Organic Growers School accepting applications

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Farm Beginnings was developed to offer a comprehensive farmer-led training course to better prepare the future generation of farmers in WNC.

Farm Beginnings was developed to offer a comprehensive farmer-led training course to better prepare the future generation of farmers in WNC.

Organic Growers School’s Farm Beginnings is a year-long farmer training course beginning on October 15, now open to applicants. OGS will be hosting regional drop-in information sessions for those interested to come and learn about what the program offers.

Farm Beginnings was developed to directly address the needs of the regional farming community and offer a comprehensive farmer-led training course to better prepare the future generation of farming professionals in western North Carolina.

Farmer Programs director, Cameron Farlow, and Farmer Programs coordinator, Nicole DelCogliano, will be available for one-on-one conversations to answer questions, discuss the details of the training, and to help candidates understand if they are ready to take the course.

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“It’s a commitment and a real opportunity, for those who want to farm as a livelihood, to understand what the year-long training encompasses, because it’s a lot, and for us to explain what the price tag is giving you. If you want to farm, you can’t afford not to take this class,” says Delcogliano.

Farm Beginnings is a part of the national Farm Beginnings Collaborative, and has been recognized as “a model that is creating strong new farm businesses across the country” by Kathleen Merrigan, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, in her 2012 remarks to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program directors.

Last year, Organic Growers School launched a pilot of Farm Beginnings with great success. It is the only Farm Beginnings program in the Southeast.

Farm Beginnings is a 12-month training that uses a mix of farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours, and an extensive farmer network, tapping into the  knowledge of  the most innovative and skilled farmers operating in WNC, with mentoring for success, from those such as Flying Cloud Farm, Aardvark Farm, Hickory Nut Gap, Bluebird Farm and A Way of Life Farm.

The course is open to aspiring, beginning and expanding farmers in western North Carolina and surrounding Southern Appalachian states – Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina.

According to graduate Quinn Asteak, from the 2015 class, “What I got from Farm Beginnings is a real understanding of what it actually takes to have a farm. Before going into the program I had a lot of lofty dreams about living a bucolic life. This class really taught me what it takes and the hard work that goes into farming by introducing us to real farmers and getting real numbers. It was also a really great way to connect to other local farmers and people who are just starting out, in order to create a network of folks who have the same passion and vision.”

The information sessions are drop-in. The Polk County session will be held Aug. 19, 2-4 p.m., Mill Spring Agricultural, 156 School Rd, Mill Spring, N.C. 28756.

The one-year course consists of 180+ hours of training time including 60 hours of whole farm business planning sessions; 45 hours of production training through field days on sustainable farms around WNC and on the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm; and 40+ hours of classes at Organic Growers School’s Annual Spring and Harvest Conferences; plus eight hours at ASAP’s Business of Farming conference.

The in-class course work will take place at the newly renovated Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Incubator Farm’s educational space in Alexander, N.C. This program is a partnership between the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, WNC FarmLink and Organic Growers School, Farm Pathways project, started in 2015.

The application deadline is August 31. Scholarships and payment plans are available. For more information and to apply for Farm Beginnings visit

– article submitted by Cameron Farlow