Farmer Incubator Program – Call for Applicants!

Farming is a business… What’s your business plan?

Do you have a farm business idea? Make it a reality! You are invited to join Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Farmer Incubator Program, a “business incubator” for farm operations.

Why a “Farmer Incubator”?

Farming = a long-term game. Traditionally, farming was a lifelong+ learning process, with families passing along experience, knowledge, and land accrued by multiple generations. Today, your experience in farming may be different. This program is part of a collaborative support system to help “incubate” farm businesses as they grow.

What do you get out of it?

  • Access land, support, and knowledge sharing. Land is one of the biggest expenses in farming. Get your farm operation to a successful state while in the Farmer Incubator Program, before taking on the cost of a land purchase. Benefit from weekly meetings with the Farm Manager and educational opportunities in our network.
  • Learn efficiencies to improve your bottom line. Streamline farming practices to create efficiencies and increase your profitability.
  • Feel empowered to try something new. Focus on farming, growing your contacts and sales connections, and developing your farm marketing, without worrying about paying a monthly mortgage for farmland.

Who can apply?

Beginning farmers with initiative — those who have some farm experience, but less than 10 years. Maybe you are a farmer currently in production but don’t have enough land.  Or, you’ve been working on someone else’s farm and feel prepared to start your own farm enterprise. Perhaps you finished an apprenticeship, farmed for a few years, and are ready to take your farming career to the next level.

Come Grow with Us….

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is expanding our Farmer Incubator Program onto land we acquired adjacent to our Community Farm. Be part of this expansion! On this property, we will implement a variety of agricultural techniques aimed to address climate change.

Find out more! Send us an inquiry, or begin the application process now.


SAHC’s Farmer Education Workshop Series is funded in part by a grant from The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program under award number 2016-70017-25341  for Farm Pathways:  Integrating Farmer Training with Land Access. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Farm Management: Pasture Walk

On a Thursday evening in September, I joined  20 neighbors, local farmers, landowners, for a pasture walk led by Buncombe Co. Cooperative Extension on SAHC’s 100+ acre community farm in Alexander, NC. Meghan Baker, Ethan Henderson, and Noah Henson took us all on an informative stroll to discuss management strategies and how to keep pastures healthy and productive. 

I joined the group as a new Intern with SAHC. It was an exciting foray into the world of local agriculture. As a student of Ecology, I spend a lot of time learning about and managing exotic invasive plants in forests, so it was fascinating to gain a new perspective. I learned that pasture land is an ecosystem in itself, and with the right management strategies, they can be productive, beneficial, and botanically diverse.  Read more

Value-Added Community Farm Kitchen

Recently at the Education Center at our Community Farm, preparations have been underway for the development of a new industrial-grade kitchen. For the past three years,  Community Farm Manager Chris Link has been guiding the transformation of space once used for dog kennels into an valuable resource.  We have created a value-added kitchen with Energy Star appliances, put in a larger well and septic systems, and installed photovoltaic solar panels. Using Madison County’s value-added kitchen as inspiration, we developed a kitchen layout that provides easier accessibility for farmers and a more convenient way to change raw materials into value-added packaged products; the kitchen will have high energy efficiency and lower costs, being financially accessible for community members. Read more

Alexander Chapel Baptist Church Visit

Around the corner from SAHC’s Community Farm and other conserved farms in Alexander, community members are working to preserve an historic African-American church and cemetery. In conjunction with our “It’s Your Backyard” event in April, outdoor recreation ambassador Daniel White (The Blackalachian) led a bike ride from the Community Farm to the church, raising awareness about the significance of the site in local African American history. Read more

Prescribed Burn for Shortleaf Pine

This Spring, we used a prescribed (controlled) burn of 13 acres to help manage our shortleaf pine reforestation project at our Community Farm.

This prescribed burn will help restore the shortleaf pine by removing undesirable, competing plant species and giving the slower-growing shortleaf pine a chance to re-establish. Shortleaf pine is a fire-dependent and fire tolerant species, meaning that the species actually depends on fire in order to reproduce and thrive. Read more

Performance Horses and Cattle

Brahman-Longhorn cow and calfThis year we welcome Wesley (Wes) Buckner and Cheyenne Cearley of WC Performance Horses & Cattle Co into our Farmer Incubator Program. Wes and Cheyenne are operating a cow-calf operation on the farm, with plans to build up their herd of Brahman-longhorn cross cattle.

“We wanted to be part of the Farmer Incubator Program to take our herd and cattle operation to the next level,” says Wes, who grew up in the area and currently works as a farrier. “It’s such a great opportunity, set up perfectly for what we need and only two miles from our home. We look forward to the next few years growing our herd and farming skill sets. The Brahman-longhorn cross we are breeding are very hearty animals who do well in many conditions and can clean up rough terrain, like a goat. We were also drawn to their unique look.”

Nature Experience Director Lauren meeting Brahman-longhorn bullExotics like the Brahman-longhorn cross can help diversify a cattle program, commanding a higher price at market, and may be favored by landowners for managing fields because they are beautiful and resilient foragers.

“I’m a young farmer who is passionate about farming and preserving the lifestyle and land,” continues Wes. “My family has been farming this area for several decades. As we are now taking over and branching out on our own, it’s sad to see less and less farmland available in the region.”

The Buckners have historic family roots in the Alexander community, and Wes remembers his father purchasing bulls from Robert and Marie Anderson, who owned the Community Farm property before it was donated to SAHC. He recalls Mr. Anderson as a “very fair and honest person.”

“I really enjoy being out on the land caring for my animals,” adds Wes. “We hope to grow a big enough herd and find land for long-term lease or buy pastureland after our term in the Incubator Program is over, so we can continue farming for years to come.”

From the Farm: January 2019

Our Community Farm Manager, Chris Link, blogs about updates from our Community Farm:

Greetings, all — from the winter quiet on the SAHC Community Farm in Alexander!

We enjoy the break in buzzing activity that comes every January. Not completely dormant by any means, this season for planning and taking stock is valuable in its own right.

While I can wax poetic about the meditative frosty mornings and the fun flurry of animals moving around (one resident fox is quite obvious in the still and monochrome landscape), there’s much work to be done on our ongoing projects here. We’re planning work in the stream restoration area which improves our water and habitat, preparing community kitchen space which will open to the public this spring (along with our new event venue!), and organizing many educational workshop offerings — including a controlled-burn to support the fledgling short-leaf pine habitat.

Headwaters Market Garden will be getting early spring crops seeded and growing in February.

We’re also hoping to expand our team of incubating farm businesses who grow and/or raise animals out here!  If you need to take the next step in your farm business, our Farmer Incubator Program is set up to support you.  We have many types of infrastructure for varying enterprises, staff technical support, access to the Organic Growers School Farm Beginnings training, social media and marketing support.

Click HERE to apply today.

Half Pint Farm

New participants in our Farmer Incubator Program, Claudie Babineaux and Sarah Bostick have been doing very physical labor for years. However, they frequently run into people who challenge the idea that two petite ladies can accomplish such work. In naming their farm business “Half Pint Farm,” they decided to ‘own it’.

“This name, Half Pint Farm, really works for us because people have always challenged our ability to do things because of our size,” shares Sarah. Their farm name also relates to scale of production — Claudie and Sarah have both worked in intensive farming on 5-10 acre parcels in the past, primarily in Florida and Maine, but they now want to focus on a smaller scale. They are using their first year in our Farmer Incubator Program learn about the particulars of farming in the Southern Appalachians, such as how soil and weather behave with certain varieties of produce.

“We have experience in farming, but not here in the mountains,” says Sarah. “We aspire to own our own farm, and it’s important to do a lot of learning before investing in our own land. We plan to use our time in the program to learn about the intricacies of farming in this soil — in this climate and landscape — because it’s really different from what we’re used to.” Read more