Field School Session Descriptions

On this page, read detailed descriptions of the Summer Field School and Winter Business Intensive sessions.  Registration for 2021-22 Winter Business Intensive is now open!

Winter Business Intensive 2021-2022 Schedule

This year’s WBI Classes will be held in person at the Jonesborough Farm Bureau and virtually via Zoom, with a phone in option for folks without a stable internet connection.  Recordings of each session will be shared with registered students.  Classes are held on Thursdays from 6-9pm on each date listed below.  Tuition cost for the WBI is $99 per farm and includes the book, Whole Farm Management, and a printed resource binder.  Registration will end November 1st.

Session 1: Introductions & Getting Started. November 11th. During our first session, we will introduce the program, support staff, coursework and expectations.  There will be time for everyone to speak for 1-2 min about their farms or farm dreams.  Though these workshops will be conducted virtually, we hope to foster as much peer-to-peer learning and connection as we can.

Session 2: Visioning & Assessing Your Resources. December 2nd. Do you have a clear image in your mind of your successful farm operation?  This session will provide opportunity for self-reflection of your personal mission and values as the first step towards creating your business plan.  Students will be given resources to assess personal and family lifestyle needs, in order to form a basis for understanding your farm operation’s financial goals.

Session 3: Farm Infrastructure & Natural Resources. December 16th. This session will discuss the need to think of your farm as a whole integrated system, and help you understand the environmental, economic, and social resources you need to succeed.  Students will learn to assess their farm’s resources and get an introduction to the conservation and support services offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Session 4: Markets & Marketing.  January 13th. Before buying your first seeds or breeding stock, it’s important to know who is going to buy the final product.  If you plan to sell directly to consumers, it’s not enough to just raise a product.  Today’s farmers need to be good at marketing as well, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated or expensive to reach local buyers.  In this session, you will learn how to identify appropriate sales outlets for your products, target your specific customers, and how to use low-cost platforms to market your products effectively.

Session 5: Business & Financial Management.  January 27thHaving a solid grasp on the financials can make or break any farm operation.  In this session, students will get an introduction to financial planning, recordkeeping, and filing taxes.  We’ll do an overview of enterprise budgets, cash flow analysis, and profit and loss sheets.  The session will also cover best practices for recordkeeping to make filing your farm’s Schedule F tax form easier.  By going through the exercise of “paper farming” students can determine if their ideas can make money or not, before they invest time or money in the effort.

Session 6: Sustainable Production Planning.  February 10thInvesting in your farm’s natural resources will pay financial and environmental dividends.  This session will provide an overview of the benefits of a number of sustainable production strategies, including high tunnels for season extension, rotational grazing, and cover crops & soil health.  We’ll also go in depth into NRCS programs that can support the implementation of these practices on your farm.

Session 7: Entrepreneurship & Risk Management.  February 24thAny new business venture requires an entrepreneur to overcome a few legal and regulatory hurdles and to have a plan for if things go wrong.  This session breaks down what steps students will need to take to set up their business and manage risk on their farm.  This includes information on getting a Farm Number, business license, insurance considerations, business structures, and estate planning.

Session 8: Loans, Grants & Support Programs.  March 10thStudents should have a fairly robust farm business plan outlined by this session, which will be very useful when applying for loan or other support programs.  Students will be introduced to a variety of state and federal grant, cost-share, and loan programs available to farmers.  This will include a special focus on the Farm Service Agency’s micro-loan program for beginning farmers.

Graduation Celebration. March 24thWe normally gather in person at Grand Oak Farm’s party barn but Covid-19 has put this plan on hold.  Regardless if it’s online or in person, we will provide students with the opportunity to present their finished business plans to the class and receive feedback.

Summer Field School 2021 Workshops

This is our official schedule for SFS 2021. We’ve got an awesome lineup you won’t want to miss!  Attendees can pick workshops a la carte for $15 per session or purchase all 8 sessions for a discounted rate of $100.  Purchase Tickets Here.

Session 1: Goodwater Vineyards. May 13th.  We are kicking off Summer Field School with a trip to Mosheim, TN to visit Goodwater Vineyards and learn about wine making and Agritourism. We will also have speaker David Lockwood from UT Extension there to talk about vineyard care. Workshop runs from 5:30-8pm.

Session 2: Brown’s Farm. May 27th. Next up, we’re heading to Brown’s Farm to learn about goats, goat care, and kidding with Debbie Snyder in Mountain City, TN. We will also have speaker Kathleen Wilson from UT Extension to talk about goat care, the TN Dept of Agriculture’s TAEP cost-share program, Master Small Ruminants classes, and other programs and support offered by UT Extension. Workshop will run from 5:30-8pm.

Session 3: Opossum BottomJune 10th. Learn about vegetable production and food safety at Opossum Bottom Farm, a small-scale intensive urban market garden in Johnson City. Farmer Chris Theis grows a variety of greens, heirloom tomatoes, and other specialty produce. We will also have a speaker from UT Extension to discuss food safety regulations and how small farms can comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Workshop will run 6-8:30pm.

Session 4: A Different Chick Farm & OrchardJune 24th. A Different Chick Farm is one of only a few farms in East Tennessee to be certified organic. They grow a variety of organic produce, fruit, heritage breed poultry, and nursery plants on 5 acres in Johnson City, TN. We will be discussing the process of going organic and will also have someone from UT Extension to talk about the UT Organics program. The workshop will run 6-8:30pm.

Session 5: Hope Farms & Studio.  July 8th. Join us to learn about vegetable production in high tunnels and dye plants for naturally dyeing fibers. Becky and Steve Mallory grow on Becky’s family farm in Greeneville, TN. Steve will talk about year round production in a high tunnel and Becky will discuss her fiber arts business. We will also have a speaker from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to talk about NRCS support programs, including the EQIP high tunnel cost-share program. Beginning farmers can qualify for up to 90% cost-share on the expenses of buying and installing a high tunnel. The workshop will run from 6-8:30pm.

Session 6: Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers. July 22nd. This session will be all about raising cut flowers, with the premier flower farm in Northeast TN. Linda Doan from Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers will give us a tour of her farm and facilities, and provide a behind the scenes look at her operation in Blountville, TN. Cut flowers can be a profitable farm enterprise, but it takes a lot of skill, attention, and hard work to grow the high quality flowers that florists and wedding planners require. This is a special workshop that shouldn’t be missed!

Session 7: Shady Lynn FarmsAugust 12th. Come learn about cow shares and raw milk at this small family dairy in Elizabethton, TN. Shady Lynn Farm is the only farm in Northeast Tennessee currently selling raw cow milk shares. These shares include options to purchase milk, butter, heavy cream, buttermilk and kefir. The farm used to be a conventional dairy operation for over 70 years, but it has become increasingly difficult for small dairies to stay in business. In 2018, the Elliot family changed their business model to sell high quality milk directly to customers through a herd share program. We will be touring the farm and learning all about their production practices and facilities. The workshop will run from 6-8:30pm.

Session 8: Farm TBD. August 27th. 

Community Potluck.  Come celebrate the harvest season with current and former Field School students at Grand Oak Farm’s Party Barn!  A main meat and vegetarian dish will be provided and attendees are welcome to bring a side or dessert.