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  • Writer's pictureMeili Mattern

Resources for Small Farms in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are numerous educational resources for small farmers. Specifically, there are opportunities to learn sustainable ways to harmoniously manage the land, the soil, the water resources, and the farm animals. In the early Spring, we participated in the Organic Growers School Spring Conference and a pre-conference workshop. For over 20 years, the Organic Growers School has put together a weekend in western North Carolina of educational speakers, workshops, and demonstrations. There are numerous workshops on a variety of topics that are of interest to small farmers such as: homesteading, community food, livestock, permaculture, herbs, gardening, sustainable forestry, and poultry. So many choices make it impossible to attend every workshop! Several pre-conference workshops were offered as well such as: farming while black and food justice lecture, mushroom cultivation, compost and compost tea workshop, and chickens and you. The chickens and you workshop was hands-on at a local farm. It covered every aspect of raising layer and meat chickens from the incubator to the table or chicken coop. This was a fantastic chance to meet others who share an interest in farming and cultivate a relationship with mentors.

Another great resource is the local extension agency. The extension agents are happy to help you find answers to your farming questions. Whether you are investigating your soil health or need a good recommendation for a farm animal veterinarian in the area, the extension agents are willing to help. We are in Rockingham County and our agency also offers the rental of a no-till seed drill for a very small fee. In April we seeded our pastures with white clover, red clover, crimson clover, orchard grass, and a fescue mix. The no-till drill is attached to your tractor and evenly distributes the seeds of your choice at the specified interval and depth. This was a great way to get the most out of those expensive pasture grass and legume seeds.

Another resource that I want to become more familiar with in the upcoming year is the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, which is operated in connection with NC State, NC A&T, and the NC Department of Agriculture. They promote local food systems, offer workshops, apprenticeships, and internships. They also maintain field research units, which create educational materials based on the field experiences. These publications have been a tremendous resource as we put together our pastured poultry and woodlot pork operations.

I’m sure there are many other great educational resources in North Carolina for small farmers. I’d love to hear about your favorite educational resources in the comments!

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