Food Sustainability

Organic Growers School Hosts First Online Harvest Conference

Organic Growers School Virtual Conference

By Natasha Anderson

Organic Growers School (OGS), an Asheville-based nonprofit offering affordable classes on organic growing and sustainable living, hosts its seventh annual Harvest Conference Friday and Saturday, September 11 and 12. Though OGS has prioritized in-person, grower-to-grower learning for the past 29 years, all OGS programming will be online for the remainder of 2020, with some programs remaining online into 2021. The Harvest Conference will be the first major public online gathering to be held by the organization.

“OGS has been considering online education for many years; COVID-19 was just a push into what we had already identified as the inevitable for our organization,” says Sera Deva, director of OGS programming and systems design. “The online education world will allow us to reach a broader audience for the first time, which is very exciting.”

The conference features three two-day workshops held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. via livestream on the Zoom platform. Recordings of the classes will also be available for purchase. Topics include farm business, Cherokee foods and herbal tonics.

Farm business workshops are taught by Cee Stanley of Green Heffa Farms in Liberty, NC. On Friday, Stanley will cover The NC Hemp Industry. “There is a mystique around cannabis in this country in general and hemp is not immune,” says Stanley. “With its myriad applications—from medicinal to industrial—it is appealing to both new and veteran farmers.”

Saturday, Stanley will teach Brand Your Small Farm for Fundraising Success, sharing her strategy for carving a niche, connecting authentically with customers and building a financially sustainable hemp farming enterprise. “Participants can expect a genuine and authentic overview of the boutique hemp industry,” says Stanley. “I teach branding in my Big Hemping course but have never shared it on a broader platform so am excited to do so at this year’s Harvest Conference.”

Patricia Kyritsi Howell will teach Herbal Tonics, covering spring and summer in Friday’s course and fall and winter on Saturday. Attendees will learn how to blend medicinal herbs and seasonal foods to create herbal preparations and simple dishes that may nourish and strengthen various body systems. Examples include those that are believed to boost immune response, encourage detoxification, regulate the heart and improve circulation and sleep. Easy-to-follow recipes for home use are emphasized.

Past attendees “report feeling empowered to take a preventative approach to improving their health,” Howell says, “and with the guidelines I provide, find the herbs and foods they use are more effective because they are being used in therapeutic doses.”

Cherokee Foods workshops, taught by Amy Walker, Mary Crowe and Tyson Sampson, focus on gathering and wildcrafting in Friday’s class and on cultivating traditional crops in Saturday’s class.
“OGS is at an all-time high when it comes to staff commitment and creative minds prioritizing adaptable educational models,” says Deva. “We’re continuing to address equity and relevance questions through an extended strategic planning process. In addition, the curriculum we’re offering is extremely relevant to today’s issues.”

The day-long workshops are all independent. Participants can sign up for a workshop with any instructor on Friday and/or Saturday. The cost for one day only is $70 or $125 for both days. Details on the workshops and how to register can be found at OrganicGrowersSchool.org. Scholarships are available.

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