A Beginning Farmer Training Program
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. Please email Rosie McVeigh, Agriculture Education Program Director, if you have any questions
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.
See previous topics covered at Field School on our YouTube Channel.
Winter Business Intensive (WBI)
The Winter Business Intensive (November-March) has 8 classroom sessions on writing a business, financial and marketing plan for your farm.
Winter Field School tuition is a sliding scale of $99 – $299 per farm (with a maximum of 2 people per ticket) for all 8 sessions November-March. Register and read more details about dates, topics, and what’s included here:
- 8 classroom sessions held November-March on a variety of business, marketing, and financial planning topics.
- Presentations by agricultural experts from USDA Extension, NRCS, Farm Service Agency and more, plus experienced farmers providing an insider’s look into their operations (see full list of sessions at the registration link)
- Printed and/or digital resources compiled by ARCD staff to accompany certain topics
Who should attend?
- Beginning farmers looking to learn from local farmers and experts.
- Experienced farmers who are looking for new ideas or looking to expand their operations.
Workshop Dates & Topics:
- Nov 16: Introductions & Getting Started
- Nov 30: Visioning Your Farm & Assessing Your Resources
- Dec 14: Farm Infrastructure & Natural Resource Plan
- Jan 11: Markets & Marketing
- Jan 25: Business & Financial Management
- Feb 8: Sustainable Production Planning
- Feb 22: Entrepreneurship & Risk Management
- Mar 14: Loans, Grants, & Support Programs
- Mar 28: Graduation Celebration and Presentation of Business Plans
Tennessee Ag Enhancement Program (TAEP) Credits
The Field School Winter Business Intensive is now accredited by the TN Department 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! (Summer Field School does not qualify for Education Credits at this time.)
Summer Field School
Registration for 2024 Summer Field School will open in spring of 2024.
Summer Field School, held May through September each year, includes 8 on-farm sessions to explore production methods and farm enterprises that are thriving in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and West North Carolina. During these sessions, students build the knowledge, networks, and confidence for planning out a farm operation to fit their land and business needs.
2023 Summer Field School Schedule and Descriptions:
- May 11th, 6pm. Appalachia Fungorum (Marshall, NC): mushroom farming, medicinal mushrooms, log inoculation, shiitake and oyster specialty
- May 25th, 6pm. Glenmary Farms (Bristol, VA): hydroponic strawberries, year-round growing, greenhouses, vertical gardening
- June 8th, 6pm: Opossum Bottom (Johnson City, TN): urban agriculture, year-round produce, specialty produce, and a discussion on food safety
- June 22nd, 6pm. Pollinator Produce Partners (Duffield, VA): rare plants, native species, plant nursery, certified naturally grown
- July 13th, 6pm. SLAP Farms (Greeneville, TN): pasture raised chicken and turkey, eggs, on farm processing, regulations surrounding poultry farming
- July 27th, 6pm. Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers (Blountville,TN): specialty cut flowers, on farm workshops
- August 10th, 6pm. Buttery Fields Farm (Telford, TN): rotational grazing, NRCS funding
- August 24th, 6pm. Myers Farm (Bulls Gap, TN): Agritourism, beef cattle, plant starts, greenhouse, pumpkins, corn maze, value-added products
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)
Group 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.
The ARCD’s Field School is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Development Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Farm Bureau, provides classroom and kitchen space for us for free at their Jonesborough location.
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: www.futureharvestcasa.org