The 26th Annual Spring Conference—for farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and sustainability seekers—is hosted by Organic Growers School (OGS), a local non-profit organization and will take place this year at Mars Hill University in Mars Hil.
The conference is scheduled for Friday–Sunday, March 8-10. The Friday Pre-Conference Workshops take place at various locations around Western NC.
“We’re thrilled to be moving to Mars Hill University for our 26th Annual weekend event,” says Conference Coordinator Kiera Bulan. The new location is just 20 minutes north of downtown Asheville and the campus offers free parking, larger classroom sizes, more centralized indoor locations for exhibitors and registration, and more food vendor options than previous locations. “In addition,” says Bulan, “The venue is more affordable, which allows us to keep our expenses down and continue to offer extremely low registration fees to participants. It’s a big win for everyone.”
The Spring Conference offers practical, region-specific workshops on farming, gardening, permaculture, urban growing, and rural living and includes a trade show, a seed exchange, kids program, special guest speakers, and a Saturday evening social.
More than 150 classes—both 90-minute sessions and half-day workshops—are offered on Saturday and Sunday are organized 17 learning tracks which are populated with 4 workshops throughout each day. The tracks are organized by local community leaders who are experts in their fields and volunteer their time to create highly diverse schedule.
The themed tracks include:
- Community Food
- Earth Skills
- Farmers: Beginning
- Farmers: Experienced
- Sustainable Forestry
- Sustainable Living
- Thinking Big
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 goal of the Spring Conference is to provide down-to-earth advice on growing and sustainable living while remaining affordable and accessible. The Spring Conference is the largest locally run sustainability conference in the Southeast and is proudly focused on regionally relevant growing methods.
The 2019 Kids Program is available to our youngest growers in partnership with Asheville Farmstead School. The program will offer crafts, science experiments, outdoor activities, and indoor and outdoor play opportunities on the Mars Hill University campus during conference hours. The cost per child is $35 per day or $50 for both days of the weekend.
Four full-day, on-farm, pre-conference workshops are available on Friday, March 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They offer an deeper dive into specific topics with regional and national special guest experts. The cost for each workshop is $55 when purchased with a weekend conference registration and $70 without. Offered this year are:
- Finding, Buying, & Loving the Land— Site Assessment & Land Design for Farmers, Homesteaders, and Land Seekers with Peter Bane at Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, 455 Research Drive, Mills River, NC 28759.
- Year-Round Growing on the Farm & Garden with Pam Dawling & Ira Wallace at Creekside Farms Education Center, 339 Avery Creek Road, Arden, NC 28704
- Integrated Animal Agriculture—Incorporating livestock into Your Farm & Homestead with Meredith Leigh at Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm Education Center, 180 Mag Sluder Road, Alexander NC 28701
- Water and Agriculture—Critical Consciousness for Healing the Planet with John & Jonathan Todd at Living Web Farms, 176 Kimzey Rd, Mills River, NC 28759
The Spring Conference features an exhibit hall on Saturday and Sunday that showcases a wide array of vendors and products from local farms, gardening suppliers, and cottage industries that specialize in organic products and resources.
Also featured on Saturday and Sunday is the annual Seed and Plant Exchange booth which offers the opportunity to preserve genetic diversity and protect regionally adapted varieties. Attendees may bring excess seeds and small plants to share, barter, or trade.
“This conference is an annual celebration of the amazing regional wisdom we are fortunate to have access to,” says Lee Warren, OGS Executive Director. “The commitment to land stewardship, sustainable food systems, and local farming not only on the part of our instructors but in our participants makes this event a place to network, a source of inspiration, and a celebration of the richness of our community.”