New website links new and transitioning growers to farm schools 

Beginning farmers and growers considering new enterprises now have a new place to start: the NC Farm School website at http://ncfarmschool.ces.ncsu.edu/.

The website complements the NC Farm School program, a four-year-old North Carolina Cooperative Extension effort. Today, Cooperative Extension offers four farm schools across North Carolina to teach individuals and families to develop new agricultural businesses.

This year’s farm schools – Blue RidgeFoothills, Sandhills and Southern Piedmont – kicked off this month and will continue throughout the summer. The program includes seven business-planning seminars taught by Cooperative Extension agricultural economists. The classes focus on different areas of business planning, including financial management and effective marketing. By the end of the program, participants will have a complete business plan for their enterprise.

The program also includes field trips to working farms led by innovative, experienced farmers and agricultural professionals. Participants learn low-cost, sustainable farming methods in a range of production systems, from growing fruits and vegetables to raising cows, pigs, poultry and goats. The schools also cover specialty crops and agritourism.

The first Cooperative Extension farm school in North Carolina started in Davidson County in 2012, fueled by growing consumer interest in local foods, farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer markets and by a desire to grow the next generation of farmers. The average age of North Carolina’s farmers is 57.

Davidson County Extension advisory council member Jennifer Clark came up with the idea for that school, and she worked with Davidson County Extension Agent Amy-Lynn Albertson to develop a plan for teaching sound business principles to those wishing to start or add a new agricultural venture.

Albertson said extension agents are frequently approached by landowners who want to know how to start a business on their land. More and more families are looking at ways to supplement their incomes and make productive use of their land.

Albertson asked other extension agents in nearby counties to help, and since then, the program has continued to grow across the state. For more information, visit the website at http://ncfarmschool.ces.ncsu.edu/ or follow the program on Twitter @NCFarmSchool.

Cooperative Extension is an educational partnership of the state’s two land-grant universities, North Carolina State and North Carolina A&T State, county governments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its mission is to deliver education and technology that enrich the lives, land and economy of North Carolina.

— Staff Report

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