Every September since 2014, Organic Growers School has marked the gentle shift from summer growing season to fall with its Harvest Conference. This year’s event, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6-7, at Warren Wilson College, will offer seasonally appropriate workshops for gardeners, urban farmers and homesteaders, featuring many instructors from North Carolina.
“In the past, we’ve been bringing in regional experts, but this year is really close to home,” says OGS conference coordinator and farmer programs associate Sera Deva. “We wanted to focus on what our constituents are finding important and relevant — herbal medicine, convening with our native wild edibles, perennials and, of course, hemp.”
Each day of the conference, a daylong stand-alone workshop will be presented on each of the following topics: forest farming; do-it-yourself herbal medicine; wild edibles; and hemp farming. Clarenda Stanley-Anderson, 2019 Featured Farmer for National Hemp History Week, will present Growing Hemp at Any Scale and Understanding the Hemp Industry along with her husband, Malcolm Anderson. Educator, builder and tree planter Geoff Steen of Marshall will lead a workshop on Agroforestry and Silvopasture on Friday and one on Forest Gardening on Saturday. Noelle Fuller, manager of the University of Georgia’s medicinal herb farm, will offer classes on making herbal tinctures, teas and oils, and cooking with herbs. And WNC botanist and educator Luke Cannon will present talks on wild foods of the Southern Appalachians and mushroom families of the Southeast.
This minimalist roster of all-day intensives is a relatively new format for the Harvest Conference, which started out as a “multitrack and multitime slot program composed of 20-plus 90-minute workshops,” says OGS Executive Director Lee Warren. But over six years, the event has evolved to meet the needs of both its instructors and participants.
“Diving deeper with full day intensives has allowed us not only to compensate our teachers more for their time but also allows our participants more depth on the topics they explore,” says Deva. “We piloted this model last year and got such good feedback we decided to continue with it.”
The cost for the conference is $70 for one day, $125 for both days. Deva notes that, like most OGS events, there are volunteer opportunities that allow participants to attend for free (sign up at organicgrowersschool.org/conferences/harvest/volunteer). There are also full scholarships available through the N.C. Rural Center’s Rural Food Business Assistance Project for residents of specific counties who are engaged in or planning a rural small business related to food or farming. For details and to apply, visit avl.mx/6gd.
WHAT: Organic Growers School Harvest Conference
WHERE: Warren Wilson College, 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6-7, organicgrowersschool.org