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Posted 2/17/2015

Part-Time Position

Job Title: Farmer Programs Associate

Job Description: The Farmer Programs Associate will support the creation of a comprehensive, regionally integrated, and nationally-informed farmer training program in Western NC. Tasks will include:

Program Development

  • Interview new and aspiring farmers in the WNC region to ascertain their obstacles, needs, and suggestions for an integrated training to start or expand farm businesses.
  • Contribute to our understanding, through research, collation and relationship building, of the educational assets of our regional allies in the area of farmer training. The goal is to incorporate their best practices and programs into overarching program under one school format.
  • Conduct an assessment of replicable farmer training programs across the country that have strong statistical backing, student references, curriculum data, and success rates.
  • Participate strategically in the development of the farmer training program in 2015. There are three partner organizations working together. This will include co-creating a year-long schedule, organizing classes and modules, recruiting and training farming and business planning experts for teaching, and producing feedback and evaluation systems.

Funding Procurement

  • Participate in fund raising for the OGS Farmer Programs, especially for the implementation of the program past this development year.

Outreach & Marketing

  • Clearly defining the target market and creating recruitment and pricing strategies as well as outreach mechanisms.
  • Participate as a team member to create the name, brand (overall feel, flavor), and look of the farmer training program so that it is integrated and clear to aspiring farmers and honoring of our allied partners.
  • Creating a marketing and outreach plan that spans the years 2016-2019.

Hourly Rate: $15/hr.

Duration: Starts 3/1/15 to 4/1/15. Ends December 31, 2015. Continuation of position depends on procurement of funding.

Hours: 15-25 hours per week.

Location: A combination of working from your home office and working in our office at AB Tech Small Business Center in Enka/Candler.


  • Solid communication & people skills.
  • Familiarity with sustainable farming practices & sustainable food systems.
  • Proven ability in systems thinking (the ability to see both the complex whole as well as the integration of diverse perspectives).
  • Funding Raising Experience.
  • Marketing Experience.
  • Skill and ease in working with groups including facilitation.
  • Leadership & professional experience.
  • Attention to detail and strong organizational skills.
  • Ability to synthesize information (input from farmers, from other national programs, and from regional organizations).
  • Well networked in WNC area with sustainable food & farming organizations.
  • Computer & internet literate including MS Office and Google docs.
  • Your own computer & home office.
  • A background in research and data collection a plus.

How to Apply: Please send cover letter, resume, & references to and be sure to put “Farmer Program Associate” in the subject line as we have more than one position open. Position will be open until filled.

Outcomes: The following outcomes are expected for this position:

  • Need, obstacle, and suggestion data from regional farmers is collected, collated, and assessed. Input from regional farmers and aspiring farmers is integrated into the curriculum development. Systems are created for ongoing farmer input into curriculum development.
  • We have a deeper understanding of the best practices in farmer training nationwide and access to various curricula for input into development of our program. The curriculum is developed or chosen based on clear, sound, and verified information from other regional programs across the country and integrated for a whole-farm planning training program. We will shortcut our own mistakes by learning from others who have implemented similar programs.
  • Success in receiving commitment, curriculum, and collaboration from local Ag partners for participation in a region-wide farmer training program. Regional allies are eager participants as teachers and curriculum providers for the year-long farmer training program to start in 2016.
  • The farmer program development is strategically guided by the data collected from the stakeholders, allies, and peers identified in #1-3.
  • A solid outreach & marketing plan is in place in addition to a well-defined brand.
  • Fund Raising is successful for this farmer training program as well as additional support for farmer programs.

Success, in this situation, is defined as the ability to incorporate data about farmer needs, regional training assets, and viable national programs into our planning process so that we can create a farmer training program of the broadest scope, substance, and merit. And that this training program is well funded, well designed, and implemented with confidence.

Structure: The program associate will work closely with Cameron Farlow, the OGS Farmer Programs Coordinator and Lee Warren, the OGS Executive Director, with ongoing evaluation and feedback loops so that we can track our success in collecting and disseminating this data. We will identify our desired results, collect and analyze relevant information and use our findings to inform and course correct our data collection as needed. We will also report the data collected to the partner team to guide the strategic conversation regarding curriculum development. This will be an ongoing process and the assessments will provide us with information to strengthen our individual and collective process as the year unfolds.

About Us: 

MISSION: Organic Growers School inspires, educates, and supports people to farm, garden, and live organically.

VISION: Organic Growers School is the premier provider of practical organic education in the Southern Appalachians. We are building a mutually supportive network of prosperous farmers, productive gardeners and informed consumers engaged in creating healthy communities.

Counties we Serve: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Yancey, Polk, Rutherford

Our History & Work: The Organic Growers School is a 501c3 non-profit organization that grew out of the volunteer efforts of a group of farmers and extension specialists who, in 1993, gathered to discuss the need for nuts and bolts, region-specific crop growing information applicable for farmers in Western North Carolina. From this meeting, OGS was born, along with a mission to deliver practical information about organic agriculture at a reasonable price.

About Our Farmer Training Program:

Farm Pathways, Access to Land, Access to Land, Livelihood, and Learning, is a developing farmer training for Western NC that will not only cover all facets of whole-farm business planning from fiscal management and marketing to sustainable production, but will pull together the best practices and training components of regional organizations into a one-stop “school-and-field” educational program.

To support the sustainability and profitability of WNC farms we must rebuild a path to agriculture for new and expanding growers. We must create a robust and dynamic training program based on the real needs of local farmers. To provide farmers with a structure of training and land access that allows them to successfully build and grow long-term farm businesses is to invest in the revitalization of our local food system.

For generations, children of farm families have been moving away and traditional methods of farm training and transfer have been lost. Yet despite the many obstacles towards farming, thousands are pursuing careers in agriculture. Many are returning veterans, second career seekers, college graduates, and young people with no prior farming experience. The OGS farming programs have increased by 75% from 2011 to 2013.

Our region needs an influx of farming entrepreneurs in order to sustain and grow regional production. New farmers are more likely to be interested in sustainable agriculture practices and running farm operations in the small-to-mid-sized range, which is ideal for the WNC. At the same time they are more likely to be inexperienced and underfunded. These farmers face many challenges including access to land, capital, skills, support, and training. If the retention and success rate of new farmers in our area is to increase, we need to provide assistance and training during the transition of new growers to viable agricultural business owners.  Farming today takes courage and perseverance, dedication and time, but few who start will succeed without help. The success of beginning farmers and the WNC region are entwined.

Farm Pathways will focus outreach on beginning and expanding farmers. Training will be inclusive of farmers of all ages, experience levels, and production models.

The outcome of the Farm Pathways project is an increased number of successful beginning and expanding farmers in WNC through a stellar training program. In specific, the project partners will create the farm production, business, and land access curriculum that beginning farmers in the region need to start successful farm enterprises.

We are shaping the future of sustainable agriculture. This is the right place, the right time, and the right players to create a comprehensive, region-wide training program to increase the number of viable farms in Western NC.

Lee Warren

Author: Lee Warren

Lee Warren has been homesteading and farming in cooperative community for more than 20 years. She is the Executive Director of Organic Growers School, which has been offering organic education to Southern Appalachia since 1993. She is the co-founder of Village Terraces CoHousing Community, a collaborative, off-grid neighborhood at Earthaven Ecovillage, and the manager of Imani Farm, a pasture-based cooperative farm. Lee is also an herbalist, writer, teacher, and food activist, with an avid interest in rural wisdom, sustainable economics, and social justice issues.

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