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Danélle Cutting: Farm School makes a huge contribution

The Southern Piedmont N.C. Farm School is something that I have written about numerous times. Every class has something new, and every field trip is an adventure.

For the past five years, numerous counties and agents have trained more than 300 new and transitioning farmers. That is a huge feat, and I am so proud to have been able to be part of this program since the beginning.

With that being said, this week marked the 2016 Southern Piedmont N.C. Farm School graduation at Morgan Ridge Vineyards.

This year, we were able to graduate 22 individuals, families, new farmers and transitioning farms. These graduates spent seven months attending late night business classes and all day field days. They also had to create their own business plans, and who really likes making those?

Now, some of my readers are probably thinking, only 22 graduates? That’s not a lot. But, in the grand scheme of things, the United States population has only 2 percent of people who characterize themselves as farmers.

Those 22 graduates make a huge difference. Whether or not they succeed in farming, the N.C. Farm School program just graduated 22 new and transitioning farmers, 22 local food advocates and 22 graduates who will be farming advocates.

This is something that is needed since so many of our current population are four to seven generations removed from a farm. These graduates can help educate the public on agriculture since many do not know what agriculture is anymore.

The Southern Piedmont N.C. Farm School team has seen some great ideas come out of the program, from cheese making, vineyards, lavender growing and even food trucks using local ingredients.

We have no doubt that there will be some great ideas created and implemented by these graduates. North Carolina is becoming a local food mecca and for good reason — agriculture is still number one and accounts for over $70 billion in our state’s economy.

Because agriculture is such an important piece of our livelihood, we have to help every individual that wants to make agriculture great; that is one reason why the NC Farm School program was created.

If this is something you would like to get involved in, there are 2017 N.C. Farm Schools starting all across the state. This year will be the first year in five years that the Piedmont will be taking a break, but we will host another one in 2018.

For more information on the 2017 schools, visit the N.C. Farm School website at www.ncfarmschool.com.

If you would like more information on the program, find out what some of our graduates are doing, or learn how to help improve the local food movement, contact your local Cooperative Extension agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970, or email her at danelle_cutting@ncsu.edu.

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