After 9 months of classes and farm visits, the pilot year of the Field School is entering it’s final month. 25 students, ranging in age from 27 to 73 have gone on this journey with the Appalachian RC&D Council, exploring topics like financial and business planning, resources for farmers, crop production and animal husbandry, soil health, season extension and more. The graduation ceremony and presentation of Farm Plans will be held on August 18, 2016.
During this year several students have moved forward in their farming journeys in exciting ways. One man, a 32-year old veteran, bought a farm and the Field School has helped him envision a plan forward; he has enjoyed the course so much that he would like to sponsor 1 place for a veteran next year. One woman, a 27-year old, has become head manager of a vegetable farm that sells directly to restaurants and a 150-member CSA. One couple, retired, has started a homestead farm selling eggs to the farmers market and are beginning a goat operation. One man, retired, has launched a 30-acre certified organic farm and built 3 hoop houses with NRCS.
As we think about the next year, we want to kick off the program with more interaction between participants in order to strengthen the relationships of people and the farming networks. We also have the goal of arranging for staff to visit individually all participants, if they have farmland, at the beginning of the program to do a resource farm inventory. This will aid participants in making a farm plan and also help staff learn more about what the Field School could best offer. This may help increase attendance long term in the program because people are coming not only for the content of the session, but the camaraderie and newly developing relationships.
Recruitment for 2016-2017 Field School year begins in September. We are seeking 30 students to go through a year of sessions in the classroom and field and be mentored through writing a farm plan.[portfolio_slideshow id=1999]