With the public interest in farming growing faster than a zucchini in July, now is a great time to
think about offering a class on your farm. Workshops and classes are a fun way to connect with new
and existing customers, sharpen your skills, increase revenue, and build relationships.
There are many different classes a farm can offer, and lots of good reasons to add this
educational layer to your farm business. But any successful class – be it growing great garlic,
foraging for medicinal weeds, pickling, yoga, building a coop or slaughtering a chicken –
requires planning, goal-setting, targeted marketing, and follow-up. Here are some factors to
consider when planning your next class, workshop series, or event.
Begin with what you’re good at.What are your skills? What does your farm do well? Does
your farm have something special to offer – a snazzy home-made seeder, lots of edible weeds, a
certified kitchen, or a beautiful meadow perfect for yoga? Make your assets (and your weeds) work
for you! You may also consider bringing in outside expertise to offer classes you can’t teach
yourself. This could be a guest chef, a certified yoga teacher, or your friendly local brewmaster.
Set your goals for the event. Do you want to educate your community, get people
onto your farm, make connections, make a profit? A class geared towards making money for your farm
will likely be structured quite differently than one focused on building community. Perhaps you want
to host a class in order to hone your own skills in teaching others, help home gardeners grow
responsibly in a drought, or build brand awareness.
Define your target audience. Who will come? What are their schedules and access
needs? What range of skill level (if any) can you expect, and how will this impact what the class
covers and doesn’t cover? Identifying your target audience is just as important as setting goals:
both will guide you as you continue to plan for and market your class.
Don’t be afraid to start small. If you’ve got ideas for more than one kind of
class, consider offering the one with less investment up front (ie: fewer materials, a class you can
teach yourself). It will give you a chance to work out the kinks, and give you time to build your
audience before you start offering more involved, pricey classes.
Plan for your class.
What are the key concepts or skills you want participants to leave
with? Find your state
university’s cooperative extension
for guidance or to review available manuals relevant to
the topic you’ve chosen. What space and materials will you use? How will the materials used in the
class affect the price you charge for the class? Plan to have attendees take something home – be it
a head of specialty garlic, a bunch of plantain, or a jar of pickles. This is both an incentive to
attend the class and a tangible reminder of what a great experience participants had on your farm!
Consider logistics such as parking, clear walkways, signage and bathrooms.
Define success. What does a successful event mean for you? Having ten
attendees, or twenty five? Meeting three new CSA customers face-to-face? Making a certain
profit, or (more modestly) breaking even? Look back on your objectives for the event to set
benchmarks by which you can measure its success.
Finally, ask yourself: is it feasible for you to provide everything you will need for this to be a
successful event? Once you feel confident that the answer to this last question is a resounding YES,
you are ready to get this class up and running… and get other people involved.
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After graduating from UCSC's
Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, Lauren Alexandra Kaplan spent a season at
an organic CSA farm in California before returning east to farm in the Hudson Valley. Prior to
pursuing farming full time, she worked in book publishing and helped to launch an urban farm in
NYC. Alexandra is an avid salsa dancer and maker of jams, pickles, and kraut.