Danelle Cutting: Everyone learns during Farm School

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 16, 2015

By Danelle Cutting

Rowan Cooperative Extension

Last week, the Southern Piedmont Farm School started. We are going to have an awesome class. We have 36 participants from Union, Forsyth, Davie, Davidson, Mecklenburg and Rowan counties. Most are new farmers, but some have a few years under their belts.

It is great hosting a program that is so important. Agents across the state are helping teach five schools, including Blue Ridge, Foothills, Sandhills, Military and Southern Piedmont. Each class will visit farms in their region and learn business skills needed to run a farm. This is the fourth year for the farm school, and through the team effort we have been able to host five schools this year.

Each year, the program has improved. We are working to standardize the curriculum for the business classes.

Since starting the farm school, participating agents have helped teach more than 200 new and transitioning farmers how to effectively manage their farming operations. Unfortunately, many people get into farming and get in over their heads and end up having the farm go under. Farm School is helping prevent that casualty. Our mission is to help farms become sustainable and by our own sustainable definition, we mean keeping the lights on, bills paid, and the continuation of the farm.

A typical question we get is, “Who really attends farm school?” Each year, we have tried to see if there is a trend of who attends the schools and each year, ages, races and cultural backgrounds change. There is not a stereotypical farm school participant. That makes it difficult for us, but it also makes the courses more interesting because we detail the school to the needs of the participants.

This program has been effective in teaching business skills while learning production practices. There is rarely a program because I want to share this success with our farmers and our readers. When our current farmers are at the age of 65 and older and no one to turn the farm over to, who are we going to depend on for our food supply? I would like to believe that the farm school will help fill that void, so we can continue having a safe and stable food supply from people we can trust. I hope you can also help support these individuals and our local farmers by buying from them and maybe, even taking the course yourself.

If you are interested in the farm school, helping support local farms, or just want to learn how to garden yourself, contact your local Cooperative Extension Agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970.

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