Farm & Garden: From the ground up

DOWN AND DIRTY: The year-long Farm Beginnings training program gives aspiring farmers the skills to launch a sustainable enterprise. Photo by Amelia Fletcher

Aug. 15 is deadline to apply for Farm Beginnings program

While launching a farm is a dream that appeals to many, research shows that few who yearn to farm for a living will succeed without help. The Organic Growers School’s yearlong Farm Beginnings course is a farmer-led training and support program designed to help aspiring farmers plan and establish sustainable farm businesses. OGS is accepting applications for the 180-hour training program through Monday, Aug. 15.

From October through March, Farm Beginnings participants will engage in a winter program consisting of 13 business training sessions. From April to October, students will focus on production training, which encompasses seven field days on sustainable farms around the region and 10 field days at the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm.

In addition to the business and production training programs, Farm Beginnings students have access to over 40 hours of conference sessions, including the OGS Spring Conference in March and Harvest Conference in September. Eight hours of training is available from the Business of Farming Conference presented by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.

A one-year WNC CRAFT Farmer Network membership is also included in the Farm Beginnings program.

The cost to participate in the Farm Beginnings program is $2,500 per farm for up to two business partners. Scholarships and payment plans are available. For more information or to request an application, email

Mountain State Fair competitions

Whether your thing is cooking or raising livestock, clogging or woodcarving, the Mountain State Fair probably has a competition or an exhibit for you. While the fair doesn’t return to the WNC Agricultural Center until Sept. 9-18, now is the time to prepare or put the finishing touches on competition entries. Documents outlining the fair’s array of competitions and categories is available online at the official competition website.

Perhaps you are a quilter; the fair offers 13 categories encompassing different quilt sizes and techniques. Entries must be submitted by Friday, Aug. 26. Or maybe photography is your thing. Or hand weaving, preserved foods, jewelry, baking, gospel singing — the list goes on and on.

For growers of fruits, vegetables and nuts, opportunities to show off your produce abound. The competition guide offers tips for selecting the best entries, such as “Uniform size is the best selection. Example: Carrots, any type (all three carrots should be close to the same size).” All entries must be grown by the exhibitor.

Farmers who hope to win coveted honors in the perennially popular Giants of the Garden competition must lug (or deliver by forklift) their gargantuan pumpkins or watermelons to a weigh-in on Tuesday, Sept. 6, from 3-7 p.m.

Not a raiser of swine or rabbits? Consider creating a shoebox parade float. Decorative shoebox categories include history, agriculture, mountain scenery, fair-themed and anything goes. Age classes range from 6 through adult, so just about anyone can create a shoebox entry.

If all else fails, there’s always the ice cream eating contest, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13. Contestants can sign up on the day of the event at the Davis Event Center at the WNC Agricultural Center. Space is limited.



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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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