N.C. Farm School summit offers two days of education

GREENHOUSE CLASSROOM: A farmer explains the details of her new hydroponic system during an N.C. Farm School tour. Attendees at this year’s event can tour farms in WNC on Sept. 14. Photo courtesy of N.C. Cooperative Extension
BLOSSOMING KNOW-HOW: In its third year, the N.C. Farm School Summit gives farmers the chance to visit burgeoning local farms and take part in workshops focused on improving the bottom line. Photo courtesy of N.C. Cooperative Extension
BLOSSOMING KNOW-HOW: In its third year, the N.C. Farm School Summit gives farmers the chance to visit burgeoning local farms and take part in workshops focused on improving the bottom line. Photo courtesy of N.C. Cooperative Extension

The N.C. Farm School Summit climbs to the mountains in its third year on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15, bringing a bumper crop of wisdom to help farmers with the challenges of running an agricultural operation. The two-day summit sprouts out of N.C. Farm School, a community of N.C. Cooperative Extension agents, university specialists and growers on a mission to increase the number of sustainable and economically viable farms in the state.

Molly Sandfoss, extension director at the McDowell County Center in Marion, says this year’s gathering will focus on a variety of production practices, offering educational opportunities for beginning and experienced farmers alike. Topics for workshops at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River on Sept. 15 include vegetable grafting, plasticulture, pastured pork, high-tunnel crop selection, poultry health and social media marketing.

These sessions will highlight practices that can help farms achieve success, teaching methods and technologies that will help farmers to increase their bottom line, Sandfoss says.

The summit takes place at a different location in the state each year, and this year participants will tour thriving Western North Carolina farms in pre-tours on Sept. 14. Attendees can visit Hickory Nut Gap Farm to learn about livestock and agritourism, as well as Mills River Creamery to see a working dairy firsthand. (See “Cream of the Crop,” July 12, Xpress). Those already growing produce or interested in starting a horticulture operation can visit Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s small organic farm and North River Farms, which incorporates agritourism ventures.

Sandfoss stresses that support doesn’t end once the summit is over. “N.C. Cooperative Extension has offices staffed with extension agents in all 100 counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to assist farmers,” she says. If they can’t help, specialized agents at the state and regional level can.

Throughout the year, N.C. Farm School provides business-planning seminars as well as field trips to working farms to demonstrate economically sustainable farming methods. Find out more at ncfarmschool.ces.ncsu.edu.

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