Building Resilient and Successful Farm Businesses in the Southern Appalachians

Final report for LS20-323

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Organic Growers School
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Cameron Farlow
Organic Growers School
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Project Information

Abstract:

“Building Resilient and Successful Farm Businesses in the Southern Appalachians” provides farm businesses support through the start-up years and beyond by serving farmers in the Southern Appalachian mountain region with comprehensive education, training, mentoring, technical assistance and support services. Through our year-round roster of programs, the number of successful beginning and expanding farm enterprises will increase, specifically, more than 150 farm businesses will receive valuable production, business, marketing, finance, and networking training.

In our 28 years of serving farmers, we regularly hear about their need for specialized, one-on-one support to address their specific challenges and create efficient systems that promote longevity and resilience in their farm business. This ongoing support will prepare farmers to start farming, seize business opportunities, add/change enterprises, secure financing, achieve long-term land tenure, define marketing plans, meet income goals, and become more resilient and adaptable in the face of a changing climate.

These services target Journeyperson farmers, defined as farmers in years 3-10+ of their farming journey. Focused support during these critical years helps small farmers overcome the challenges of scale and burnout that often break farm businesses. 

Since 2008, OGS Farmer Programs have directly supported over 1,000 farmers and farm workers. Our current roster of programs includes:

  1. Farm Dreams: An exploratory workshop for aspiring farmers.
  2. Apprentice Link: Free online resource for aspiring farmers to find on-farm training and farms to find reliable, qualified employees.
  3. Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training: A year-long, 200+ hour whole farm business, financial, and marketing training course. 
  4. Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT): A farmer-led network and a series of on-farm educational tours for farmers.

Guided by our 3-year plan, OGS will expand our current farmer programs to include:

  1. “Farmer Mentoring Services” open to Southern Appalachian farmers of all stages to receive mentoring and technical assistance. 
  2. “Journeyperson: Advanced-Beginner Farmer Education” for farmers in years 3-10 to build their skill base as farm business owners.
  3. “Recruiting and Serving New Audiences” with coalition building and strategic partnerships that allow us to adapt our services to be accessible for limited resource, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers, and underserved rural communities in the Southern Appalachians.

All of our programs are farmer-led, and farmer-informed, and designed synergistically to directly address the needs of our regional farming community. This offers a trajectory of training that aligns with SARE’s goal to increase the sustainable production practices and profitability of our local farmers.

Successful farmers care for the land, generate income for themselves and others, produce food for their region and strengthen their communities. In a traditional economic sense, small farm entrepreneurs bolster rural development through job creation and by keeping a larger percentage of local dollars circulating in the local economy. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of rural development, and a strong small farm industry can catalyze and launch other new entrepreneurial ventures that depend on the profitability and success of the farm sector.

Project Objectives:

ONGOING PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION & COORDINATION:

    1. Farm Dreams: 40 total aspiring and apprentice farmers will participate in 4 one-day workshops. They will learn and implement values clarification, skills and resources clarification, resource identification, and complete an educational plan for pursuing a career in farming.
    2. Apprentice Link: 30 organic/sustainable farmers will be profiled on the online Apprentice Link listing. A minimum of 5 farms will hire apprentices/employees through Apprentice Link. OGS staff will Identify, create, and compile resources for training farmers to be efficient mentors & employers. 
    3. Farm Beginnings® Farmer Training: 20 total beginning farmers receive 200+ hrs of comprehensive whole-farm, production, and business training, which includes 12 winter classroom sessions, 8+ CRare matched with an experienced farmer mentor for 15 hrs of one-on-one support and technical assistance, and graduate in September each year.
    4. Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT): A total of 60 farm business members and 80 farm apprentices will participate in a total of 20 on-farm workshops & 6 Farmer Round Tables that allow members to join a farmer-to-farmer mentoring network; learn about innovative methods of sustainable production, business & management models. Each member receives a digital copy of our farmer-written 600+ page Farming Handbook.

NEW PROGRAM DESIGN & IMPLEMENTATION:

  1. Farmer Mentoring Services 
      • A total of 10 farmers are matched with a Farmer Mentor and receive 15 hours of one-on-one coaching, consulting, and mentoring services and supported with technical assistance, development, management, site-planning, and business planning. The program is open to farmers of stages, skill levels, and production models. 
      • Farmer Mentors receive guidance and support to help equip Mentee farmers with:
        • Problem-solving and troubleshooting skills to address project- and site-specific issues.
        • Direct connections for innovative transfer of knowledge.
        • Support for goal setting and action-based next steps.
        • Regional best practices in sustainable/regenerative farming
      • Additional tasks include recruiting mentors, coordination, oversight, troubleshooting, ensuring success.
  2. JourneyPerson: Advanced-Beginner Farmer Education
      • Assess the feasibility of & design a Journeyperson program to start in Winter 2020. Geared towards beginning farmers in years 3-10 to assist them with enterprise refinement, assessing scale, systems design to increase efficiency, holistic financial planning, etc. 
      • A total of 10 farms are enrolled and participate in the first two years of the program.
        • They receive 15 hrs of one-on-one mentoring with an advanced farmer mentor
        • They receive scholarships to participate in professional development opportunities to increase their knowledge and skill-base.
        • They participate in 2-3 financial risk management-focused intensives that address the challenges of farm enterprises as these farmers evolve their businesses past the start-up phase. Topics may include:
          1. Managing Farm Labor will cover legal and financial considerations, how to choose the labor structure that best fits your farming model, and employee management best practices.
          2. Advanced Enterprise Development will cover what influences farm profitability, recordkeeping, and assist farmers with whole decision-making in regards to enterprise development.
          3. Holistic Financial Planning will cover holistic goal setting, planning for profit, creating an adaptive annual financial plan. 
  1. Recruiting and Serving New Audiences:
    • Ensure that staff, board, farmer-instructors, and program participants are trained in racial equity through local trainings, consulting, and curriculum.
    • Spanish language interpretation and childcare are offered during events.
    • Ensure that farmers of color are decision-makers, teachers, mentors, and participants in all OGS farmer programs.
    • Increase partnerships with local allies working with communities of color and veterans' support groups. 
    • Strengthen relationships with partners and workshops offered in GA, SC, TN, VA and/or more rural parts of WNC.

A total of 200+ farm businesses will receive comprehensive training over the course of this project. OGS Farmer Programs are designed to directly address the needs of the regional farming community, including low-wealth, disadvantaged farmers, and offer a trajectory of farmer-led training. Through participation in our programs, farmers start to farming, seize business opportunities, add/change enterprises, secure financing, achieve long-term land tenure, define marketing plans, meet income goals, and become more resilient and adaptable to climate change.

Big Picture Goal:

We want more farmers on the land using organic and sustainable practices and a system in which family farms can flourish. As we inspire, educate and support regional farmers to use organic and regenerative practices, and incorporate holistic farm business planning we expect farmers to survive and thrive in a changing climate.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Gwen Casebeer - Producer
  • Jamie Davis - Producer (Educator)
  • Dr. Jeanine Davis - Producer
  • Tom Elmore - Producer (Educator)
  • Krista Fayette - Producer (Educator)
  • Kimberly Hunter (Educator)
  • Kevin Lane - Producer
  • William Lyons - Producer (Educator)
  • Andrea Van Gunst - Producer (Educator)
  • Marie Williams - Producer (Educator)

Research

Involves research:
No
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Each workshop, training, and mentorship opportunity we offer is designed to align and cover one or more aspects of the following “Core Learning Components” including:

  1. Whole Farm Planning (Values Determination and Goal Setting, Soil Health, Ecology, Skills Assessment, Enterprise Investigation, Determining Scale, Land Access)
  2. Financial Planning (Financial Literacy, Budgeting and Enterprise Planning, Accounting and Recordkeeping Systems)
  3. Marketing (Exploring Market Models for Small Farms, Branding, and Promotions, Market Research, Determining Price)
  4. Business Planning and Management (Legal Structure and Business Set up, Basic Business Plan Components, Tax, Legal, Insurance, and Risk Management)
  5. Connecting with Resources (Farm Financing Strategies, USDA Programs, Local Farm Advocacy Organization, Farmer Networks, Professional Development)

For each workshop, mentoring, and training appropriate, applicable, and comprehensible materials, such as worksheets, resources, and handouts will be distributed and employed during and after the workshop. Specific examples include financial tracking worksheets, instructions for building soil health, skill and resource assessments, soil testing instructions, labor-management assessments, enterprise development worksheets, etc. 

While we originally planned for all project elements to be conducted in-person due to the COVID pandemic we shifted all programming online. We employed a combination of live webinar-type workshops, pre-recorded videos, and participant cohort meetings. We worked diligently to maintain high-quality education opportunities, despite the change in format. These online workshops and trainings include strategies for teaching adult learners of diverse ages and backgrounds, with multiple learning styles. When possible, we also tried to maintain ample class time to complete exercises that reinforce and help integrate concepts as they learn, and gain practice using specific tools. 

Sustainable, organic, and regenerative agriculture experts, as well as financial and business planning experts have been or will be chosen as instructors because they have direct experience as farmers or working with farmers to assess and reduce production-related risks, provide legal guidance, business/financial planning and marketing expertise. All of our instructors are professional farmers or agriculture support professionals which provides peer-to-peer access. This direct connection to peers in farming proves effective with farmer retention, compliance, understanding, trust-building, and adoption. Furthermore, participating with fellow farming peers allows for sharing experiences, challenges, and successes and therefore increases networks of support and adds richness and depth to learning. This building of camaraderie and shared reality within the farming community increases the likelihood that the farmers will implement what they learn. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
8 Online trainings
12 Published press articles, newsletters
43 Webinars / talks / presentations
5 Workshop field days
3 Other educational activities: We hosted 3 online farmer discussions and training in the first 2 months of the Pandemic (March-April) to help farmers connect, and share resources and their experiences trying to meet the new challenges and demands of the time. Topics we covered included new farm & food safety protocols, managing labor & exposure, online market platforms, and general sharing of changes people were making.

Participation Summary:

386 Farmers
22 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Farm Dreams: Held three online workshops, serving 37 aspiring farmers in total.

  1. January 30th, 2021 with 9 aspiring farmers.
  2. February 9th, 2021 with 12 aspiring farmers. This workshop was co-taught with Cooperative Extension.
  3. November 11, 2021 with 7 aspiring farmers. 
  4. February 12, 2022 with 9 aspiring farmers.
  5. See the Farm Dreams webpage here.

Apprentice Link: 34 farms listed on the Apprentice Link 2020-2022 on the OGS website.

CRAFT Farmer Network: 220 farmers served over two seasons.

WNC CRAFT 2020 - We held 9 total events between April-October 2020. Due to the COVID pandemic we conducted this season entirely with pre-recorded videos that were shared within the network. The CRAFT member listserv was active a served as a key resource for farmers int he area to stay up to date on changing health and food safety related information as well as share their challenges and successes collectively. The membership included:

  • 64 Apprentices/Farmworkers/Students
  • 42 Beginning Farmers (10 years or less)
  • 26 Seasoned Farmers (10+ years)
  • 132 Total Members served

CRAFT Farm Tours 2020

Date

Format

Farm Host

Topic

April Video The Culinary Gardener Vegetable Production
April 23rd, 2020 Live Webinar Black Trumpet Farm & New Roots Market Garden Apprentice Orientation - Transitioning from Apprentice to Farmer
May Video Mountain Gardens

Growing Herbs

May 28th Live Webinar Grassroots Farm & Dairy & Acornucopia Project Vertical Integration
June Video Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Community Farm & Cooperative Extension Pasture Walk
June 25th Live Webinar  Beacon Village & Balsam Gardens Food Safety & Pack House Tour 
July Video Black Thorn Farm Shepherding in the Mountains
August  Video Lane in the Woods Farmstead Cheesemaking
October Video Full Sun Farm Cut Flowers

WNC CRAFT 2021 - We held 5 total events between April-August 2021, as well as 2 Farmer Round Tables, and a winter Farmer Meet-up in February-Marc 2022 - for a total of 8 events. We returned to in-person farm tours, but we limited the numbers that were able to attend and hosted fewer farm tours than in pre-Covid years to compensate for group health and farm safety, as well as limited  farmer capacity. However, because we had to limit capacity and all CRAFT members were not able to attend every farm we made video recordings of each in-person event and shared those with the members. They are linked below. The membership in 2021 included:

  • 30 Apprentices/Farmworkers/Students
  • 35 Beginning Farmers (10 years or less)
  • 23 Seasoned Farmers (10+ years)
  • 88 Total Members served

CRAFT Farm Tours 2021

Date

Format

Farm Host

Topic

Thursday, April 8, 2021 On farm Thatchmore Farm Greenhouse Crop Production In Wood-Heated Greenhouses
Thursday, May 20, 2021 On farm Grassroots Farm & Dairy Small Scale Sheep Dairy
Thursday, June 10, 2021 On farm Full Sun Farm Farm Systems & Equipment
Sunday, July 25, 2021 On farm A Way of Life Farm No Till Techniques on a Vegetable Farm
Sunday, August 22, 2021 On farm Green Toe Ground Farm CRAFT/Farm Beginnings Social
February 2, 2022 Virtual Farmer Round Table Farm Labor
February 26, 2022 In-Person Wedge at Foundation CRAFT Farmer Meet-up
March 3, 2022 Virtual Farmer Round Table Farm Labor

Farm Beginnings Farmer Training: 49 total participants

2020-2021 Farm Beginnings Class: In November 2020, 28 participants from 4 different states were accepted into the program and graduated in September 2021. The the winter business planning sessions were conducted  online due to the COVID pandemic, with some in-person gatherings for the CRAFT farm tours, and mentorship. 

  • 17 online winter training sessions from November 2020-April 2021. These included pre-recorded farmer and expert presentations, live zoom Q&A sessions with the presenter, in-class work time, cohort development, and peer-to-peer facilitated discussion. See the original course schedule here. More sessions were conducted due to the unique needs of the class. 
  • Students attended two online conferences, ASAP's The Business of Farming Conference on February 25-27, 2021, and OGS's Annual Spring Conference March 13-31, 2021
  • Students have been paired with an advanced farmer mentor and completing 15 hrs of one-on-one support.
  • They participated in the 2021 CRAFT farm tour season, and in the online Holistic Crop Management Course
  • They presented they final farm plans and graduated in September 2021.

2021-2022 Farm Beginnings Class: The 2021-2022 cohort of 21 participants from 6 different states started in October 2021. Students met weekly October-  through. Thus far the students have participated in:

  • 15 online winter training sessions and one-in-person gathering from October 2021-March 2022. These included pre-recorded farmer and expert presentations, live zoom Q&A sessions with the presenter, in-class work time, cohort development, and peer-to-peer facilitated discussion. More sessions were conducted due to the unique needs of the class. 
  • Students attended two in-person conferences, ASAP's The Business of Farming Conference on February 26, 2022, and OGS's Annual Spring Conference March 19-22, 2021
  • Optional: Participation in the online Holistic Crop Management Course
  • Students have been paired with an advanced farmer mentor and are completing 15 hrs of one-on-one support March-September 2022.
  • They will participate in the 2022 CRAFT farm tour season April-October.
  • They will present their final farm plans and graduate in September 2022.

JourneyPerson Farmer Training: We planned to launch and pilot this program in winter 2020. However, we ultimately decided to postpone the program launch due to low enrollment. After speaking with several target audience farmers we heard that this was primarily due to the added burdens these farmers were facing as they pivoted to meet the farming demands brought on by the Pandemic. The initial structure of the program may have been a deterrent to others. After   re-evaluating how the program was we made some adjustments to make it more appealing and feasible for farmers in years 3-10 of their farm business development, and relaunched it in fall 2021. 

Seven beginning farmers are currently participating in the JourneyPerson Program. They have participated in two weekend intensives: Advanced Enterprise Development and Holistic Financial Planning. A third intensive is scheduled for October 2022 at the request of the participants. They also gather for monthly online cohort meetings.

Mentor Farmer Services: We launched the program in October 2020. See the program website here. We are accepting applications on a rolling basis. 5 matches have been made and 1 is currently in process. These farmers are receiving up to 30 hrs of one-on-one support with their mentor over a 12-month span. 

Outreach Materials:

Learning Outcomes

386 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

107 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
16 Grants received that built upon this project
11 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

While 2020-2022 certainly were not the years we planned for, they have provided opportunities for some amazing work, connection, and change! They have required rethinking everything from delivery, content and approach of our programs to the technology and skills required, as well as the funding necessary, to continue to provide high quality education and training for growers. Organic Growers School is proud to share more about our journey, and the impact SARE’s funding has made for the 386 beginning and experienced over the last 2 years.

Impact of COVID:

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a huge impact on the local agriculture community and especially new and beginning farmers, those who have been farming for 10 years or less. Access to land, markets, and capital provides a unique set of challenges that new and beginning farmers face, reflected in the Organic Growers School (OGS) 2015 Barriers to Farming Survey and repeated in the 2020 Farming in NC Report.

We interviewed three new and beginning farmers, all graduates of OGS’s Farm Beginnings® program, and currently participate in Apprentice Link and/or the CRAFT Farmer Network. They had to adjust their production planning and quickly try to find alternative outlets and were expecting reductions in revenue, also related to anticipated land transitions. A major theme throughout each interview was the increased uncertainties newer farmers face, exacerbated by this pandemic. It was also evident that each farmer had developed planning and tracking systems, allowing them to make informed, adaptive decisions based on real data. In addition, each farm is well networked in the food and farming community, particularly due to their participation in the WNC CRAFT Farmer Network and Farm Beginnings programs, making access to information and other farmers easier. 

There have been some surprising silver linings as well. One farmer, who previously sold at farmers markets and to restaurants, expressed that this pandemic has forced them into thinking about marketing ideas they wouldn’t have considered before, such as a CSA. And, they have actually seen more people in their immediate area joining the CSA. They have found they can tap into customers they wouldn’t have before, who are passionate about local food and don’t want to go to farmers' markets.

Other farmers are experiencing this loyalty and support from customers as well, as customers realize the value of local farms and foods and how fragile the global food system and delivery structures are.  The farmers all seem excited about that possibility and hope that it doesn’t take another disaster for people to continue to see that local sustainably grown food is closer, safer, healthier, and good for our local economy. 

Sampling of Program Survey Results & Impact: 

As much of our educational programming shifted online due to the pandemic, we did see a decrease in participation in our program evaluation surveys. As our response rate was lower, particularly for follow-up surveys, we ask that you bear that in mind. Here is a sampling of results from those participants that did respond to surveys:

  • From all programs 27% (107) committed to adopt a new practice, make a change or incorporate something they learned into their current farm or farm plan. 
  • For Farm Dreams:
    • 100% of respondents reported gaining knowledge 
    • 72% said they would change something in their life as a result of taking this class.
  • CRAFT Farmer Network:
    • 79% felt an increase in connection with regional farm support organizations and resources.
    • 68% saw an increase with implementing new sustainable production practices
    • 63% saw some increase with making goal driven and informed life/business decisions
    • 100% reported an increase in knowledge
    • 75% said I will change something in my current or future agricultural career because of this CRAFT tour.
  • CRAFT Quotes:
    • “For me, it was the good CRAFT discussions that took place this year through the email listserv: The topic of compost is one that comes to mind.”
    • “I went on the Forest Farming tours and both of the tour hosts were so great. They were really eager to answer any questions, talk to folks afterwards in lengthy conversations and just had a general excitement about their farms that they wanted to share with everyone who attended.”
    • “I am still buzzing from that tour and am excited to get working on more farm projects around me.”
    • “Walking through the whole year of lambing and growing sheep out was super helpful, especially as we could see various buildings and animals associated with the process”
  • Farm Beginnings Quotes:
    • Farm Beginnings helped me realize that while there is a lot I don't know, I now have some confidence that I could start my own farm business. It is one of many factors that have made what seems like the impossible task of small-scale farming, a little more approachable.
    • Seeing first hand working farms and hearing from the farmers how and why they do tasks the way they do, always experimenting to improve efficiency. The difference in gardening and farming is the planning and follow through on plans necessary to produce for markets rather than just harvesting for family and being satisfied with whatever survives the elements. It is a much more controlled approach rather than just letting nature take its course. The concept of employing animals to improve soil and the focus on the microbiology in soil ecology was new to me and provides a model for sustainable and regenerative farming practices.
    • The holistic goal section was life changing! It has helped us move forward with clarity and confidence. The enterprise budgets were really challenging and increased my farm related financial literacy quite a bit. The sections on holistic farming gave me a solid foundation/framework to move forward from.

Apprentice Link:

As a part of a strategic sustainability planning process for Organic Growers School we made the tough decision to close our Apprentice Link program, after 10 years of providing apprentice matching services to WNC farmers. A primary reason for this change was the proliferation of other internship and farm labor matching services that have developed nationally since Apprentice Link started, and the smaller niche aspect of our program was unable to compete in this new landscape. 

Mentor Services:

Mentor Services piloted in October 2020, and 6 mentor-mentee matches have been made over the last two years. These beginning farmers received between 15-30 hrs of one-on-one support with their mentor over a 12-month span. We are currently accepting applications on a rolling basis to match more beginning farmers with a mentor. We have seen increased interest and applicants in this program, and yet many applicants have not remained engaged to the matching stage. In addition, we’ve had multiple  farmers apply from outside of WNC where we have less capacity and networks to find local mentors to accommodate the farmers' needs. We are continuing to analyze and monitor this program so that we can adapt it to best fit the needs of the farmers in our region. 

JourneyPerson Farmer Training: 

We planned to launch and pilot this program in winter 2020. However, we ultimately decided to postpone the program as our target audience farmers were facing some many added burdens as they pivoted to meet the farming demands brought on by the Pandemic. 

We met with our Farmer Steering Committee at our bi-annual meeting in July 2021 to get their input on why the program wasn’t successful in winter 2020. The feedback we heard was that the program is still important and there is a need for beginning farmer support in this way. And, that time and cost continues to be a barrier for those farmers in our target audience. They are at a stage in their business where they’re really keeping their heads down, busy doing the farming work. And, taking time away feels difficult. In response, we have made some adjustments to the program, and re-framed our marketing language so that it was more understandable for us to re-launch in fall 2021. Adjustments we made for the 2021-2022 cohort include:

  • Reducing the cost of the program
  • Re-framing the marketing language so that farmers understand that this program won’t take them away from their farm, but rather enable them to work on their business, as they usually would, within the structure and support system of a cohort of their peers and other advanced farmers. 
  • We are also raffled off $1000 in matching funds to 2 farm participants in the cohort. If they are able to save up to $1000 during the course, OGS will match their savings. 
  • We are also incorporating online elements into this program to reduce travel times for participants so they can better fit it into their schedule. We will still have a few in-person sessions to help facilitate the cohort development and relationship building, as able based on the rate of COVID infections in our region.

Seven beginning farmers are currently participating in the JourneyPerson Program. They have participated in two weekend intensives: Advanced Enterprise Development and Holistic Financial Planning. A third intensive is scheduled for October 2022 at the request of the participants. They also gather for monthly cohort meetings. In future years we aim to offer the Savings Incentive Plan to all participants. 

 

Recruit & Serve New Audiences:

With all our programs moving online in 2020-2021 and maintaining some online opportunities in 2021-2022 we have substantially increased our geographic reach. In our Farm Beginnings class, in particular, students are participating from 5 different states and DC. Farm Dreams workshops were all online, as were the JourneyPerson monthly cohort meetings, and 2 CRAFT Winter Roundtables. Although we are able to start more safely meeting in-person, we are excited to retain an online element in several of our programs to be able to maintain that accessibility feature that remote learning offers so many folks who would otherwise not be able to participate in our programs and support services. 

And, this goal continues to be an ongoing effort. As we were able to shift the majority of our Farmer Programs online over the course of this year and last which increased accessibility to our training for many. Most notably, we saw success with online and hybrid programming with Farm Beginnings®. In 2020-2021 we had a 50% increase in total participants, and went from 2 BIPOC participants in 2019 to 14 in the 2020-2021 class.

 

Farmer Success Story: 

Olivia Ramos is a 2018 graduate of Farm Beginnings, and started her farm Soil Shine Farm and Ferments in the South Toe Area of Yancey County with her partner Rocky Ramos in 2019 after graduating from the program. They produce non-certified organically grown sauerkrauts, kimchi, seasonal pickles, hot sauces, beverages, and more, and grow the majority of their ingredients in their biodynamic market garden. You can find their products at several small scale grocers, and the Yancey County Farmers Market. 

Here is what Olivia shared about her Farm Beginnings experience, “Farm Beginnings helped me clarify and crystallize my farming vision and enterprises. When the opportunity arose, I was ready to begin my value-added farm-to-ferment business quickly and effectively because of all the groundwork I had laid in Farm Beginnings. I gained so much insight from the coursework, field trips, and mentorship. I love that Organic Growers School uses a Holistic Management framework to teach about farming, and I use those tools all the time in my other projects. The Holistic Management framework helps me stay grounded and focused on the big picture as I develop my business.”

 

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.