A famous educational proverb states, “Hear and Forget, See and Remember, Do and Understand”. In this spirit, our program is focused on providing a hands-on experience that allows the concurrent academic studies to come to life.
For 30+ hours each week, students are in the fields of the OFS Student Farm learning about, and working on, producing a wide variety of organic crops that serve our community—and are offered for sale through a CSA program, farm stand, local grocers, restaurants, farmers market, and seed sales. The Farm Manager trains and guides students in group sessions and/or individually as needed, and students work both cooperatively and individually to accomplish the farm work. This work includes all aspects of running the farm including bed preparation, plant propagation, weeding, harvesting, running the market stand, cover cropping, caring for livestock and much more. Farm responsibilities are rotated within the group to ensure that each participant has an opportunity to experience all aspects of the farm. Once a foundation of skills and concepts has been established, participants further develop their skills by taking leadership over a portion of the farm and making farm management decisions with feedback and assistance from the Farm Manager. (Please note: accomplishing farm work is a physical activity that requires participants to be physically active and outdoors on a daily basis for eight months. Before applying, please consider your ability to perform this level of activity).
For 10+ hours each week, participants take part in classes and discussions on the production, business, ecological, and social concepts that lie behind the practical work. On Monday mornings, everyone heads out for a 'Farm Walk' where the class does a thorough observation of the whole farm and discusses changes in the fields, crops and livestock while strategizing management options and planning the upcoming week’s work. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings we meet in the classroom for lectures and discussions based on our farming and business curricula, and we review and refine the farm’s business, marketing, and record keeping aspects. We also check-in regularly to discuss and develop our communication skills and foster a group dynamic that is positive and productive. With a small class size of 12 students, our program fosters a friendly atmosphere that makes farming and learning fun!
In addition to time spent on the farm and in the classroom, participants work independently on their personal business plan and a group farm-based research project. After initial group discussions on the projects, participants work independently on their own time and meet individually with staff every few weeks to review the progress made and determine the next steps. When completed, participants share and present their reports to the group. Our goal for the business plan project is to support participants in thoroughly analyzing their personal farming goals and to help them create a realistic plan towards accomplishing them. The farm-based research projects will be focused on developing or improving aspects of the student farm.
While we try to be as consistent as possible in our weekly schedule, due to the nature of farming where so much depends on proper timing, total weekly hours may occasionally vary up or down slightly as the crops' needs require. Most programming occurs Monday through Friday, although participants are required to help with weekend chores and farmers markets on a rotational basis (generally one of every 4 weekends) as well as attend several seasonal festivals and fundraisers.
The Organic Farm School uses curriculum created by the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) as well as other resources. The CASFS curriculum is split into two modules; the Organic Farming and Gardening Curriculum and the Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability Curriculum, where topics covered include soil science, crop production, CSA management, land tenureship and much more. Other resources we use include; SARE's Building Soils for Better Crops, MISA's Building a Sustainable Business, and Richard Wiswall's The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook.
Tuition for the 2017 program is $6500. While the actual cost of providing this program is substantially higher, grant funding and donations have allowed us to keep the cost for this eight-month intensive program at this reduced rate.
We often are contacted by aspiring farmers for whom this tuition continues to be prohibitive and we are fortunate to be able to offer several need-based scholarships to support these students. Applicants in need of a scholarship must successfully go through the school application process before receiving the scholarship application. Please contact us if you have any questions!
For 2017, the program will run 34 weeks from March 27th through November 17th