Appalachian Farm School draws diverse ag interests
Despite representing different spectrums of the agricultural community, participants in this year’s Appalachian Farm School have at least one thing in common: They all have expansion goals centered around agritourism.
The eight-week farm school, which is organized and overseen annually by Southwestern Community College’s Small Business Center, provides existing and aspiring entrepreneurs with the resources and training they need to enhance or launch their operations.
The weekly series concluded on Feb. 28 with final presentations by each participating farm. It marked the Appalachian Farm School’s eighth consecutive year, and — as with all services provided by SCC’s Small Business Center — participation is free of charge.
“We eventually want to have an Airbnb or two on the property,” said Jarod Schoeberl, who attended the series with his wife, Maggie, and their 1-year-old daughter Ayda.
The Schoeberls run a small farm in Cullowhee with poultry, rabbits and plans to add small livestock and more in the near future.
“We’re new to North Carolina, we just moved here two years ago, so we had no idea there were so many resources as kind of wannabe farmers,” Maggie Schoeberl said. “Just learning about the extension office, and having an opportunity to network with other farmers who are doing similar things — it’s all been extremely helpful.”
Also attending the class was Robbinsville resident Alan Wamsley, who runs Simple Life Mountain Retreat and Campground and is grateful for programs like Appalachian Farm School that are helping the next generation of farmers find their way.
“There are pieces of the puzzle that I don’t understand,” said Wamsley, who started Simple Life in 2010 and has recently started adding apple and Christmas trees to his property in Graham County. “Just like beekeeping, apple trees and Christmas trees — those are three different facets of the business. The farm schools have taught me to diversify and stay on the cutting edge of farming.”
On the other end of the experience spectrum were participants Natalie Rayburn and Patrick Cardona-Cosner, who aim to open a fee-based, trout fishing operation on private property in Tusckasegee. Rayburn and Cardon-Cosner picked up some valuable insights and connections through the farm school.