Stephanie Vinat and her husband Jeremiah Batla

Stephanie Vinat and her husband Jeremiah Batla own AppaLatin Farmstead in Marshall, North Carolina.

Giving Tuesday has become a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity.

Organic Growers School is enthusiastically joining this movement with its Give to Grow Fund that raises money for scholarships starting now.

To serve the mission of accessibility, OGS wants to ensure that anyone interested in learning to farm and garden organically can access programs, workshops and resources regardless of ability to pay.

In the next few weeks, OGS will be interviewing scholarship recipients and sharing their personal stories on how they got started farming, their farm victories, and how they are overcoming barriers as new and established farmers.

Farming is an increasingly challenging profession in which to thrive and OGS is here to meet those changing needs and support farmers during every part of their journey.

The program’s training and support ensures more fruitful, environmentally responsible farms, and long-term sustainability for independent agricultural businesses and backyard gardeners.

Give to Grow by getting involved

The AppaLatin Farmstead

Stephanie Vinat and her husband Jeremiah Batla of AppaLatin Farmstead use permaculture and indigenous agriculture practices to grow produce for their value-added food business based in Marshall, North Carolina.

Vinat and Batla are driven by a mission for food justice in the LatinX community.

What Brought You to OGS and Farming?

My husband, Jeremiah, and I left our careers in finance almost five years ago. We were high earners with bright futures. The corporate ladder was ours to climb and we were so close to the top, yet we were feeling unfulfilled and chronically stressed.

We had reached the point of corporate burnout and didn’t have the tools to manage through it. We took a leap of faith and set out on sabbatical.

We had two tickets to Mexico and no backup plan. We packed all our belongings into a POD and set out on our journey.

We hoped that opening ourselves up to the universe would allow us to find our calling and live more balanced lives.

Looking back, we could’ve done things differently — saved more money, negotiated a return contract, but we felt desperate and we knew we would have to do something bold or we would do nothing at all.

We learned about permaculture while living in Costa Rica. We made friends with some of the locals and were invited to join an edible journey through a neighbor’s permaculture garden.

We were so impressed and inspired that we decided to attend permaculture school in Costa Rica later that year.

In the meantime, we continued to travel. We lived on farms throughout Europe and Latin America. When we returned for permaculture school, we knew we wanted farming and permaculture to be part of our future.

Among all the valuable things we learned in permaculture school: We learned that the area of Eastern Tennessee, Northern Georgia and Western North Carolina are the most biodiverse in North America. And although we were searching for property in Costa Rica, we decided to make a trip to Asheville and check it out.

It was during this time, while looking at land in WNC, that we learned about Organic Growers School.

We were at a restaurant in Little Switzerland when I saw an ad for Farm Beginnings on a pinboard by the restrooms. We took it as a sign from the universe and a year later we became Farm Beginnings students.

What Are You Growing/Raising?

We are a 6.5-acre permaculture farm and homestead that produces herbs and vegetables, specializing in Latin pepper varieties.

Our annual vegetables grow on 1/10 of an acre and we have 3/4 of an acre dedicated to our perennial food forest.

We are adding two high tunnels for next season – thanks to the NRCS High Tunnel Grant program.

Defining Success

We have made significant progress since starting our journey. Our plants, produce and food products were available at six local farmers markets this season vs. one market in our first season.

We have friendships and partnerships in the local farming community, although we knew no one when we started. We have a name, logo, website, social media — all of which were only a dream less than two years ago.

We have nurtured thousands of plants and served hundreds of customers. We are spreading messages of care, community and culture through our real-life and digital platforms.

Triumphant Moments

We are first generation and second career farmers. The path for us was not clearly marked until we found OGS.

OGS taught us that a career in farming is possible, even if you don’t come from a history of farmers. One of the first things we did in Farm Beginnings was to create a Holistic Goal for our farm and this has served as a driver for our decision making on the farm.

Overall, we are blessed to be farming in WNC. We are living our dream. We have our hands in the dirt. We are healing ourselves and the land.

For more information on Organic Growers School or the Give to Grow Fund, visit https://organicgrowersschool.org/.

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