Learn, Inspire, Grow: Organic Growers School Hosts 24th Annual Spring Conference

The Organic Growers School will host its 24th Annual Organic Growers School Spring Conference Saturday and Sunday, March 11-12, at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

“The Spring Conference offers practical, region-specific workshops on farming, gardening, permaculture, urban growing, and rural living and includes a trade show, seed exchange, silent auction, and children’s program. Three on-farm, pre-conference workshops are also available at an additional cost,” said Executive Director, Lee Warren. “There are more than 70, 90-minute classes per day in 16 themed tracks: Community Food; Cooking; Earth Skills; Farmers: Beginning; Farmers: Intermediate to Advanced; Gardening; Herbs; Livestock; Mushrooms; Permaculture; Pollinators; Poultry; Soils; Sustainable Forestry; Sustainable Living.”

The Organic Growers School is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that, “grew out of the volunteer efforts of a group of farmers and extension specialists who, in 1993, gathered to discuss the need for nuts and bolts, region-specific crop growing information applicable for farmers in Western North Carolina… and to deliver practical information about organic agriculture at a reasonable price,” said Warren.

“[Our] mission is to inspire, educate, and support people to farm, garden, and live organically. Organic Growers School is the premier provider of practical organic education in the Southern Appalachians [that] envisions a mutually supportive network of prosperous farmers, productive gardeners, and informed consumers engaged in creating healthy communities,” said Warren.

The school hosts several events throughout the year in addition to the Spring Conference to provide educational opportunities for organic farmers, gardeners, beginning growers, and homesteaders via workshops, peer-to-peer hands-on learning opportunities, and classes throughout the year.

A sampling of this year’s events include: Spring & Summer Hoop houses, Creative Farmland Access, Creating Monarch Habitats, Permaculture, 5 Keys to Building Healthy Soils, Sustainable Seafood, Fire Building, Strategies for Pastured Livestock, Knots, Ropes & Strings, Powerhouse Breakfasts, What’s That Mushroom?, Dairy Goats, Rainwater Harvesting, and many more.

Registrants can choose from over 70 sessions each day, taught by the leading field experts in medicinal herbs, vermicompost, backyard chickens, honey bees, fermentation, homesteading, and permaculture, to name a few.

The Conference will also feature several keynote speakers including: Gabe Brown speaking on regenerating landscapes for a sustainable future, executive chef and owner of The Farmer and The Larder ( featured in January 2016’s Garden & Gun) Matthew Raiford, homesteader Althea Raiford, and author of City Chicks, co-author of Chicken Tractor, Day Range Poultry, Backyard Market Gardening, and A Tiny Home to Call Your Own, Pat Foreman.

“This one-of-a-kind event brings people of all walks of life together for a weekend of learning, inspiration, and networking and features a host of local and regional experts. The mission of the Spring Conference is to provide down-to-earth advice on growing and sustainable living, while remaining affordable and accessible. The OGS Spring Conference is the largest locally run sustainability conference in the Southeast,” said Warren.

For those looking for hands-on experience and an opportunity to learn about organic growing and sustainable living practices — in addition to connecting with a network of local farmers, gardeners, and foodies — the annual event offers a unique opportunity for attendees to gain practical knowledge and experience in a communal environment.

Tickets for the weekends are listed at $129 for the weekend, $74 for Saturday, and $64 for Sunday (tickets for children 12 and under are discounted) and can be purchased online, or at the door. Pre-conference workshop registrations are as follows:

  • Treating the Farm as an Ecosystem with Gabe Brown—$55 with weekend registration and $70 without.
  • Chickens & You: From Egg to Table with Pat Foreman—$55 with weekend registration and $70 without.
  • Beginning Forest Farming: Cultivating Crops Under the Canopy—$55 with weekend registration and $70 without.

There are also opportunities for individuals to attend the conference by means of a work-exchange program. Persons interested in applying for work exchange/volunteer status should visit the OGS website and fill out an application. Shifts are filled on a first-come, first-served basis

For more details – or to view a full weekend schedule, pre-conference workshops, and class descriptions – please visit organicgrowersschool.org. Registration forms are also available at area retail stores and Cooperative Extension Offices.

Major sponsors of the 24th Annual Spring Conference include: Carolina Farm Credit, French Broad Food Co-op, Mountain Rose Herbs, Living Web Farms, Earth Tools, Biltmore, Red Moon Herbs, Fedco Seeds, Central Carolina Community College, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Wild Abundance Firefly Gathering, Sow True Seeds, Edible Asheville, WNC Woman, Laurel of Asheville, Hendersonville Community Coop, IWANNA, Mountain Xpress, Mother Earth News Fair, Reems Creek Nursery, Thyme in the Garden, Sheville, Home Garden & Green Living Show, and Lenoir-Rhyne University.

By Whitney Cooper