organic growers

In this June 18, 2016, photo provided by No Taste Like Home, Rachel Linkous, with Christopher Rannefors, both 25, of Lexington, Ky., forage for wild mushrooms, flowers and herbs near Asheville, N.C.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The 24th annual Organic Growers School Spring Conference will be held March 10-12 at the University of North Carolina-Asheville campus.

The conference is for healthy eaters, home growers and farmers, according to a news release.

“The mission of the spring conference is to provide down-to-earth, practical advice on growing and sustainable living, while remaining affordable and accessible to anyone wanting to participate,” the release said.

Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. each morning and classes will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Classes are on a first-come, first-served basis and there is no pre-registration for the regular one-and-a-half-hour sessions.

Since most classes are limited because of space, participants are encouraged to arrive early to classes to secure a spot.

However, registration for the weekend is open and the cost will increase at the end of January.

The cost for the full weekend is $99 before Jan. 31 and $129 after that date. Registration to attend only on Saturday is $59 before Jan. 31, and $74 after. For Sunday only the registration price is $49 before Jan. 31 and $64 after.

“The spring conference offers practical, regionally appropriate workshops on organic growing, permaculture, urban farming, and rural living plus a trade show, seed exchange, silent auction, children’s program and pre-conference, on-farm events,” the release says.

The conference will offer more than 70 sessions per day in themed tracks including community food, cooking, earth skills, farmer beginning, farmers intermediate/advanced, gardening, herbs, livestock, mushrooms, permaculture, pollinators, poultry, soils, sustainable forestry, sustainable living and more.

“The Organic Growers School Spring Conference is a one-of-a-kind event that brings people of all walks of life together for a weekend of learning and networking. Since 1994, the OGS Spring Conference has been the best way to kick-off the season,” the release says.


Scheduled as guest speakers are:

• Gabe Brown, of Brown’s Ranch. He is regenerating landscapes for a sustainable future, according to the release.

“A conventional farmer in the 1990s, Brown is now a cover-cropping and soil-building pioneer, speaking all over the world about the advantages of soil health,” according to the release.

A North Dakota farmer with more than 5,000 acres in production, Brown teaches techniques, that when applied in concert, can achieve similar success anywhere. Field trials, scientific data, personal examples and two decades of experience back up the productivity gains. Brown’s Ranch has eliminated the use of all synthetic fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides. The ranch uses minimal herbicide and is striving to eliminate it. Neither GMOs or glyphosate is used, according to the release.

“The results in increased production, profit and quality of life is the very definition of sustainability,” the release says.

Brown will present an all-day, pre-conference workshop and a keynote address.

• CheFarmer Matthew Raiford is the executive chef and owner at The Farmer and The Larder, featured in January 2016’s Garden & Gun as one of the South’s most exciting new restaurants. A classically trained French chef, Raiford served as the program coordinator and associate professor of Culinary Arts at the College of Coastal Georgia, the release says.

He has a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies degree in Culinary Arts from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the University of California Santa Cruz and The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Raiford is also the farmer at Gilliard Farms in Brunswick, Ga., where he is the sixth generation to farm on the land that has been in his family since 1874, it adds.

Raiford will present one of the keynote addresses.

• Althea Raiford is a farmer, electrician an teacher and is retired from the U.S. military, the release says.

“She got the bug to farm as the youngest of the cousins on her Nana’s homestead in southern Georgia, gathering eggs, harvesting pears, picking pecans and greens and cotton, and hearing stories of how her family had come to be part of the backbone of the community,” the release says.

“In addition to the life lessons learned, she draws continuous inspiration from the hard work and relentless spirit of those who came before her. Her passion to reclaim Gilliard Farms comes from her love and appreciation for her family’s legacy and her family’s future,” it adds.

She will present a keynote address.

• Pat Foreman is a poultry pioneer, local foods and sustainability fanatic, organic farmer, author, pharmacist, international consultant and instructor extraordinaire, according to the release.

She is the founder of The Gossamer Foundation, a 501©(3) dedicated to global sustainability and local foods and the developer and lead instructor of the Chickens and You Training Series leading to the Master Backyard Chicken Keeper Certification. She is the author of “City Chicks,” co-author of “Chicken Tractor,” “Day Range Poultry,” “Backyard Market Gardening” and “A Tiny Home to Call Your Own.”

Foreman has kept poultry for about 25 years with experience ranging from a community farm to a commercial operation with free range, organic layers, broilers and turkeys.

She has been featured on NPR & BBC, the release says.

• Jeanine M. Davis has been a horticulture professor with North Carolina State University since 1988 and is located at a research and extension center in Western North Carolina. She is passionate about plants and people and working to keep farms profitable, according to the release.

Her research and extension activities are focused on developing new and unusual crops, such as hops, truffles, medicinal herbs and organic farming. She is a frequent speaker, author of hundreds of articles, blogs and websites, and coauthor of the book “Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals,” the release adds. She lives with her family on “Our Tiny Farm” where she strives to practice what she preaches about sustainable living, according to the news release.

• Jim Hamilton, Ph. D., is a county extension director for the Watauga County Cooperative Extension. He specializes in farmworker safety training, Christmas tree production, forest landowner education, agroforestry, ginseng production and forestry, the release says.

He has a doctorate in forestry from North Carolina State University, a Master of Science degree in forestry from Auburn University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in natural resources and anthropology from the University of the South (Sewanee). He was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay specializing in agrofestry, it adds..

• Jeannie Dunn is the owner of Red Moon Herbs, a manufacturer of natural tinctures and herbal medicines. As an herbalist and North Carolina native, Dunn has been wildcrafting and making herbal extracts, oils and salves for about a decade, according to the news release.

She studied at the North Carolina School of Natural Healing and One World Healing Arts, but her herbal roots go much further back, to the back-to-basics lifestyle infused in her as a child, the release says. She oversees both the art and the science of the earth-based, Wise Woman herbal business and apothecary.

• Jennifer Flynn, chief operating officer of Accelerating Appalachia, is a former owner of a natural products company, current brand manager for the North Carolina Natural Products Association’s Blue Ridge Naturally program, ecopsychologist and permaculturist with more than 15 years experience in working to connect people to their place, according to the news release.

Flynn is also an artist and an herbalist by training and loves connecting with plants for healing, it adds.

• Jennifer Gerrity is the executive director of operations of Mountain Rose Herbs and has been with the company since 2004. She has a bachelor’s degree in plant science from Rutgers University specializing in plant propagation and agro-business management, the release says. During her study there, she focused on tropical agriculture, bioremediation and tissue culture and continued doing research for the university and the EPA after graduation, according to the news release.

She assures the overall inner workings of Mountain Rose by overseeing the staff and production of the ever-expanding company, the release says. In addition, Gerrity oversees and takes special interest in procuring high quality organic herbs, spices and teas for customers.

Other speakers are planned.

To register for the conference, visit the website