When Warren Lee applied to the Organic Growers School’s year long farmer training, Farm Beginnings, they spoke about the pull and draw of their family land in Roswell, Georgia as a motivating factor. It was their great grandfather’s land and had been passed down in the family. Farm Beginnings® is a 12-month training that uses a mix of farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours, mentorship, and field days. Warren had been pursuing their farm dream in the Northeast, including work on a farm in VT, a permaculture design course certificate, and a Masters in Ecological Design. All throughout those endeavors, they were being called back to their roots and land. “This has been something that I have not been able to stop thinking about for the past 4 years. I have worked different jobs and each time I do, the need to farm gets stronger. In my spare time the only thing I find myself doing is thinking about farming, planning the farm, designing, and generally getting pumped up about it,” they said.
When they found the Organic Growers School’s Farm Beginnings® program, it seemed a perfect fit. It was the needed structure and support for them to plan and vision and lay out a path to success. Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training is designed to build the practical skills and knowledge that farmers need to start and grow successful long-term farm businesses. The course is taught by established farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs from across Western NC with a focus on sustainable agriculture practices.
Warren has driven over 3 hours a few times a month to attend the Farm Beginnings® class. When I asked them what was different now after being in the class since October, they shared, “It is more encompassing than just looking at finances and numbers. I think I have a much better understanding of the realities of starting a business and where to focus. What I thought I was going to focus on in terms of crops and enterprises has changed based on what is realistic and what is in the market. Nailing down my holistic goal and nailing down why I want to farm has been invaluable.”
Warren has been paired with a mentor in Georgia, R and R Secret Farm. There, they will work one on one with a mentor to get specific farming, system design, marketing and finance questions answered. Warren will share their growing season learning plan with the mentor and use it to guide their learning over the season. “I am looking forward to getting started. I have been thinking about it for years. Farm Beginnings has been very worth it to me and has been the jump start I needed. I feel I am on a solid path to starting the farm I want and it is exciting.”
Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training is entering its fifth year offering a year long farmer training. Organic Growers School has graduated 43 farmers in the last 4 years and will graduate 55 by September 2019. Organic Growers School (OGS) will begin this year’s program in October 2019 at Creekside Farm & Education Center at Walnut Cove in Arden, NC and is currently accepting applications. The 2019-20 program will continue a partnership with Living Web Farm who offers a diversity of farm and organic living workshops that students will have full access to, in addition to on-farm workshops at the The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Community Farm in Alexander, NC . Applications will be accepted for the program on a rolling basis until September 15th, 2019. Early bird discount of $100 off for applications received by August 1st. For more information and to apply for Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training visit: www.organicgrowersschool.org/farm-beginnings
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.