Field School

The Field School Logo

A Beginning Farmer Training Program

Field School students sitting in the bed of a pick up truck

Students on a Truck Tour of Myers Family Farm in 2017

The Field School is a beginning farmer training program that provides students with an overview of small-scale farming in East Tennessee. It is taught by 20+ farmers and agricultural professionals and is hosted by the Appalachian RC&D Council, Green Earth Connection, and many area partners with major support from USDA and Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Pre-Registration is required. If you have any questions please email Lexy Close, Farmer Services Coordinator at

The Field School is comprised of two sessions for beginning and experienced farmers: the Winter Business Intensive and the Summer Field School.  The Winter Business Intensive (November-March) has 9 classroom sessions on writing a business, financial and marketing plan for your farm. The Summer Field School (May-September) has 8 on-farm sessions to explore production methods and farm enterprises that are thriving in East Tennessee.  During both sessions, students build the knowledge, networks, and confidence for planning out a farm operation to fit their land and business needs.  Click here for detailed descriptions of the individual workshops.

**Special note regarding the impact of COVID-19 on 2020 Summer Field School: At this time, the first two workshops will be held virtually. Students will receive all the same material, be able to ask farmers and presenters questions, and will see behind the scenes of farm operations. We will evaluate the possibility of returning to physical farm visits as the situation evolves.

Tennessee Ag Enhancement Program (TAEP) Credits

The Field School Winter Business Intensive is now accredited by the TN Dept of Agriculture, so graduates can qualify for up to 2 Education Credits toward the Producer Diversification Cost-Share Program.  Education credits are good for up to 3 years from the end of the class.  We are the first non-UT program to be accredited!

Registration for 2020 Summer Field School is Now Open!

Tuition Cost & Scholarships

Normally, tuition for Summer Field School is $150, but since we are unable to hold on-farm sessions yet, we are offering the virtual sessions for free. If we are able to hold on-farm sessions once the  COVID-19 situation is resolved, they will be $15/session.

We have a limited number of scholarships for veterans and active duty service members.  If interested, please contact Lexy for more information.

Who should apply?

  • Beginning farmers with at least a year of on-farm experience who are interested in deep-diving into business planning for a new operation.
  • Experienced farmers who are looking for new ideas or looking to expand their operations to new products.
  • Farmers who need to take classes to qualify for TAEP Cost-Share Programs and FSA Loans.

The Field School Winter Business Intensive is geared toward farmers with at least some on-farm experience so they can hone a business idea.  The workshops are held at the Jonesborough Farm Bureau classroom and feature speakers who are experienced farmers and Ag professionals.

At Joe Couch's Farm/Nursery/Hydroponics, December 2015

Joe Couch’s Farm/Nursery/Hydroponics, December 2015

Field School Students Can:

  • Tap into the knowledge of seasoned farmers and agriculture professionals from across the region.
  • Meet like-minded people who are also looking to take their passion for farming to the next level.
  • Learn how to connect with the local food scene, with government resources, with new ideas, with markets for farm products, with legal guidance, and with proper laws.
  • Workshop their ideas with their peers, experienced farmers, and industry experts to get specific feedback and invaluable insights.

Looking for first-hand accounts of Field School? Field School Alumni blogged about their courses; read their blogs here.

We also encourage beginning farmers of all experience levels to apply to work with the Farmer And Rancher Mentorship (FARM) Program, which provides a 200 hour on-farm internship with an experienced farmer in the region. Applications for FARM are open until February 8, 2019.  More information can be viewed here.

Farmer Phil Ottenger discusses orchard production with students

On-farm visit at Buffalo Trail Orchard in July 2017


 What Students Are Saying

“I joined the Field School just to research and learn. But I was so inspired that I jumped right in with growing vegetables for the farmers market on a half-acre.” – Susan McKinney (Small Batch Farm)

“I was so inspired after the first session that I filled out my business plan objectives that night. But things changed a lot during the year. My plan is now more realistic for what we are able to do” – Steven Mallory (Hope Farms)

“The field visit to Myers Farm was a game changer for me. I built a stage platform on my farm and we’ve already had two concerts with 100+ people at our first event. It’s really helped me get our name out in the community.” – Richard Calkins (Harbin Hills Farm)

“I’ve been farming for 20 years and I wasn’t sure I would learn much, but I really did learn a lot. We changed our plans after going through the Field School and doing more research. We plan to go the agritourism route to educate people about honey bees and sell real local honey.” – Jay Heselschwerdt (Sweet Life Farm)

Looking for detailed session-by-session descriptions?
Find that here.


Dotson Farms March 2017

group-2016-high-tunnelGroup shot at Harbin Hill Farm in Mountain City, December 2016


We are so grateful to the partners who have already committed support, either through teaching or through financial sponsorship. Thanks to all UT Extension teachers, NRCS, FSA, TDA, to all farmers, and the 20+ professionals who will teach at the Field School over the course of the year.

Tennessee’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has awarded the Field School a grant for 2016-2017  to support beginning farmer education, specifically in Soil Health and natural resources management.

Farm Bureau, provides classroom and kitchen space for us for free at their Jonesborough location.

Boone Street Market (101 Boone Street, Jonesborough) is an all-local, year-round Farm Store, and it caters the majority of the meals, using ingredients from some of our past Field School students, and teachers. Just like the products on its shelves, all main ingredients in the meals are sourced from within 100 miles of the store.  BSM in a 501(C)(3) nonprofit founded in 2015, thanks to the Town of Jonesborough, donations from the community and store members (any one can support the store by being a paid annual member, and you get discounts). In its first year the store brought in $250,000 in sales for local farmers.

Dana York, retired 2014 Associate Chief USDA-NRCS, has moved back home to northeast Tennessee with ambitions to spend the next phase of her career training new beginning farmers in our region. Dana is the Field School’s Lead Facilitator and Curriculum Consultant. Having worked in the Chesapeake Bay watershed where nutrient management is lifeblood, her strength is coaching you to plow a straight row between cost-effective and conservation farming that leads to better soil, water quality, and profits.

Washington County Community Foundation (then the Harris Fund) sponsored our Friends of Ag breakfasts for 2 years, allowing us to research community needs and evolve a Field School program.

Future Harvest, based out of Maryland, graciously allowed us to borrow their beginning farmer program title of Field School and has advised us on materials. For more information on their great work in the Chesapeake food-shed:

Appalachian RC&D Council
3211 N Roan St
Johnson City, TN 37601 423-979-2581