Organic Education

Organic Grower’s School Annual Spring Conference is This Weekend

By: Whitney Cooper

The Organic Growers School will host its 23rd Annual Organic Growers School Spring Conference Saturday and Sunday, March 12- 13, at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

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.”

The school hosts an annual Spring Conference and Harvest Conference in the fall, in addition to providing educational opportunities for organic farmers, gardeners, beginning growers, and homesteaders via workshops, peer-to-peer hands-on learning opportunities, and classes throughout the year.

The Spring Conference features classes for beginning backyard growers to advanced commercial farmers, plus a farm to table dinner, trade show, seed exchange, children’s program, and pre-conference events.

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.

“Our teachers reflect the best our region has to offer, from longtime farmers on the cutting edge of biodynamics to renowned herbalists to the very best mushroom experts and thought provoking discussions on community food,” said Executive Director, Lee Warren.

The conference also offers special programming in addition to classes. Children, ages 4-12, can participate in youth-specific interactive programs that include Nursery Dairy Goats, Urban Gardening and Making Seedballs, Appalachian Storytelling, and Herbs for Kids.

Saturday evening on campus, beginning at 5:30 p.m., registrants can purchase tickets for a fundraising dinner benefitting the Organic Growers School with special guest, Bill Whipple.

“Bill Whipple, aka Pierre Geaux [is] on a mission to teach about cuisine, and encourages us to eat something ‘interesting’ by exploring the local flavors of small farm,” said Warren.

Whipple will discuss his experience as an accidental detainee at Guatanamo Bay, while also talking about local flavors over a meal that includes four courses of curated local foods.

The event draws over 2,000 attendees, exhibitors, and speakers from 18 states and Canada, and is the largest grassroots conference of its kind in the region.

“I’m hoping to learn more about wild foraging and small scale farming techniques — I want to build a small, sustainable farm, and I’m looking to learn from the experts, and hopefully network and connect to the organic growing community,” said new registrant, Erin Jordan.

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 are $65 for Saturday, and $60 for Sunday (tickets for children 12 and under are $30 each day) and can be purchased online, or at the door. Early registration is encouraged. Tickets can be purchased online at www.organicgrowersschool.com, or a mailed-in registration form.

For more details, contact Conference Coordinator, Sabrina Wells, at Sabrina@organicgrowersschool.org, or 828-278-9332. Registration forms are also available at area retail stores and Cooperative Extension Offices.

Major sponsors for the event include the French Broad Food Co-Op, Living Web Farms, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Nourish and Flourish, Earth Tools, and Organic Valley, among others.


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About Shelby Harrell
Shelby Harrell is the news editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment publication and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for more than six years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.