The Appalachian RC&D Council and several community partners are starting a “Field School” this fall, a new farmer training program tailored to regional environment, regulations, resources, and markets. With the average age of our farmers around 60-years, there’s a definite need to train younger folks in the art and business of farming. There are several dozen such programs across the country, some focusing on urban market gardening in Baltimore and others focused on large farms in Colorado and Washington State. Some programs are run by non-profits, some by Extension offices, and others by partnerships between the two. The Field School will be the first program of its kind in northeast Tennessee and be conducted in partnership with Extension, NRCS, agricultural professionals, and the nonprofit and business community.
Running from November ’15 to August ’16, the 9-month program of monthly courses will be taught by area experts in the classroom and in the field. The public will be able to attend a single class, or sign up for the whole program. The fees will be less than $10 per course. Coursework will cover everything from writing a business plan to planning out crops for a whole year, and will be scheduled to work around those will full-time jobs. At the end of the 9-months participants will have filled a 3″ binder with practical information, conducted in-class assignments for their own operations, gained one-on-one mentoring by some of the area’s best agricultural experts, and learned alongside other beginning farmers.
The ARC&D and partners have already secured $11,000 in funding from the Tennessee RC&D Council and Tennessee State University. We still are in need of sponsorship from local businesses with a stake in supporting a new generation of farmers.
The course calendar and information will be at the ARCD website in September.