Grange Farm School becomes the Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture
Friday, May 13, 2016
In a day and age when constant change is more reliable than average rainfall, Adaptive Agriculture is the way of the future. The next generation of farmers must be trained and equipped with the diverse spectrum of strategies of sustainable agriculture and the ability to reflect, analyze, and adapt.
The Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture – formerly the Grange Farm School – has been in operation since 2013, and a fiscal sponsorship of North Coast Opportunities since 2014. Situated on a beautiful 5,000 acre working ranch in Mendocino County, California, students are immersed in the daily life and tasks of a real farm. By 2015 the school had graduated its first two 12-week classes of Practicum Program students. The graduates went to work on farms related to their interests, started their own small businesses, and took jobs with non-profits and educational institutes related to food production. According to graduate Matt Gal, “Attending the Grange Farm School was the defining moment in my educational career,” after which “I knew what I wanted to be doing with my life.” Gal is starting his own small, highly diversified organic vegetable operation in St. Louis, his hometown.
Director of Operations Ruthie King and Director of Fundraising and Programming Tim Ward developed the year one curriculum in concert with the school’s leadership team and agricultural mentors. Based on their experiences last year as well as student feedback, the Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture has further refined its curriculum with the help of new instructors Rachel Britten and Thomas Brower. The curriculum is comprehensive while also adaptive to individual interests. For example, a student who wishes to start her own poultry operation after graduating can work intensely with the school’s breeding flock of Ohio Buckeyes or pastured broiler operation, while being mentored by “Chicken Queen” King. The 35 farms, ranches, and businesses students visited become a part of the dynamic network of mentors for graduates as well.
Now offered in 14-week sessions, the adult residential Practicum Student program covers foundational tools, vocabulary, and skills all beginning farmers need. In Crop Production, students learn soil science, botany, genetics, and a variety of approaches to producing fruits, vegetables, and grains. Animal Husbandry covers anatomy, behavior, feed and nutrition, genetics and shelter. The Entrepreneurial unit teaches students the elements of a successful business including financing, recordkeeping, marketing, and planning. Finally, students engage in daily hands-on practical experience in the industrial arts including automotive repair, carpentry, welding, plumbing, and electricity.
Underlying everything the students learn is an emphasis on context, goal-oriented decision making, leadership and communication skills, community building, and adaptability. Graduates leave with hands-on practical experience, a network of mentors and peers, and a sense of the rewards of the farming profession.
The philosophy of Adaptive Agriculture includes:
- Adapting to changes as they arise in climate, land, economy, community, and oneself.
- A dedication to holistic approaches to stewarding one’s land and livestock.
- The establishment of ever-evolving feedback loops of analysis and improvement for one’s agricultural enterprise.
- Learning to plan, observe, and respond creatively and appropriately to whatever situations arise in one’s food production enterprise.
- Considering emerging data and research, and adapting systems to new developments.
The Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture recognizes that food production methods are constantly evolving, and as a result the school itself will need to evolve and adapt to the realities of the changing nature of farming, not just in the United States but across the entire world.
The 14-week program costs $2,500, with scholarships available. An additional $1,500 covers room and board, and students are strongly encouraged to live on site. Each student gets a beautiful, private canvas wall tent on a platform near the shared kitchen, bathrooms, and common living area. One of the first session’s students described it as the nicest house she had ever lived in, and the view of Mendocino’s alternately green and gold oak-dotted hills can’t be beat.
“This ranch and the surrounding community are rich with learning opportunities.” King muses on a walk around the grounds. “I don’t know of anywhere in the world better equipped to discover how you want to make an impact.”
Applications are currently being accepted for the summer session starting in July. For more information, visit: www.school-of-adaptive-agriculture.org.