Organic Field School’s mission is to transform our food and farming systems by providing practical education about organic methods to farmers and consumers. The Field Learning Initiative, which is our overall program plan for 2014, includes multiple approaches to achieving this mission, as we know that a strong and sustainable local food system requires support and investment from many stakeholders. We need educated and skilled organic farmers who are ready to take over farming from the current generation approaching retirement, and our incubator program and farmer workshops achieve this goal. We also need educated and committed consumers to create a vibrant market for the organic food grown by these farmers, and inviting people to the farm to participate in tours and events helps consumers make a visceral connection to the benefits of organic.
In 2013, Organic Field School accomplished the following:
1) Farm Tours: We hosted 17 of our own farm tours with over 560 people attending. We know there is increasing interest in the Twin Cities for this type of activity, as we receive many more requests each year than we are currently able to respond to. Groups included college classes on food systems, corporate employees from General Mills, food co-op employees, community gardeners, youth groups and families. We are planning to expand our offerings this year to at-risk populations, with more opportunities such as the partnership we established with a homeless shelter to conduct gleaning for the shelter’s kitchen.
2) Organic Farm Incubator: We are one of very few programs in the entire country to provide the amount of land and greenhouse space to beginning farmers that we do, and to have a program that is open to any new organic farmers ready to launch their own business. With the Wedge Co-op’s commitment to keeping 15 acres of their land dedicated to incubators, this program has an established farm partner and a unique set of resources supporting it. Last year, the incubator farms grew over 80,000 pounds of organic vegetables for our community! All three farms were able to accomplish things they couldn’t have without the incubator program.
3) Farmer Workshops: OFS partners with other established organizations serving organic farmers to provide on-farm field days and workshops on a variety of topics. In 2013 we hosted three farmer workshops with a total of 70 farmers attending. Our partners have included MOSES, Sustainable Farming Association of MN, the University of MN Agriculture and Horticulture Depts, Renewing the Countryside, and the Farmer Veteran Coalition.