We receive great feedback from our Field School students each year and we wanted to share some of them with any prospective students out there interested in pursuing their dream of farming!

Thanks to funding from a USDA Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant, we were able to hire the ETSU Applied Social Sciences Research Lab to conduct evaluations on the Field School this year.  Here are some of the comments from our graduates:

  • “What an awesome opportunity–and a boon for those who want to use their land for small business. Thank you!”
  • “Loved the school and will probably participate again in the coming year.  Really it was worth more than the charged amount but I believe keeping the cost the same will make it possible for greater participation.”
  • “I am so glad that I had this opportunity and I will make the most of everything I have learned the past year.  Thank you so much for this program.”
  • “Excellent program, presenters and ag/farm folks to share their knowledge!  Glad long time farmers will share their struggles and successes.”
  • “For folks who work day jobs, any farming would be done on the side or in spare time. Evening classes work well… All of the presenters were excellent. The material and organization was also excellent. I enjoyed every session I was able to attend.”

Also, we received some great feedback on how to improve the program, which we plan to implement in the 2018-19 Field School.  Here are some themes we plan to respond to with the new curriculum for the program this year:

  • Splitting the course into two shorter semesters
  • Increased student interaction with each other, to learn more about each others farms and/or future plans
  • More connection and mentorship opportunities with experienced farmers

We appreciate the honest feedback and here’s how we plan to address these issues in the 2018-19 program!

Shorter Courses:
The Field School now has two semesters:

  •       The Winter Business Intensive with 9 courses on business planning, finances, and marketing to ensure that beginning farmers have a solid foundation for their farm businesses.  This course will run from November – March with a Graduation celebration in early April where students will present their business plans to the class.  See the full schedule and application here.
  •       The Summer Field School will be entirely on-farm, visiting a wide range of operations around the region.  These sessions will focus on showcasing various production methods from season extension, pest & weed management, rotational grazing, small livestock management and more.  Sessions will run May through August. Students can chose to attend all the sessions for a discounted rate or pick sessions a la carte for a per workshop fee. The schedule for the SFS will be posted in January 2019.

Increased Student Interaction:
We are committed to less talking at students this year and allowing more time for workshopping business plans together.  The facilitation plan includes at least 30 minutes during each session for one on one, small group and larger group discussions of plans and ideas.  This will allow feedback from peers and experts during every step of writing your farm business plan!

Mentorship Opportunities:
Thanks to a partnership with Appalachian Sustainable Development, we are able to offer a select number of beginning farmers the opportunity to do a 200 hour on-farm internship in 2019.  Our farm mentors include both produce and livestock producers who have at least 3 years of experience running a commercial operation, and often a lot more than that! More information about the program can be found at www.asdevelop.org/farm.

Want to join the Field School?

Read more about the schedule of workshops and fill out the online application at www.arcd.org/field-school  Don’t wait, spots are filling up quickly!