ASHEVILLE, N.C.–On October 15th, 2017 fourteen new and aspiring farmers met to start a year of learning and training on how to be successful farm business owners. The Farm Beginnings® program, in its third year, is a 12-month training that uses a mix of farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours, an extensive farmer network, and mentorship, tapping into the knowledge of the most innovative and skilled farmers in Western NC.
These fourteen students come from a range of farming backgrounds, aquaponics, medicinal herbs, horsemanship, and mixed vegetable production. The class starts with goal setting and values assessment, grounding participants in understanding their values and why they want to farm. Class two explores how to make decisions on the farm and this year’s students heard from Sara Jane Davis, from A Way of Life farm in Bostic, NC. She shared how their farm uses Holistic Management as a decision making framework. Students were led through real life farm problems, such as what to do when one marketing channel is struggling or when a crop failure is occurring, to make quick and informed decisions.
Photo provided by Organic Growers School
In Session 3, students heard from Beacon Village Farm on business start-up and capitalization. Beacon Village Farm is in its third year as a wholesale, certified organic vegetable farm in Black Mountain and Old Fort. They detailed their farm start up and explained the Farm Service Agency’s loan programs through USDA to the students. Business structures and insurance and certification requirements were discussed as well as how to model your business based on market demand.
In addition, each class has group work and individual activities that allow each participant to understand more about what it takes to run not just a farm, but a business. In class three, each student filled out an entrepreneurial questionnaire and the group discussed the skills it takes to be successful in business. Later on, hearing directly from farmers who have started their own business, cements the understanding of the skills it requires to be successful. Hearing from farmers is a critical component of teaching new farmers.
According to one of the participants, “[I]Loved listening to the farmers – it was riveting!” Farm Beginnings® takes the romantic idea of farming and brings it down to earth, by hearing from the farmers themselves and by letting students learn directly from them. This year’s 2017-18 class will graduate September 2018 after completing their mentorship component.
Organic Growers School (OGS) is the premiere provider of practical and affordable organic education in the Southern Appalachians, building a vibrant food & farming community by boosting the success of organic home growers and farmers in our region. A 501c3 non-profit, OGS is based in Asheville, NC, and has been serving the region since 1993.
–Nicole DelCogliano, Farmer Programs Coordinator, Organic Growers School
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