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Farm School looking for participants

Davie County Cooperative Extension will be part of the Southern Piedmont North Carolina Farm School in 2021.

NC Farm School (NCFS) is a unique entrepreneurial program for new and transitioning farmers with the mission of increasing the number of successful farmers in North Carolina.  NC Farm School connects would-be farmers to an entrepreneurial community and providing key business skills. Those who attend are able to find like-minded farmers to make business and networking connections.

Two Davie County farmers, Justin and Holly Miller of Cherry Hill Farm, graduated from NC Farm School in 2015. When asked if NCFS had benefitted them, they answered with a definite yes.

“We would only have good things to say about our experience with NC Farm School,” they said. “NC Farm School was a crash course in ag business and economics. We went into NC Farm School with an idea to get the family farm up and going again. We really just had plans to grow produce on a large enough scale to sell at markets and a roadside stand.

“NC Farm School helped us build onto our vision. Two years after taking the course we had branched out into selling to restaurants and large grocery store chains. NC Farm School really helped us build the foundation to start our business.

“They taught us how to run numbers before making any moves, and how to keep good records and the importance of it. Farming, big or small, is a tough career choice. There are so many things you are at the mercy of. Like nature, for example. Things we have no control over, but having a good foundation and tools to use in good and bad times helps. We would highly recommend NC Farm School to anyone thinking about making a career in agriculture.”

NC Farm School is committed to helping those who have land to develop enterprises to keep that land in production. Students find they are able to develop their dreams into a full farm business plan to enable success when implementing ideas. Often, this land would have sold to development or not used for agriculture.

Recent graduate Joy Cobb of Providence Farm in Guilford County says she was able to take her idea and put it on paper in a meaningful way.

“NC 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.” She recognized that this was critical to keeping the commitment to that land that she and husband Darryl had made to their family as she 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 made a commitment to Darryl’s father that we do all we could to keep the farm a farm.”

NC Farm School’s method of helping farmers develop their ideas is hands-on.

NCFS emphasizes a think-plan-do method by coming out to the farm to discover what students have on hand and what the next steps are in practical business development.

Michael Tustin of Squashbuckler Farm in Person County 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.”

He purchased 30 acres and developed his business plan around a market garden with the goal of expanding and diversifying his farming operation. He was able to connect to Extension agents who will continue to help him along the way and be available to stay hands-on as he grows. “The biggest benefit has been getting to know my Extension agents since they are such great sources of information,” he said.

Applications are being accepted for the 2021 NC Farm School, which will start in January 2021. Classroom sessions will be held twice a month at the Rowan County Extension Center. One field day per month will be held at locations in the six counties that are collaborating on NCFS.

For more information, call Davie County Cooperative Extension at 336-753-6100 or visit https://ncfarmschool.ces.ncsu.edu/ncfs-programs/2020-nc-farm-school/.