Grow your mind

The tomatoes are off the vine and zucchini is a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean that gardening and homesteading must be abandoned for the winter. Don’t just pine for the lush days of summer; take a day (or three) to foster your knowledge so you can fill your belly with fruit and vegetables next year.

Organic Growers School (OGS) is a locally-focused network of farmers and growers who are dedicated to fostering agricultural and sustainable living education. Each spring, OGS hosts a wide array of classes and workshops at UNCA, which serves as a gathering place for both experienced and novice growers who want to connect and share their passions.

The experience is lively and invigorating. Professional farmers, orchardists and homesteaders share their knowledge with students of all ages, who eagerly absorb the information so they can apply it to their own projects.

But you don’t have to wait until spring to expand your growing prowess. OGS will host three Saturdays of fall encore classes, designed to bring the excitement of the spring conference to the cooler, quieter months of fall.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, Pat Battle of Living Web Farms will discus cover crops and the important work they do to foster healthy soil over the winter. Anne Grier of Gaining Ground Farm will reveal the secrets of growing great garlic and Cathy Williams of Asheville City Chickens will share the rewards of urban poultry. A presentation on wild Appalachian medicinal plants, with Dave Meesters of Medicine County Herbs, will round out the afternoon.

If you need to spend the last days of October preparing your soil or extending the growing season, come to UNCA the following Saturday, Nov. 2, for another full day of education. Zen Friedman of Living Systems Design will extol the virtues of urban permaculture and backyard micro-farming. Then Janet Kent of Medicine County Herbs will share the importance of using herbs to improve mental health. Franklin Sides of The Lord’s Acre will discuss soil management for gardens and small farms, followed by an introduction to backyard fungal farming with Rodney Web of Salamander Springs Farm.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, get back to basics with a Homesteading 101 class presented by Bob and Pat Momich of Arrowwood Farm. Then explore herbs for the immune system with Juliet Blankespoor of Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. If you’re new to the growing world, learn the keys to planing your first vegetable garden with Elizabeth Ayers of the N.C. Cooperative Extension. If you’d rather garden with your ears, learn the basics of bird language with Forest Floor Wilderness Programs representatives.

All classes are held at UNCA on three consecutive Saturdays: Oct. 26, Nov. 2 and Nov. 9. The cost is $18 per class at the door or $15 per class in advance. Take an entire day’s classes for $60 at the door or $50 in advance. Registration is recommended (OGS’ programs are known for their popularity) and can be found at


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