Investing in agriculture: The Cumberland River Compact’s River Friendly Farms program expands to offer educational opportunities to help farmers thrive.
Tennessee is home to nearly 70,000 farms. Covering about 40% of the state’s landmass, those farms have a huge impact on our groundwater, streams, and rivers.1 In Tennessee and across the country, we can’t talk about river health without talking about farming.
That’s why in 2020, the Cumberland River Compact launched River Friendly Farms in Tennessee, a program to certify and promote farmers whose regenerative farming methods prioritize the health of their soil and waterways.
We are excited to expand the impact of the River Friendly Farms program by introducing a new course to help conservation-minded farmers succeed in the business of farming. The class, “Terra Firma: A Six-Session Course to Build Your Farm Business on Solid Ground” will kick off in January 2024 and feature experts at the intersection of farming and business management.
Prioritizing Farmers Who Value Conservation
With this course, the Cumberland River Compact demonstrates a commitment to helping our region’s farmers succeed not only in their conservation initiatives but also in their business goals.
The Compact has a vested interest in seeing conservation-minded farmers continue in their work. Farmers need to be equipped with the tools to be savvy business people in order to grow thriving and resilient operations, build robust food systems, and act as good stewards of our shared soil and water resources. We add another layer of protection for the creeks, streams, and rivers in the Cumberland River Basin by offering these farmers the knowledge they need to succeed.
Even though this course is being offered at no cost to participants thanks to a grant from Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE), the Compact recognizes that an investment of farmers’ time has considerable value.
A limited number of participants will be chosen to receive a $500 stipend to cover expenses associated with the six-week class, such as travel or childcare. Stipends will be given on a needs-based basis, with priority given to historically underserved farmers and ranchers (HUFR). The Compact is proud to support HUFR and aims to provide these individuals and farms with increased access to resources. As defined by the USDA, this group includes farmers who are Beginning, Socially Disadvantaged, Veterans, and of Limited Resource.
The course will cover five major facets: finances and record keeping; project management; whole farm planning; labor management; and grants, loans, and financial services.
Notable instructors from across the region and the country will teach the course, giving farmers access to an incredible wealth of information from experts in the field. On-the-ground farm experience coupled with extensive study in their respective fields meld into a master class of farm business management.
Featured instructors include Richard Wiswall (owner of Cate Farm and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook), Andrea Heim (entrepreneur, farmer, and Scrum master), Asher Wright (Farm Director at Caney Fork Farm), Sarah Janes Ugoretz (Apprenticeship Program Manager at FairShare CSA Coalition), Key Lawson (Small Business Development Specialist at Pathway Lending), and Reggie Marshall (Reggie’s Veggies and Pick Tennessee Conference).
Delicious meals will be sponsored by some of our favorite restaurants, including Streetcar Taps & Garden, Miel, and Nicky’s Pizza.
Such brief descriptions of the course instructors doesn’t do their expertise justice. Click here for an in-depth look at the course, the teachers, and the registration details.
The Connection Between Land and Water
The Cumberland River basin is home to 3 million people and thousands of species and is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Protecting and restoring the creeks, streams, and rivers of the basin is crucial to providing clean drinking water and thriving habitat for plants, animals, and people.
Addressing the root causes of water pollution takes many forms and is demonstrated in the multifaceted work the Compact takes on. Because water and earth are inextricably linked, we plant trees, pollinator habitats, and rain gardens to mitigate storm water issues. We restore riparian buffers along stream sides to clean runoff and slow erosion. And with this new course, we give farmers the knowledge they need to keep putting regenerative agriculture practices into place and growing nourishing food all while improving water quality for all who depend on it.
For additional information on the “Terra Firma” course or our River Friendly Farms Program, contact the Cumberland River Compact’s Working Lands Program Manager, Caroline Hutchins at email@example.com.
Stay in the loop about this and other forthcoming River Friendly Farms programming by signing up for the River Friendly Farms newsletter.