UPDATED WITH NEW LOCATION: Spring farm class aims to teach how to make a living on a 1.5 acre “pocket farm”

Six-week step-by-step model farm course covers everything from design to distribution.

Free introductory workshop January 19, 2pm-5pm.

Six-week class: February 11 to March 18

Abraham Lincoln said that the greatest fine art of the future would be the making of a comfortable living off of a small piece of land. Discover what that could mean for the 21st Century farmer with a workshop that teaches how one person can make a living from an acre and a half of land.

Sustain Floyd, instructor Tony Kleese of the Earthwise Company, LLC, and the Virginia Tech Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition have developed an experimental template for an organic vegetable farm that allows “start from scratch” entrepreneurs to develop a profitable business plan for a small parcel of land.

Kleese’s turnkey 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 pick-up truck with a trailer hitch; all other expenses, from a start-up loan to hand tools, are built into the model.

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.

Prospective students may attend a free introductory workshop from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19. The six-week course then runs weekly from Feb. 11 through March 18.

“In the six weeks students learn about farm budgeting and planning, based on the model we put together,” Kleese said. “They will also learn the basics around crop production: soils, insect, weed and disease control, post-harvest handling – the basics of starting a farm and the business side of it.”

A second course dedicated to helping farmers write their own individualized business plan will be offered later this spring and into summer.

Upon completion of the two courses, students will have a personalized plan to take an acre and a half of farmland from seed to sale in a sustainable manner, producing organic vegetables for a ready-made market. Kleese tailored the farming course to the region’s unique climate and area market demands to help create a regional food system that will connect farmers and consumers. Its “one-farmer, 1.5 acre” model design is intended to encourage profitable food production on small mountain parcels or formerly large farms that have been subdivided over the years.

Sustain Floyd is facilitating relationships with regional distributors of organic produce and develop a system providing refrigerated transportation to these markets. In addition, SustainFloyd will be ground-testing the plan on its own working model farm this coming season.

The introductory workshop on Jan. 19 is free. The cost of the six-week course is $100, with student discounts and scholarships available. Coverage is available for travel expenses by out-of-county students.

It will take place at the June Bug Center The Conference Hall at the Floyd EcoVillage.

The EcoVillage is 2.3 miles from the only stoplight in Floyd County, off of Franklin Pike, and 2.5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 159 & 160.

This series of classes is made possible by the Virginia Beginning Farmer Rancher Coalition Project, a collaborative effort represented by beginning farmer stakeholders across Virginia. It is housed in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and sponsored by the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Directions from the stoplight in Floyd to the Floyd EcoVillage:

1. Head east on US-221 N/E Main St toward Wilson St SE. Continue to follow US-221 N. (1.1 miles)
2. Slight right onto Franklin Pike SE/State Route 681. (1.2 miles)
3. Right turn onto Eco Village Trail.

Directions from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Floyd EcoVillage:

1. Exit the Parkway onto Shooting Creek Rd/State Route 860. (1.2 miles)
2. Turn left onto Franklin Pike SE/State Route 681. (1.2 miles)
3. Left turn onto Eco Village Trail.

For more information, contact SustainFloyd Director Mike Burton at 540/745-7333 or mike@sustainfloyd.org.

Founded in 2009, SustainFloyd is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening Floyd County’s economy, protecting natural and cultural resources, and promoting education, energy independence and recycling.

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