By: Chace Vineski
AccelNow – Social Media Coordinator
East Tennessee is home to beautiful scenery, country music, whiskey, and great agriculture. As the backbone of our country, farming is a vital trade that encompasses everything from crop cultivation to raising livestock. It is a pastime that has seen its numbers slowly dwindle throughout the years and now remains even more important. For those that still farm today, they share a passion for growing and raising and providing their fellow man with the nutrients to live long healthy lifestyles. That describes Alexis Close of the Field School, hosted by the Appalachian RCD Council. Though her intent isn’t just to farm but to instruct the future farmers of America.
Alexis has been involved in agriculture since 2010 when she first started working on a farm. That lead to working with organic gardening education as part of a Non-Profit organization, which she still does today. During an ARCD (Appalachian RCD) council breakfast, it was suggested that they offer a beginner farmer training course, something that was and is still unique to this day in the area. Not long after, in 2015, Alexis and ARCD helped launch The Field School. This program provides beginner and experienced farmers with the critical knowledge of how to not only grow crops and raise livestock but how to handle the ever-important business side of farming. Their inaugural class included 30 participants and the numbers only grew after each class until they eventually had to cut off at 40 this past spring.
The course, which Alexis Close leads, was run from November through August of the following year but starting this November there will be a slight change to the scheduling. They found it best to break up the courses between November to March and from March through August. The winter session is business intensive and that includes financial, marketing plans, taxes and more. With the spring/summer course, they will spend at several different farms around the region to learn, hands-on, about everything from vegetables to cattle. They give new farmers an overview of what all is involved in farming in the area such as the different production methods, different sustainable practices, etc. Each course is $125 and they meet usually twice a month and the classes typically run from 6pm to 9pm. Alexis didn’t want to make it feel just like a classroom type environment but that of a community. That is why they include dinner at each meeting and they strive to make it comfortable for others to share their ideas with the others in the class.
With each class, they bring in a guest speaker, such as a local farmer or agricultural business experts, who touch on a different topic each class. Alexis doesn’t have a clear favorite subject though she has taken much interest in the marketing classes as she sees the benefit that has in the farming community. As mentioned before there is no other course in the region that offers the same variety of classes that The Field School offers that help farmers not only succeed but sustain their crops and livestock. That is why Alexis Close got into the educational aspect of agriculture. Her ultimate goal is to give people a firm foundation of farming and she is on the right track. Take the word of over a hundred graduates of The Field School who have testified to the knowledge and hands-on experience they garnered from not only her expertise but from the dozens of other farming experts who have worked together to see the next generation of farmers succeed.
The application to sign up from the first course starting in November will go live on September 17, so be sure to sign up then before the class fills! To sign up and to learn more info about The Field School visit their website or contact Lexis Close directly at firstname.lastname@example.org