Program Director Lexy Close said the course, made up of nine workshops on business planning and farm finances held over 20 weeks, offers beginning and experienced farmers insight into how to manage their farms.
“A lot of successful farm businesses have come out, and we’re really excited about doing it again this year,” she said. “We start off with a personal assessment of what kind of skills you have, what kind of financial assets you have, what kind of farm assets you have and looking at what you have and what you need.
“Then we move on to talk a little bit about farm planning and sustainability.”
The field school was recently accredited by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, meaning graduates can qualify for up to two education credits toward the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program cost-share for producer diversification. The cost-share can apply to expenses up to $15,000 for a range of infrastructure improvements and equipment.
Now in its fifth year, Close said the course has helped 130 students create business plans and launch successful agriculture enterprises. The course is taught by over 20 experienced farmers and professionals. It covers everything from getting a farm number and filing taxes to planning for profit and targeting new customers.
“We like folks to come into the program with an idea of what they want to farm,” Close said.
As emerging agricultural markets grow for hemp, for instance, Close said farmers need to understand the scope of their investments and how to best manage them.
“Hemp especially is a big investment. It could be 8 or 10,000 (dollars) an acre they’re investing into a hemp farm, and they need to know that they’re going to make that money back,” she said. “It's getting bigger and bigger, so we’re looking to help those folks, too.”
Workshops will begin Thursday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. and will continue every other Thursday through March 26. Sessions will be held at the Jonesborough Farm Bureau classroom at 1103 Boones Creek Road in Jonesborough.
Tuition fees are $150 per person or $250 for two people from the same farm. Tuition covers all program materials. The application and detailed workshop schedule can be found at arcd.org/field-school.
For those with less experience, Close recommended attending the summer session, held from May until September each year. In that session, students travel to farms around the region for a look behind the scenes. Details will be announced in February.