SustainFloyd announces fall dates for Pocket Farm classes
SustainFloyd will offer another round of its innovative, popular Pocket Farm classes this fall, beginning on Monday, Sept. 9.
The class is based on an experimental template for organic vegetable farms that allows “start-from-scratch” entrepreneurs to develop a profitable business plan for a small parcel of land. The model is intended for nonresidential production on 1.5 acres but can be adapted to various land sizes and other products, including livestock and perennials.
Classes will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Mondays at the Floyd Country Store. Cost for the six-week class is $125, or $110 for SustainFloyd members. To register, contact email@example.com.
The Pocket Farm system can be used by either first-time or experienced farmers and is flexible enough to work as a standalone business or as a smaller piece of a larger farming operation. It assumes the entrepreneur has only an acre and a half and a pickup truck with a trailer hitch; all other expenses, from a start-up loan to hand tools, are built into the model.
Instead of the classic organic farm market model, which involves growing many products and selling them through farmers markets and to CSA clients, the Pocket Farm template involves growing fewer products but in large-enough quantities to access the wholesale market.
The model was specifically designed to reduce the barriers of entry to farming in the region, where lack of access to land, labor and capital often prevents potential beginning farmers from getting a start, or experienced farmers from becoming more profitable. It incorporates specially targeted crop-rotation techniques and high-tunnel hoophouses to produce a steady stream of high-value organic crops and meet a proven demand from regional distributors.
The template was premiered at a free workshop in January that drew more than 160 people despite snowy weather. The subsequent, six-week class filled to capacity within days. About 50 students completed the first six-week class. Roughly half of them went on to take the second six-week class, which involves tailoring the model to the student’s farm. About 20 students emerged from the two classes with the solid foundation of a customized farm business plan.
SustainFloyd is currently engaged in ground-testing the Pocket Farm model at Blue Valley Farm, its working model farm, which is located at a transitional site on Eanes Road. Blue Valley’s farm manager collects data on all aspects of the farm’s management, production and markets with the goal of refining the model so that future Pocket Farm classes will have locally generated information and lead to more successful farms in Floyd and the region.
The first products from Blue Valley Farm are available through Good Food – Good People in Floyd County, Backyard Produce in Raleigh and elsewhere.
To learn more about SustainFloyd and its mission, go to www.sustainfloyd.org.
– Submitted by Mason Adams, SustainFloyd