Dallas is new Farrmer Programs Coordinator at OGS who is working in partnership with Certified Naturally Grown, a grassroots organization that centers farmers’ control for the standards of their products. Dallas is responsible for facilitating and implementing  a workshop series for new and seasoned farms across Southern Appalachia for the OGS and Certified Naturally Grown partnership. We’re thrilled to have her on board.

OGS first met Dallas last year through our Farm Beginnings Farmer Training program. In the following interview with our Farmer Programs Coordinator Nicole DelCogliano, Dallas describes what brought her to farming and work with the Organic Growers School…

Dallas Robinson grew up in eastern NC. As a child, “I thought farmers were pretty cool because they could fix a lot of things, got to be outside and had a lot of animals. I didn’t know any farmers until I was a teen and then it didn’t look as fun.” Dallas is a student in  Farm Beginnings, a year long farmer training. She is now in the mentorship part of the program, mentoring with an experienced farmer and gaining practical hands on skills as she works on her farm plan.

I sat down with Dallas to get a chance to understand more about how she got interested in farming that led her ultimately to OGS.  She recollected for me a time in school when someone came in and gave the students carrot seeds to grow at home. “ I was in 2nd grade. We were told to plant the carrot seeds. I got some mud and a bucket. Something did sprout in the bucket and I was so excited to grow something to eat, checked on my little bucket every day after school. After 2 weeks, someone dumped it out unfortunately… but I remember that feeling.”  

Dallas graduated from Vassar College in NY in 2014 . She never felt quite at home there and after college felt uncertain what her true path and calling were. A friend of hers kept mentioning the Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion program (BIPOC) at Soul Fire Farm near Albany, NY. At first, she didn’t feel like it was for her, but her friend persevered and she applied and attended. Once she arrived, she felt immediately connected. “I never felt something so powerful and real. “ Not only does the program teach practical, hands on farming skills, but the farmers and teachers  center the origin of organic agriculture in indigenous and African traditions. “Bringing that history to light was empowering, reminding all of us, that we didn‘t just get here in a net, we got here intentionally because we could grow food. We created a food system that we still use today.” It was the first time she heard Black, Indigenous and people of color centered as the originators, innovators and guardians of knowledge in organic agriculture and the  local food movement. It was a welcome home to her that solidified her decision and vision to create Harriet Tubman Freedom Farm in Whittakers, NC.

Inspired, she returned home to Edenton, NC and undertook 3 years of farm apprenticeships to learn more about actual growing and farming. During that time, she began to understand that many farms don’t have rigorous and good financial and business systems. When she found out about Farm Beginnings, she decided she should invest the time (and move to Asheville!), in order to give her farm the best chance of success. After taking the winter class sessions, “I feel way more confident and more clear about my goals.”

Harriet Tubman Freedom Farm will be on land procured by her  parents years ago. With some support from a  Reparations project, she will get going in 2020, with a ¼ acre of vegetables, herbs and mushrooms with a focus on farmers market sales. Longer term, she hopes to create an educational farm, sharing  Afro ecology, black heritage, stories and farming skills.

Dallas speaks highly of Farm Beginnings and shares, “You’ll have supportive people who want to do new or radical things along side you in  class, an immediate group you can bounce ideas off, DO IT!!! “

Author: Nicole DelCogliano

Nicole DelCogliano is Farmer Program Coordinator at OGS. She teaches the year long Farm Beginnings program to new and beginning farmers. She also farms in Yancey County with her husband, at Green Toe Ground farm.

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