Organic Growers School receives grant from Simply Organic 1% Fund

PRESS RELEASE from Organic Growers School:

Asheville, NC—Organic Growers School (OGS) is pleased to announce an award of $6,700 from the Simply Organic® 1% Fund, which, since 2001, has provided over a million dollars of support to organic causes. Simply Organic® is a comprehensive 100% certified organic line of spices, seasoning mixes and baking flavors and is part of the family of brands owned by Frontier Co-op™, founded in 1976 and based in Norway, Iowa. One percent of Simply Organic® sales fund organic food and farm projects.

OGS will use the grant award to support Apprentice Link, an OGS Farmer Program, that helps aspiring farm apprentices find work on regional organic and sustainable farms, and supports farmer mentors.  With the funding from the Simply Organic® 1% fund, OGS will be able to develop Apprentice Link to serve these primary roles:

Connect aspiring farmers with on-farm apprenticeship opportunities on organic & sustainable farms to receive on the ground training in organic growing techniques.

Create & compile resources to support farmers providing apprenticeships and help them better train the next generation of organic growers.

Support organic farmers in finding reliable farm labor and increase their efficiency to produce better, higher quality products.

Take a stand for our organic farmers demonstrating the added value organic agriculture brings to our region.

In 2010, OGS started Apprentice Link, an online searchable, matching system for people looking for work on organic farms to connect with farms in need of reliable workers. Between 2010 and 2015, Apprentice link served 994 potential apprentices and 102 regional farms. In 2014, we had 50 farms and 90 apprentices actively using the database. In 2015, the online Apprentice Link system had become outdated and difficult to use. An overhaul was needed. Additionally, in 2015, the OGS “Barriers to Farming in WNC” research report, showed that 27% of the farmers & aspiring farmers we surveyed would like assistance finding farm labor, and 18% would like assistance finding hands-on farm work. Additionally, 53% saw access to markets and customers as a significant to very significant barrier to farming successfully in the the region. As our success with Apprentice Link over the course of 5 years as well as the survey results clearly indicate a need for connecting apprentices with organic farms.

Clearly there is a need.

In 2016, OGS  will create an upgraded, user-friendly system of comprehensive online profiles for the organic & sustainable farms in our region. This new format will allow OGS to streamline the process for aspiring apprentices to find work, farmers to find reliable labor, and customers to find organic products while greatly reducing OGS’s costs and management time.

The Simply Organic® 1% Fund is committed to growing organic and sustainable agriculture. The fund — determined as a percent of sales, not profits — is having a remarkable impact both here in the U.S. and internationally. For over three decades, Frontier has been a leader in promoting organic products and supporting organic agriculture around the world. It’s logical that their all-organic brand, Simply Organic®, funds many worthy organizations and events that support organics.  The OGS project closely aligns with the goals of the Simply Organic® 1% Fund by enabling education opportunities for apprentice farmers in organic growing techniques and educating the public on the value of organic agriculture.

Cameron Farlow, the Farmer Programs Director for OGS says, “By updating our online Apprentice Link system we will fill a missing link in on-the-ground farmer training, and support organic farmers to mentor, educate and have a stake in growing the next generation of organic farmers in WNC. The Simply Organic® 1% is helping us take Apprentice Link to a new level.”

By connecting aspiring farmers with apprenticeship opportunities on organic farms, OGS is facilitating the placement of highly qualified, reliable, & dedicated people to work on organic farms which both increases the efficiency of those farms and teaches the art and science of organic & sustainable farming for the next generation.  This next generation will enter their career in farming with a grounded understanding of what it takes to operate a successful organic farm. Apprentices on organic farms tend to remain lifelong advocates of organics, whether they are actively farming or whether they are farm product consumers.

Organic Growers School is the premier provider of practical organic education in the Southern Appalachians. We are building a mutually supportive network of prosperous farmers, productive gardeners and informed consumers engaged in creating healthy communities. Organic Growers School is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing organic education since 1993.

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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