Save the date for GivingTuesday, launching November 30th!
GivingTuesday has become a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.
Organic Growers School is enthusiastically joining this movement with our Give to Grow Fund, we are raising money for scholarships starting now! To serve our mission in accessibility, we want to ensure that anyone interested in learning to farm and garden organically can access our programs, workshops and resources -regardless of ability to pay.
In the next few weeks, we will be interviewing scholarship recipients and sharing their personal stories on how they got started farming, their farm victories, and how they are overcoming barriers as new and established farmers.
Farming is an increasingly challenging profession in which to thrive, and we are here to meet those changing needs and support farmers during every part of their journey. Our training and support ensures more fruitful, environmentally responsible farms, and long term sustainability for independent agricultural businesses and backyard gardeners.
The AppaLatin Farmstead
Our first story comes from Stephanie and Jeremiah of The AppaLatin Farmstead, which is a farm and homestead located in Marshall, NC. Stephanie and Jeremiah use permaculture and indigenous agriculture practices to grow produce for their value added food business, which is driven by its mission for food justice in the LatinX community.
What brought you to OGS and farming?
My husband, Jeremiah, and I left our careers in finance almost 5 years ago. We were high earners with bright futures. The corporate ladder was ours to climb and we were so close to the top – yet we were feeling unfulfilled and chronically stressed. We had reached the point of corporate burnout and didn’t have the tools to manage through it. We took a leap of faith and set out on sabbatical. We had two tickets to Mexico and no back-up plan. We packed all our belongings into a POD and set out on our journey. We hoped that opening ourselves up to the universe would allow us to find our calling and live more balanced lives. Looking back, we could’ve done things differently – saved more money, negotiated a return contract; but we felt desperate and we knew we would have to do something bold or we would do nothing at all.
We learned about permaculture while living in Costa Rica. We made friends with some of the locals and were invited to join an “edible journey” through a neighbor’s permaculture garden. We were so impressed and inspired that we decided to attend permaculture school in Costa Rica later that year. In the meantime, we continued to travel. We lived on farms throughout Europe and Latin America. When we returned for permaculture school, we knew we wanted farming and permaculture to be part of our future. Amongst all the valuable things we learned in permaculture school – we learned that the area of Eastern Tennessee, Northern Georgia, and Western North Carolina are the most biodiverse in North America. And although we were searching for property in Costa Rica, we decided to make a trip to Asheville and check it out. It was during this time, while looking at land in WNC, that we learned about Organic Growers School. We were at a restaurant in Little Switzerland when I saw an ad for Farm Beginnings on a pinboard by the restrooms. We took it as a sign from the universe and a year later we became Farm Beginnings students.
Describe your farm and what you are growing/raising.
We are a 6.5 acre permaculture farm and homestead located in Marshall, North Carolina. We grow herbs and vegetables – specializing in Latin pepper varieties. Our annual vegetables grow on 1/10th of an acre and we have 3/4th of an acre dedicated to our perennial food forest. We are adding two high tunnels for next season – thanks to the NRCS High Tunnel Grant program.
Our farm utilizes permaculture and indigenous agriculture practices to grow produce for our value added food business. Our value added food business is driven by its mission for food justice in the LatinX community.
How has OGS helped you on your farming journey?
My husband and I are both Farm Beginnings graduates and have attended two OGS Spring Conferences. OGS helped us by providing an educational path that gave us the necessary resources and confidence to continue our farming journey. We are first generation and second career farmers. The path for us was not clearly marked until we found OGS.
What are 1 or 2 things that OGS / Farm Beginnings/course offerings taught you?
OGS taught us that a career in farming is possible, even if you don’t come from a history of farmers. One of the first things we did in Farm Beginnings was to create a Holistic Goal for our farm and this has served as a driver for our decision making on the farm.
What progress do you feel you have made? How would you define success in your farm/gardening endeavors?
We have made significant progress since starting our journey. Our plants, produce, and food products were available at 6 local farmers markets this season (vs one market in our first season). We have friendships and partnerships in the local farming community, although we knew no one when we started. We have a name, logo, website, social media – all of which were only a dream less than two years ago. We have nurtured thousands of plants and served hundreds of customers. We are spreading messages of care, community, and culture through our real-life and digital platforms.
What are some barriers you’ve faced in your farming journey? (and how have you overcome them?)
We have faced many barriers on our farming journey – inexperience, access to capital, access to goods, bugs, disease, a global pandemic. Our ability to adapt and change have allowed us to overcome barriers – although this is not a linear experience, as we continue to face these barriers today.
Is there anything you would have done differently in retrospect?
There are a lot of things we would have done differently. We are constantly learning and evolving as farmers. My biggest takeaway is to invest in yourself as a farmer. Your farm and your health are worth it. Purchase the proper tools, invest in infrastructure, wear good shoes, ask the stupid questions. We took a lot of shortcuts getting started that made the getting started harder.
What can you say about your farming experience overall? What has been your most triumphant moment during your growing experience?
Overall, we are blessed to be farming in WNC. We are living our dream. We have our hands in the dirt. We are healing ourselves and the land.
To keep up with Stephanie and Jeremiah, follow their farm journey and check out their products, head to their website!
Author: Julie Douglas
Julie is the Marketing & Communications Associate. She is the owner and Clinical herbalist at Wildkrafted Kitchen, a holistic healthcare company in Asheville, NC. Julie is a medicinal herb grower, ethical wildcrafter, educator, and formulator of internal and external medicines. After graduating with an AA focusing on Photography and Ceramic art, Julie went on to pursue their passion for sustainable small-scale agriculture in Washington state where she apprenticed on various organic farms. After discovering their affinity for medicinal herbs, they moved to Asheville to study Holistic Herbalism at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine. Julie’s main goals are to make alternative healthcare accessible to marginalized communities, decolonizing herbal medicine, and be part of mutual aid networks which strengthen and empower the community.