Organic Farming School Offers New Career Path

The course focuses on seed, crop and livestock production, business planning, marketing, tractor maintenance, carpentry and greenhouse management.

Organic

The Organic Farm School (OFS) on Whidbey Island, Washington accepts applicants for a six-month training program for aspiring organic farmers. The total immersion program runs April to October at the solar-powered 10-acre farm, 30 miles north of Seattle. 

The Organic Farm School is cultivating a new generation of farmers, like recent graduates Jocelyn Stevens and Joncarlos Santos. The classmates are starting Workin’ Dream Farm on Whidbey Island, Washington and will grow up to 50 different crops and operate a busy farm stand, with the help of young Seth. "We pack a lot of real-life experiences into our program," said Judy Feldman, the school's executive director.

"Farming is an honorable profession, with an alluring lifestyle, but it's also hard work. We prepare students with the tools they need to get started. We also explore food system issues and how regenerative farming can help address the growing climate crisis." 

Now in its tenth year, the school draws students from around the country. It has nearly 100 percent placement of graduates, either onto farmland or into agricultural-related positions. Many who enroll aren't sure where they'll farm, they just hear the calling. "They learn by doing," said Feldman. "By the time they graduate they understand more of what it takes to own or manage an organic farm. They also understand the responsibility farmers have to not only grow food, but to serve as natural resource stewards." 

While much of their education focuses on crop and livestock production, they also learn business planning and marketing. They run farm stands and sell directly to restaurants. They gain basic skills with tractor maintenance, carpentry, greenhouse management, and seed production.

Class of 2017 classmates Jocelyn Stevens and Joncarlo Santos soon realized working the land side-by-side, they shared not only a love for farming, but for each other. After graduation the OFS helped them connect with an older, well established farmer on Whidbey Island ready to transition out. The couple is now leasing two acres they've named Workin’ Dream Farm, where they'll grow 50 crops, ranging from arugula to zucchini.

"We were initially drawn to farming because of the sense of freedom it offers and the kind of activism it provides confronting a broken food system and the growing climate crisis," said the couple. "Starting our own farm seemed out of reach, expensive, and complicated. The school taught us that small scale farming is attainable."

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