and land access for farmers. She came on board with OGS in April 2012. When she isn’t visiting farms all around this end of the state as Farmer Programs coordinator you can usually find her digging in her garden or adventuring alongside her husband Walker, the farm manager at Hickory Nut Gap Farm.


Nicole DelCogliano – Farm Beginnings Facilitator

Nicole DelCogliano is the OGS Farmer Programs Coordinator. She and her husband Gaelan began their farm Green Toe Groun, a diversified organic farm in Celo, NC over 16 years ago. They’ve grown the farm over the years, and now manage 16 acres of diversified organic and biodynamic produce and livestock, train farm apprentices each year, and raise their two girls. Originally from NY, she has farmed and worked in education in NC for the last 20 years. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from State University at New Paltz in New York, and has a Masters in Sustainability from the Center for Appalachian Studies in Boone, NC.

For questions, please contact Farmer Programs Coodinator, Nicole DelCogliano at

OGS Farmer Programs are made possible by our farmer network and funding in part by Carolina Farm Credit, Community Foundation of WNC, CLIF Bar Family Foundation, French Broad Food Co-op, New Belgium Brewing, Organic Valley - Farmers Advocating for Organic Farming, Simply Organic 1%, and by the USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Grant #2016-70017-25341. Read more about Farmer Programs' Funding Partners here.