- OGS Launches 2017 Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training Program, participants completed the classroom portion in March, and are now attending CRAFT Farm Tours, field days with our partners the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and completing their Growing Season Learning Plans. See pictures here. Farm Beginnings® accomplishments listed here:
- The 2016-2017 Class began in October 2016.
- Participants completed the final 5 of 13 Winter Sessions of the program January-March
- Participants are currently participating in CRAFT and the SAHC Incubator Farm Workshops Series, as well as completing their own Growing Season Learning Plan and preparing for the Full Farm Plan Proposals that they’ll present in September.
- Staff attended the Farm Beginnings® Collaborative Annual Meeting in Portland, Maine in March.
- Read about two 2015-2016 Farm Beginnings® graduates
- OGS Farm Beginnings® was approved as a Farm Service Agency Educational Vendor
- Currently recruiting for the 2017-2018 Farm Beginnings® class, this year we will be adding a one-on-one mentorship component for participants.
- Western NC Women in Ag Gathering hosted on the following dates:
- CRAFT Farmer Round Tables: How to Not Spend Money on the Farm, Rates & Techniques, Farmer Book Club: The Lean Farm
- Full CRAFT Farm Tour Schedule. So far we’ve held 7 CRAFT Farm Tours this season:
- Thatchmore Farm – Season Extension & Green Energy
- Grassroots Farm & Dairy – Apprentice Orientation & Beginning Farmer Panel
- Glorious Forest Farm – Forest Farming & Foraging
- Living Web Farms – Hand Tools & Walk Behind Tractor Field Day
- Bluebird Farm – Farrowing & Year-Round Hog Production
- Franny’s Farm – Agritourism
- Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm – Tools for Everybody’s Toolkit
- Green Toe Ground – Biodynamic Farming
- Featuring 26 Western NC farm profiles on Apprentice Link and OGS Farm Network (the consumer oriented component). Currently accepting new applicants.
- Holistic Financial Planning 2-day Workshop for 21 Farmers with Cree Bradley hosted on January 9-10th, 2017, 9-5pm.
- Farm Dreams full-day Workshop for an “Exploration for Farm Dreamers” on February 4, 2017
- Staff Training, Partnerships, and Collaboration
- Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group in Lexington, KY
- Farm Viability Conference in Albany, NY
- ASAP’s Business of Farming Conference in Asheville, NC
- Carolina Farm Stewardship Association in Durham, NC
- Farm Beginnings Collaborative Annual Meeting in Portland, ME
- Farm Beginnings Collaborative Facilitators Meeting in Duluth, MN
24th Annual Spring Conference:
- 24th Annual Spring Conference held March 10-12, 2017 with more than 150 classes over three days. Full Schedule.
- Friday full-day workshops included:
- Introduced Gabe Brown and Regenerative Agriculture Techniques to WNC to teach on Treating the Farm as an Ecosystem
- Hosted Althea & Matthew Raiford from Gilliard Farms as key note speakers
- Beginning Forest Farming full day workshop
- Full Spring Conference workshop schedule, 70+ workshops!!
- Saturday And Sunday Tracks included: Community Food, Cooking, Earthskills, Farmer Beginning, Farmers Intermediate/Advanced, Gardening, Herbs, Livestock, Mushrooms, Permaculture, Pollinators, Poultry, Soils, Sustainable Forestry, Sustainable Living, ‘And More!’ and half day workshops.
- Specifically 8 classes held in beginning farmer track
- See photos from the conference
Mentoring & Coaching Support for All Growers:
- OGS launches a coaching & consulting program for home-growers in Fall of 2016 and then expands the coaching and consulting program for all growers to offer site-specific education and support service to help growers move forward more quickly and easily on their land-based and food production projects.
- One-on-one education and support has offered growers a personal connection, additional outreach and networking for OGS, service aligned with our mission, an increase in implementation of sustainable projects, and exponential touches in the community.
With the help of Jillian Wolf, the OGS AmeriCorps Service Member we were able to offer education, outreach, partnerships, one-on-one support, and resources to more home-growers than ever before.
- Education for Home-Growers, Eaters, and Sustainability-Minded Folks:
- Launched six-part Organic Gardening Series (half classroom and half in the garden) with Diana Schmitt McCall in March to excellent reviews.
- Award Winning “Ask Tom” and “Ask Ruth” and our “New Grower” Blog by Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis.
- Earth Day Film & Panel Discussion on April 22nd to a standing room only crowd of 110+ people to view “Seeds: The Untold Story” followed by expert panel.
- Food Security and Disaster Preparedness Workshop hosted by OGS AmeriCorps Service Member, Jillian Wolf on May 20, 2017.
- Compost Happens! Half-day workshop with Brian Rosa in Fall of 2016.
- Two-day Charcuterie Workshop with Meredith Leigh and a Valentine’s Weekend Farm to Table Dinner with education component with OGS.
- Pollinator Celebration in Spring and Summer 2017 in partnership with the Buncombe County Beekeepers, Bee City USA, Lenoir Rhyne University, and the Lord’s Acre Farm, which included these programs:
- Introduction to Beekeeping on Sunday, June 4, at Veterans Healing Farm, Hendersonville, NC.
- All About Bees as part of the Gardens of Fairview Tour on Sunday, June 11, at The Lord’s Acre, Fairview, NC.
- So you wanna be a beekeeper? On June 24, at Lenoir Rhyne University, Asheville, NC.
- Homestead-Dreams Class being offered in October 2017.
- Expanded Outreach with OGS presence (and over 200 additions to the OGS newsletter) at the following events
- Fall 2016: Biltmore Culinary Event, Burton Street Agricultural Fair, North Asheville Tailgate Market, Give Local Kick-Off Event, North Asheville Tailgate Holiday Bazaar.
- Winter 2017: Seed Starting event at Sow True Seed, Home, Garden and Green Living Show.
- Spring 2017: North Asheville Tailgate Market, Mother Earth News Fair, Growing in the Mountains.
- Public Awareness & Direct Support: The OGS AmeriCorps Service Member supported Home-Growers in the following Ways:
- Administrative, volunteer recruitment and overall support of Fairview Garden Tour.
- Education for adults in the Shiloh Community Association to “get growing.”
- Promotional support for the Weaverville Garden Clubs Sustainability presentation by Laura Lengnick
- Distributed over 200 5-gal buckets from a local wholesaler for re-use by various members of the Asheville Buncombe Community Garden Network, the Buncombe Fruit Nut Club, and the Buncombe County Beekeepers Club.
- Guided over 330 callers and 50+ emailers to appropriate resources.
- Partnerships & Community Building:
- OGS attended 11 Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council Meetings in the Land Use and General Council between Fall 2016 and Summer 2017.
- OGS attended 3 Urban Agriculture Alliance meetings and participated in tasks such as listening sessions and planning and development.
- Staff: High staff retention in 2016-17 with increased attention to ‘Living Wage Verified’ compensation, team and trust building, and solid staff leadership and support systems. Monthly staff meetings for whole-organization updates. HR policies, staff evaluation procedures, staff manual and onboarding/orientation protocols in place.
- IT Systems: Fully networked all of our electronic documents and created systems architecture for ease of use and organization. Developed a new task management system in place to streamline individual and shared staff work including template design for repeat projects. Additional work this year includes database design and implementation, which is in process.
- Marketing & Communications: A new and exceptionally creative Marketing & Communications Coordinator has brought fresh ideas and new initiatives to OGS including a brand refresh and tagline update, continued IT systems organization and integration, technology training for staff, sponsorship support, new and improved naming conventions for website, intern support, video production, measuring impact through evaluations, increased attention to google analytics and google adwords, and the updating of our marketing plan for programs.
- Board: The Board now has 11 dedicated community board members with two exciting additions in 2017. Staff initiated more connection to board through more frequent meeting attendance, creation of social context to build trust, and engaging in board training and retreats. In addition, OGS has been accepted into the Non-profit Leadership Academy offered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield and will commit to this “intensive leadership learning lab” in 2017 and 2018
- Volunteers: Increased and enhanced year-round volunteer engagement through the development of volunteer guidelines, policies for handling inquires, increasing the visibility of volunteers, relationship building techniques, and honoring celebrations. Engaged more than 50 volunteers for specific capacity building projects.
- Resources: Significant streamlining of our grower resources both in-house and web based including an index of all our past Ask Ruth and Ask Tom articles, compilation of dozens of resources and referrals as well as protocol for email, phone, and in-person inquiries, creation of an event kit for our ongoing table display, an increase in our web presence, social media engagement, and image archives, and the creation of a WNC Resource list specifically for home-growers, ongoing addition to our photo archives.
- Strategic Planning & Measuring Outcomes: Evaluations planning and metrics development are underway in 2017 with the help of area consultants and a strategic vision refresh with board and staff in July of 2017.
Organic Growers School is a non-profit organization providing organic education since 1993. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and support people in our region to farm, garden, and live organically.