We’ve got some exciting changes to announce as our Field School program enters its fourth year!  The Field School is our beginning farmer training program that has taken about 100 students thus far through an overview of farming practices in East TN.  This year, we’ve decided to split the program in two, to better cater to the needs of beginning farmers.

In November, we will launch the Winter Business Intensive, which will include a series of 9 workshops on developing a business plan, resource inventory, and financial and marketing plans.  This program will run through the beginning of April. At each workshop, students will hear from an expert speaker on the topic and from an experienced farmer discussing their first hand knowledge of it.  There will be time dedicated during each class for students to discuss each component of their business plan with their fellow students, to workshop ideas, and get feedback as they progress through it. At the end of the program, students have the option of doing a short presentation on their full business plans.  You can view the schedule of workshops here.

In May, we will start the Summer Field School, which will be a series of on-farm workshops highlighting production methods and profitable farm operations from around the region.  Most of the Summer Field School workshops will include an educational component led by the farmer or an agricultural expert and a tour of the operation. Topics will include pest and weed control, season extension, irrigation, greenhouse management, rotational grazing, no-till/soil health, and various small livestock.  The schedule is currently a work in progress, and will be posted by January 2019.

The decision to split the Field School into two programs was made because attendance during the year long courses started to drop off every March.  For many folks, committing to a year long program is not reasonable, so we’ve shortened the time commitment required to participate. Depending on where you are in your dream of being a farmer, you can choose to learn more about business planning, production methods, or both.  

The Appalachian RC&D Council is also partners on a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant with Appalachian Sustainable Development.  Together, we are coordinating the Farmer and Rancher Mentorship Program (FARM), a 200 hour on-farm internship program that pairs new and beginning farmers with experienced farmer mentors.  Interns choose three learning goals to focus on and work with their mentors to create a plan for meeting these goals together. FARM Interns will also receive free access to the Summer Field School courses.  Learn more about FARM here.

If you are interested in participating in the Winter Business Intensive, applications will open on Sept 17.  You can visit the Field School Page here for more information and the full schedule of winter workshops.