Amy-Lynn Albertson: NC Farm School growing farmers from the ground up

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2023

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
N.C. Cooperative Extension

According to the 2017 Agriculture Census, there are about 13,427 new and beginning farm producers in North Carolina. Only 9 percent of North Carolina’s farms sell directly to the consumer. We need new farmers to meet the demand for locally grown food in North Carolina’s population of 10 million plus people. I often get people who come to my office and say, “I have some land that I want to do something with… but I don’t know what. Can you tell me what I can grow and make some money?” This is an open-ended question because it depends on the market and the operator on whether an agriculture venture will be successful. Any good business starts with a good plan and lots of research. The key to having a successful farm enterprise is “knowing” what success means to you. Success may mean keeping the farm out of development, making enough money to take a trip this year, or farming full-time and supporting your family. If this sounds like you or someone you know, N.C. Farm School may be the perfect Christmas Gift. N.C. Farm School South Central will be Feb. 8-June 7, 2024. Business classes will meet every other Thursday from 6-9 p.m. at the Iredell County Extension Center, and farm field days will be once a month on a Friday from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $300/person or $550/couple. Applications are available at; the deadline is Jan. 10, 2024.

N.C. Farm School is committed to helping those who have land develop enterprises to keep land in production. Our students find that they can build their dreams into an entire farm business plan to enable success when implementing their ideas. Often, somebody would have sold this land for development or not used it for agriculture. Joy Cobb, a 2019 Northern Piedmont Farm School graduate, says she was able to take her idea and put it on paper in a meaningful way. “N.C. Farm School provided me with the tools and support necessary to stop using the spaghetti method to figure out farming. I can do budget sheets that don’t look like the ramblings of a madman on paper.” Joy recognized that this was critical to keeping the commitment to that land that Joy and husband Darryl had made to their family as Joy goes on to say, “His (Darryl’s father’s) wish was that the land stays in agriculture as opposed to being timbered or turned into a housing development. We committed to Darryl’s father to do all we could to keep the farm a farm.” N.C. Farm School’s method of helping farmers develop their ideas is hands-on. We emphasize a think-plan-do approach by coming out to the farm to show students hands-on and what the next steps are in practical business development. Michael Tustin of Squashbuckler Farms said, “The on-farm consultation was awesome because it helped me really tie down some of the finer details of my plans, and it was great to have people with real-world experience tell me I wasn’t crazy and that my dream was possible.”

N.C. Farm School offers marketing, budgeting, financial risk management, a business plan framework, one-on-one site visits with university business specialists around your goals, and mentoring based on your interests. Extension agents and specialists lead each class and farm field day to give every student a rewarding experience. For more information on N.C. Farm School, go to or call the Rowan County Extension Center at 704-216-8970.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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