Growing with the times

Now in its 15th year, the Organic Growers School takes place on Saturday, March 8, at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock.

Flat out: Jenifer Miller of Fisher Branch Farm in Marshall teaches the basics of seed-starting at last year’s Organic Growers School. Courtesy Ogs

Begun in 1993, with 100 attending, the OGS has grown 10-fold in the intervening years, into an event with nearly 70 clinics on subjects as diverse as backyard egg production, season-extension, cheese-making and sustainable forestry. Last year’s school attracted 1,000 participants; this year, says organizer Meredith Leigh McKissick, 100 additional students are expected to turn out.

“We’re pretty much busting at the seams,” she says.

The daylong clinic is designed to be relevant to a continuum of agricultural experience, from beginning gardeners to fresh-faced market growers and long-time, sun-haggard commercial growers.

A trade show on Saturday will showcase exhibitors and products, from the produce of local farms to organic-gardening suppliers to book venders. A seed-and-plant exchange will allow regional growers to swap heirloom plants, a vital but dwindling agriculture resource.

One feature of this year’s event is a hands-on, on-farm session on Sunday, March 9, when growers will visit Sparkling Farm in Celo to learn more about vegetable production in the off-season. This year will also mark the fourth year that OGS has offered a children’s program for kids ages 7 to 12.

“It’s just a really great event,” says McKissick. “A great way to kick off the season.”

“Early bird” registration is available prior to Feb. 28 and costs $40, giving students the option to purchase a catered $10 buffet lunch with their ticket. Registration thereafter is $55. College students may attend for $30, and the children’s program costs $30.

For full details, visit the www.organicgrowersschool.org or request a registration form by calling McKissick at 450-7996. Forms are also available at Earth Fare, French Broad Food Co-op, Greenlife Grocery, Hendersonville Community Co-op and area Cooperative Extension offices.

Businesses interested in participating as food vendors, exhibitors or sponsors should also contact McKissick.

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