By Natasha Anderson
Organic Growers School (OGS) is launching the second year of its regional curriculum and training opportunity for growers in Southern Appalachia in partnership with Certified Naturally Grown with funding support from the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service. In response to the need for virtual learning opportunities during the pandemic, OGS has restructured the Holistic Crop Management (HCM) series from in-person workshops to a six-part webinar series, which includes a combination of videos, resources and live virtual classroom sessions. The series will be held Tuesday evenings, March 23 through April 27.
“When we offered this programming in person, our workshops were structured to be full-day intensives,” says OGS director of programs and human resources Nicole DelCogliano. “We realized that structure could not translate to a virtual space, and we saw an opportunity to add a certain fluency to the program by making it one six-part webinar series that builds on itself for a truly whole-farm approach.”
The curriculum uses Certified Naturally Grown standards as the guidelines for holistic principles, and each session will consist of discussion-based exploration of soil health, pest management, disease control and weed maintenance, along with several components of the Holistic Management framework for whole-farm success.
“We plan to offer the opportunity for attendees to engage with each other, the speaker and with the subject matter by giving them the chance to ask questions and offer input on their own experiences,” says Carolina Farm Stewardship Association services manager and HCM soil health webinar instructor Mark Dempsey. “We also plan to have short group activities to workshop some of the more complicated aspects of soil health.”
Through these curated group activities in the virtual setting, participants will be able to build a network with experienced growers. In lieu of in-person farm tours, Asheville farmer and videographer Peter Brezny will produce a group of instructional videos to complement the classroom learning.
“While we would love to have farmers out in the field to learn techniques in real-time like last year, we’re excited to be working with Peter Brezny, as well as with the crew at Certified Naturally Grown to create on-farm lessons that will be paired with live farmer question-and-answer sessions,” says DelCogliano. “Participants will have continued access to these short films so that they can take the lessons out into their own fields next growing season.”
The HCM series focuses on the growing regions of northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia. Webinar sessions will feature farmers and agricultural experts from these areas. While this series focuses on farming in the Southern Appalachians, farmers from any region are invited to join.