Organic Growers School is the premier provider of practical, affordable organic growing education in the Southern Appalachians. At OGS, our goal is clear: we want more organic farmers on the land. The Southern Appalachian region needs an influx of successful beginning and expanding farmers in order to sustain and grow regional food production.
With SARE PDP support, our Farmer Training Team will be well equipped to help farmers accomplish their goals. By increasing our Farmer Training Team’s capacity to understand, integrate, and teach sustainable agriculture, whole farm business planning, holistic farm management, agroecology, resiliency and financial literacy, we are raising the bar on the integrity, skill, and professionalism of farmer training in our region.
Training in Farm Beginnings® and Sustainable Agriculture Methods
Farm Beginnings is a comprehensive farmer training method which includes sustainable agriculture, whole farm business planning, holistic farm management, agroecology, adult learning styles, resilience implementation and best financial practices.
Educational Leadership and Team Development
Research shows that farmer-to-farmer education results in higher rates of relevancy, retention and applicability for beginning and expanding farmers. Identifying, activating, and encouraging experienced mentor farmers towards leadership and collaboration will give strength to the farmer-led model and expand the use of farmer-to-farmer training models as a proven approach for increasing the number of farmers using sustainable agriculture systems.
Training in Farm Beginnings® & Sustainable Agriculture Methods:
The Farmer Training Team (FTT) will receive training, support, and mentoring from the Farm Beginnings® Collaborative (FBC). Sustainable Agriculture and Holistic Management, the ability to see the farm as a whole and all the parts as interrelated, are core components of Farm Beginnings®. The FTT will be trained to dive deeply into sustainable agriculture principles and whole-farm planning so they can communicate these ideas to beginning farmers. Activities & methods include:
- The FTT members attend the FBC Annual meeting & Facilitators meeting to become familiar with the model, practical applications, and training tools.
- Provides 4 orientations for the FTT.
- 2 to understand Farm Beginnings® curriculum, tools, effective ways of teaching, and help adapt examples relevant to farming in our region.
- 2 for the FTT Mentor Farmers that will be matched as mentors with Farm Beginnings® participants for one-on-one support during the growing season.
- One-on-one coaching to prepare FTT to teach classes and troubleshoot.
- The FTT trained by Dr. Laura Lengnick on sustainable agriculture and Holistic Management principles.
- Topics include: resource conservation; ecosystem processes and cycles; biodiversity; soil, water, & energy conservation; diversifying enterprises; managing whole systems; resiliency; decision-making tools, monitoring, and goal setting.
- Lengnick conducts training at the FBC Annual Meeting on how sustainable agriculture techniques can help farmers respond more effectively to a changing climate.
- Holistic Financial Planning Training, a 2-day workshop taught by Cree Bradley.
- The FTT learns this process for meeting farming goals through proper planning and management of farm and family financial resources, and can then teach beginning farmers in our region.
Educational Leadership Development & Team Training:
It is crucial that we not only build capacity and skills to better educate farmers but also build resiliency and mutual support between agricultural support agencies in our region. The focus on strengthening our leaders, building trust and creativity, and enhancing community-based actions is the very nature of resilience. When we work together effectively our collective impact is far greater than that as individuals. Our future farmers need this from us. Additionally, we will build the capacity of mentor farmers to assess, value, and articulate the business practices and critical experiences of their own farm and connect their experiences to universal entrepreneurial concepts so that they can serve a critical role in supporting beginning farmers. Activities & methods include:
- Bird’s Eye consultation and trainings developed and conducted.
- Learn effective facilitation techniques to work with different adult-learning styles; manage groups and address common issues in a classroom environment.
- Effective ways to use the farm as a classroom, manage large group dynamics, promote learning, and design field days for maximum impact.
- Using live, on-farm examples and demonstrations for teaching moments.
- Creative, hands-on ways to teach sustainable farm production practices.
- Effective ways to share sustainable farming practices/systems in an understandable, simple way.
- Coach the FTT to prepare them to support beginning farmers in the following ways:
- Conduct assessments of farm operations, financials, marketing, research and development.
- One-on-one mentoring and technical assistance that can include determining enterprise development, analysis of pricing structure and associated variable costs, cash flow projections, crop production trouble-shooting, record-keeping, etc.
- Training with Bird’s Eye to develop and strengthen professional collaborations, build capacity for the FTT.
- Training on entrepreneurial planning to provide focused technical assistance to farming entrepreneurs.
- Training in effective facilitation, communication, and partnership techniques through supplemental trainings like diversity, program evaluation, nonviolent communication, etc.
- Bird’s Eye consultation and trainings developed and conducted.
This two-year project will result in a better trained and prepared Farmer Training Team and create training modules that can be used to build skills and develop leaders in our farming community for years to come. Mentor farmers and agricultural professionals themselves need ongoing support and training to effectively transfer valuable sustainable agriculture farming knowledge to the next generation.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
To get input on the professional development needs and interests of our farmer mentors & farmer training team. Co-create with the farmer mentors the workshop training topics we want to focus on as a part of this SARE-PDP project.
Participants gained a comprehensive understanding of Organic Growers School programs, what the core successes and challenges are, and the intention of the SARE PDP project.
Participants articulated where trainers would like support to make the project feel more successful, rewarding, and relevant to the needs of the farmer mentors being served.
Consultants & project director gained a clear understanding & direction for what farmer mentors need for professional development training, and how to make the training opportunities that will be offered relevant & useful for their professional development.
To orient and prepare Farmers as presenters/teachers in the upcoming Farm Beginnings Course
To identify and dig into areas that Organic Growers School can support our farmer teachers in developing their presentations, and their ability to be effective farmer trainers.
Farm Beginnings Farmer Training Overview
- State of the Fields: snapshot of impact of the program to date, graduates stories & incoming class cohort
- Overall Structure of the program and changes this year
- What is your role as a farmer presenter?
- Preparing your presentation: Classroom norms, inclusivity protocol, how your session fits into the full course program
Intro SARE PDP grant:
- Key Goals: we will build your capacity as mentor farmers to articulate your business practices and critical experiences on your own farm and connect/articulate your experiences to other farmers as teachers & mentors
- Including effective facilitation techniques, addressing adult-learning styles, managing group dynamics, classroom vs in the field teaching, communication, etc.
Modeling facilitation techniques for group discussion
Participants understood how the Farm Beginnings program works, the different components, and their role in the course as a whole.
Participants learned about the SARE PDP project and give guidance and input to influence future workshop creation
Participants experienced & learned effective group facilitation techniques that they can use as a presenter in future workshops.
This workshop enables the Farmer Presenters/Mentors to gain valuable context about the Farm Beginnings farmer training program and how important they & the experiences they share are important as co-instructors in the course. They left feeling prepared and ready for teaching their sessions.
Cover adult learning styles, communication tools, and building your presentations. Give farmer trainers the opportunity to develop a short presentation, and get feedback from the group.
Through our survey and one-on-one conversations, we learned one area you’d like more support as Farmer Trainers is to build your confidence as strong facilitators and presenters. So, for our first train-the-trainer workshop, we’ll focus on how to distill your own body of knowledge and expertise as a farmer or agricultural support person to define your key points. We’ll also cover the effective use of communication tools & methods, and how to address different learning styles in your audience.
At the end of this session, participants were able to:
Describe the process for determining key presentation points
Create a simple visual presentation, like a powerpoint.
Explore techniques for reaching aural, visual, verbal, and physical learners.
Grounding techniques to help you be comfortable and present while facilitating.
The participants were able to practice and get feedback on presentations they are actively working on and will present later this year. They left feeling more confident in their abilities to create a visual presentation, and deliver content to other farmers.
To gather all the Farmer Mentors, and mentees prior to being matched so both groups can learn about how the Mentorship process works. Mentors will learn valuable skills for being an effective mentor and how to transfer knowledge clearly to a mentee. Mentees will learn how they can take full advantage of their time with their Farmer Mentor.
Overview of Organic Growers School Mentorship program
Quick introductions of Farmer Mentors & Farmer Mentees
History and Benefits of Mentorship
Reflections and sharing on past mentor-like relationships
Types of Mentoring relationships
Roles of a Mentor
Personal Reflection and Question Generating
Speed Mentoring Activity
Regroup and consider informal and formal mentoring possibilities
Mentors learned about the expectations & logistics for the mentorship.
Mentors learned effective mentoring strategies.
Participants experienced “speed mentoring” where mentors were able to practice mentoring techniques with potential mentees. Mentors learned what mentees are seeking in a mentorship and explored how they can meet those needs with one-on-one support.
Participants are able to describe differences in communication styles and can explain their own.
We anticipate that gathering the mentors and mentees together prior to matching the mentor pairs will help the mentor pairs be more successful in the long run. After this workshop together both partners are more realistic expectations of what the mentorship will require and provide. And, the mentors have increased their skill base to be more effective mentors for the beginning farmers, and better able to communicate their knowledge.
Help farmers navigate the delicate balancing act that all farmers must succeed in balancing healthy profits with healthy land and a healthy farm family and personal life.
Learn how to make financial decisions toward farm & family values and goals, and how to build profit into your plans up front, rather than hoping there is something left once expenses are subtracted from income.
Help farmers connect financial systems for home and farm management into a clear program to focus in and get clear on their numbers.
Learn ways to assess financial, personal and farm weak links.
Holistic Financial Planning comes out of the theories and methods behind Holistic Management, a whole farm planning and decision-making framework that helps farmers take into account their triple bottom line – their economic, environmental, and social viability. Learn to make financial decisions that support farm and family goals while building profit on your farm. It is a fantastic workshop that has not been offered in our region before and could be a game-changer for how you think about your farm finances.
- Clarified values and commitments towards values in the development or review of a Holistic Goal.
- Understood how a Holistic Goal should drive personal, farm and family financial decisions and aid in balancing healthy profits with healthy land and a healthy farm, family and personal life.
- Learned what Holistic Financial Planning is and created a combined “whole farm and family” 2019 financial plan utilizing the Holistic Financial Planning process.
- Classified expenses into categories that help prioritize their importance relative to their goals.
- Assessed Weak Links, Logjams, and Adverse Conditions and the power of investing in them.
- Prioritized wealth generation and planning for profit, building your profit into the financial plan upfront, through holistic financial decision-making.
- Gained a financial planning and budgeting tool that aids in the management of cash flow.
- Created financial plan for 2019.
1. Why we need resilience thinking in sustainable agriculture
2. What we know about agricultural resilience - farmer case studies
3. Share examples of how current Farm Beginnings curriculum could be revised to add resilience content.
Farmer Trainers gained knowledge, skills, and awareness to effectively educate beginning farmers in soil building sustainable agriculture practices, whole farm business planning, Holistic farm management, resilience implementation, and best financial practices effectively implementing the Farm Beginnings® training model.
Farmer Trainers are poised to create, apply, integrate, and modify educational tools and curricula to our region and our farmers. For all aspects of regional beginning farmer training, mentorship, and support.
Educational & Outreach Activities
In this first year of the project, we have successfully trained 45 farmer mentors & agricultural support professionals as part of our Farmer Training Team, through 5 workshops that have focused on Farm Beginnings®, Sustainable Agriculture Methods, leadership development, & facilitation.
Short term outcomes of participants include:
- Experiencing & learning effective group facilitation techniques that they can use as a presenter in future workshops.
- Describing the process for determining key presentation points, creating a simple visual presentation, exploring techniques for reaching aural, visual, verbal, and physical learners, grounding techniques to build confidence, and practicing and getting feedback on presentations.
- Gaining knowledge on expectations and logistics for mentorship, and effective mentoring strategies.
- Practicing mentoring strategies, and communication styles.
- Clarifying values, writing a Holistic Goal and how to connect it to farm financial decisions.
- Creating a 2019 “whole farm & family” financial plan, and planning for profit.
- Gaining knowledge, skills, and awareness to effectively educate beginning farmers in soil building sustainable agriculture practices, whole farm business planning, Holistic farm management, resilience implementation, and best financial practices effectively implementing the Farm Beginnings® training model.
Medium-term outcomes will be assessed 6 months after each workshop.