In the News
Saturday On The Farm
Free classes on Saturdays, hands on training, networking… Saturday On The Farm is attracting more and more people. There are those who are in the ag industry but who wish to enrich their knowledge and skillset, some want to look at the opportunities as a side gig and then there are others who have land and who want to learn how to farm on it. This is how the New Ag School’s fresh free initiative has been serving many ag purposes and building an ag community, one farmer at a time.
Doug Fabbioli: “Agriculture done right is a lucrative business”
It is always easier to connect to the land when you get your hands dirty. Agriculture is one of those skills and arts that cannot be taught or learned in the books. Maya Angelou, who was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. The same applies to agriculture.
You might forget what you are taught in the classroom but you will never forget what you learned in the fields. This is one of the main objectives of The New Ag School’s fresh initiative, Saturday On The Farm. Doug Fabbioli, The Executive Director of the Non-Profit Organization believes that giving more people the opportunity to “connect to the land” will help grow the much needed new generation of farmers.
“The goal of Saturday On The Farm is really exposure. We want to give the opportunity to people to see what it really is like to work with the land. I like to say that the New Ag school is an Extension of Virginia Cooperative Extension(VCE). The VCE program in Loudoun County provides education and technical information to agricultural and horticultural producers about recommended practices and techniques including agricultural production, commercial and community horticulture, pesticide application safety, as well as recreational farming, etc. But we are constantly trying to innovate in our approach and methodology. Our organizations logo reads: Growing tomorrow’s farmers today. And we are really talking about raising those future farmers”, explains Doug Fabbioli.
The New Ag School has developed a Mentors Development Program, where professionals in the Ag industry with a solid track record in their respective fields have been trained according the mission, vision, values and culture of the New Ag School about how to be a mentor: “Being an expert at something does not automatically mean that you will be great at teaching it. That is why before we certify someone as a New Ag School’s mentor, we make sure they go through our training first. And it has been some of these mentors, including myself, who have been ensuring the Saturday On The Farm classes that consists of in-class session and experiential learning on the farm”.
After getting a taste of what it really is to work in the ag industry people usually like it or hate it. There are no in-betweens. Those who like it will feel motivated to continue, whether it is to study agriculture and look at it as a career path or career change or simply start that garden project they have always wanted. One thing is sure, it saves them the time, money and trouble that they would have faced. if they went the traditional way, only to then regretfully realize that farming and agriculture is just not for them. If they choose to continue, the New Ag school acts as a facilitator in connecting them with mentors that can ensure their advanced training and even help them in finding a summer job or a gull time job in the Ag industry.
“Technical skills are great. Consolidated with soft skills, they are even better”
He goes on about how the New Ag school’s program encompasses the hard skills and the soft skills necessary to thrive in the Agribusiness. Farmer and vintner at Fabbioli Cellars, he insists that Agriculture done right is a lucrative business: “I say is and not can be, because like any other business agriculture is a business that will bring money to the table if done right. For generations, us farmers have kind of shot ourselves in the leg by constantly complaining about how hard farming and agriculture is and how we hardly make any money. Yes, farming is hard work and you are not going to become rich overnight, but with the right mindset and strategy, agriculture done right is a lucrative business. We will always need food”.
Keeping this in mind the New Ag School’s existing program has five modules General Horticulture, Farm Equipment and Safety, Cleaning and Sanitation, Hospitality, Leadership. The modules are delivered and monitored online and also delivered and implemented through in-class training sessions, which includes soft skills training such as Communication Skills, Conflict Resolution and Work Etiquette, etc.
Knowing how to do the job and getting the job done is two different things and it takes the right mindset and attitude to be able to get the job done, because it involves self-discipline, working within a team, etc. That is why soft skills are important. It prepares youngsters who are looking to work in any field to the professional world and can change the sometimes, archaic mindset of people who are already in the professional world.
Saturday On The Farm is the showcase of the New Ag School. It is completely free. The costs are fully absorbed by the New Ag School, with the support of sponsors such as Fabbioli Cellars the Lucketts Ruritan Club and donations. Starting January 2019, every Saturday has been an opportunity to learn a new craft in agriculture, from apple and pear tree pruning to arboriculture, viticulture and hops, etc.
“Agriculture is vast. It does not consist of only one thing to do or stick to or of only one product. Bed and breakfasts, farm wineries and breweries, craft cheeses, baby goats petting or yoga, diversity and innovation is the way to go to survive in the industry. Yes, people will always need food but they will look for what best suits their needs and wants. So, it is important to remain competitive. This is what we want to teach people, specially youngsters, who are now almost solely encouraged to study and get a job in the IT sector. Everything is connected and nothing is possible without agriculture. Agriculture is science. Agriculture is technology”, highlights Doug Fabbioli.
The mainstream media surely did not help either. It unfortunately is always the story, photography or footage of the miserable and struggling farmer that makes it into the news. Success farming stories are reserved to the specialized publications. This is also another objective of the New Ag School. The Non-Profit organization also acts as an advocacy group. By raising awareness about what working in the agriculture and farming industry is really about, they wish to promote the industry, break the stereotypes and give back to farming and agriculture its former glory. After all, farming & agriculture is one of the oldest professions and deals with some if not the most basic human need.
“We are here to create and serve the community through mission, vision and values that are connected to the land. We are looking to create more training programs, for example modules like Animal Husbandry and Fencing. In 2020, we will be starting our full program which aims at training and giving summer job opportunities to young people between 16 and 21 years old. They will be completing all existing five modules within three months. The program will be delivered online and in-class. And they will receive a certificate. We are planning to have three batches split over the year in 2020 and the registration will be opening soon”, shares the Executive Director.
This program’s main objective is to connect each successful participant to summer job opportunities in the industry. They will be trained and groomed to be efficient and productive in their chosen respective fields, which will make them a great element and increase their chances of being hired for a summer job or later in life.
Loudoun’s Rural Leaders Launch New Ag School
How best to protect the area’s thousands of acres of farmland from development has been a decades-long debate in Loudoun County, often battled out in board rooms and late-night committee meetings.
Now, the men and women who lead some of the county’s most successful rural businesses say that part of the solution is found in raising up the next generation of farmers.
This week, they announced the New Ag School, a tuition-free certificate program that will provide mentorship to farm employees, as well as hands-on training in everything from horticulture to hospitality to prepare them to grow Loudoun County’s rural economy.
“We are teaching people that you don’t have to stare at a computer all day to make a living,” said Doug Fabbioli, New Ag School board member and owner of Fabbioli Cellars. “We are teaching farming.”
New agriculture school to teach Loudoun’s future farmers
Education is the foundation for the future. So how stable is the future of Loudoun’s farms if future farmers don’t have the proper training?
Enter Loudoun’s New Ag School.
Formally known as the Piedmont Educational Agriculture Center, Loudoun’s New Ag School (NAS) formally launched this week at Fabbioli Cellars just north of Leesburg. The school was awarded a grant of $9,000 by 100Women Strong, a philanthropic organization that pledges grants to help the Loudoun community.
The goal of NAS is to train a workforce to continue and grow the agribusiness of Loudoun County. From running a farm or winery to hosting a successful bed and breakfast, NAS aims to offer an alternative education route to those seeking careers in these fields.
“We’re teaching people you don’t have to sit at a computer screen all day and make a profit,” said Doug Fabbioli, NAS board member and owner of Fabbioli Cellars. “We need to train a workforce of all ages and talents who understand our various growing, harvest and tourism seasons and are specifically trained to support agribusiness, from horticulture to management to sales.”
Loudoun’s New Ag School: Skills For Farming, Wineries, Breweries
Two decades and multiple awards for wine making and production wasn’t enough for Doug Fabbioli. In partnership with Loudoun County’s government and some of its largest philanthropists, Fabbioli is investing in the next generation of agricultural leaders and producers.
On June 5, Fabbioli, philanthropy group 100WomenStrong and several county agricultural departments announced the launch of the New Ag School (NAS). An offshoot of the Piedmont Epicurean and Agricultural Center, the new school partners mentors with mentees to help teach agriculture workers best skills and practices for farming, producing and distributing products.
“We’re spinning up people who are making a living out here, are going to be stewards of the land and hopefully the next generation of caretakers,” said Fabbioli, the co-founder and winemaker of Leesburg-based Fabbioli Cellars. “This is where they can make a living and enjoy what they’re doing.”
A deer fence to honor Melanie Brose’s memory
9 am! Savy and Hermas, of Doug Fabbioli’s crew, already have their boots half way into the mud. It has been raining heavily for the past few days, so there are puddles everywhere. Even if the grey sky looks threatening, there was no way we were going to report the deer fence project, scheduled for the 4th of May 2019, at Robert Brose’s place. Everybody was working hard to honor Melanie Brose’s memory and make her dream come true.
Melanie always wanted to have a deer fence built, but before she could make it happen, she lost her life in a tragic accident this past winter on her farm. The New Ag School, the Lucketts Ruritan Club and the Brose family put in a collective effort to put up the fence she always wanted.
Months after her death, her husband Robert Brose reached out to Doug Fabbioli, the founder and director of the New Ag School to help him with the deer fence project. As soon as Doug Fabbioli heard about the project, he did not think twice.
“When I received the note from Robert and connected the dots of his land and his wife, there was no question that I had to get involved. Land Stewardship and farming was a passion of Melanie and Robert Brose. They purchased the farmette at the top of the hill on Stumptown Road for the views, the space available, the grape growing possibilities and because it was in the heart of the burgeoning wine industry. Tragically, Melanie lost her life on her farm this past winter when an ice-covered branch broke off a tree and landed on her. We had to act. And quickly, as the deer were eating everything Robert had on his farm. I also brought the Lucketts Ruritan Club on board for support and I think that teaming up with the Ruritans adds the element of community fellowship and service”, explains Doug Fabbioli, who is managing the project.
This is how the New Ag School, the Lucketts Ruritan Club and the Brose Family put together the deer fencing project “Build a Fence, Build a Dream: Lend Your Muscles for a cause” on May 4th 2019. Doug Fabbioli brought his team and equipment; Robert Brose provided the material and other things needed and the Lucketts Ruritan Club will be financing a Fencing Module that will be developed and designed by the New Ag School: “We have been digging holes and setting posts for a deer fence around the garden, fruit trees and future vineyard. We also sent out a call for volunteers to help us with this project and we had some people showing up”.
For his part the President of the Lucketts Ruritan Club, Peter Gustafson says that when Doug Fabbioli told him about the project, he could only say yes and guarantee the Ruritans support.
“We wanted to help with the project and honor Melanie’s memory the best we could. For forty years now, the Lucketts Ruritan Club has been following the National Ruritan organization’s motto of Fellowship, Goodwill and Community Service in and around Lucketts. It is in that spirit that the Club has partnered with the New Ag School in the Robert Brose Project. It is the Club’s goal that coming to the aid of a community member might prove to be meaningful gesture to Mr. Brose as well as benefitting the New Ag School. The New Ag School will use this project as a base upon which to build an educational module. This tool will be used to teach fence and trellis design and installation. The cost of developing this module would be funded by the Lucketts Ruritan Club”, highlights Peter Gustafson.
It was a very emotional Robert Brose that we met the day the poles were being put into the ground by Doug Fabbioli’s crew, helped by the Brose family and volunteers. He thanked everybody for their commitment to this project that meant a lot to him.
“Melanie spent a great deal of time evaluating and improving the land at our small farm property here in northern Virginia. Before deciding on what type of things to plant, she surveyed the plants, animals, and microclimates already present. Melanie discovered gnarled peach trees and blackberry surviving in an overgrown garden, wild persimmon and pawpaw trees along the woods, and noted the cool mountain breezes that descended from the hills above in spring and fall. She cataloged many birds, possum, box turtle, and salamanders in the yard, recorded changes in climate and soil, and used this understanding of the native habitat to understand the region and her options”, shares Robert Brose.
He continues that Melanie was growing to produce for both local markets and charities. She selected and grew apple, peach, plum, persimmon, gooseberry, and blueberries, and filled the garden with tomatoes, cardoons, kale, okra, squash and melon, as well as elderberries and native pollinator plants obtained at official plant rescues in Fairfax county, where development was displacing native habitats and heirloom gardens. Melanie obtained Audubon habitat certification for wild areas of the property that were maintained for small creatures like goldfinches and turtles, and planned to establish an area of red wine grapes, in addition to bringing in additional persimmon and other rare fruits like cornelian cherry.
Unfortunately, overpopulation of deer in the area, due to loss of predators and human provision of food for them, led to severe damage to her plantings – both perennial and annual – and production losses were extremely high in 2018. Not only were fruits and vegetables lost, the deer actually destroyed established trees and plants, despite the 6 foot fencing, barbed wire, anti-deer scents, and our venturing outside as frequently as three times a night to displace deer during the summer of 2018.
“While we have participated in state approved culling plans, protecting the fruit trees, berries, and gardens that Melanie spent years putting in for her vision of beauty and productivity requires a 24hr/365 day a year means to exclude deer. The support from The New Ag School and the Lucketts Ruritans Club has been tremendous. They immediately understood the challenges we faced, and the vision Melanie had of discovering and bringing forth the full potential of the land and sky here in western Loudoun. While she was alive, protecting the land was a great priority for Melanie, and assistance completing the fencing she hoped to establish will preserve the plant and animal life, improvements, and vision she had for future, allowing generations in the future to enjoy the benefits of her efforts. And I want to thank everybody who came to help. This is what Melanie has always wanted and I am sure that where she is, she is as much grateful as me to all of you”.
A NOTE FROM DOUG
The rural team of Loudoun County’s Economic Development Department started a unique program a couple of years back. On opening day of the Major League Baseball season, in conjunction with the Loudoun County School system nutritional staff, they release a series of Farmer Trading Cards. The cards are distributed throughout the elementary schools in the county. The farmers featured, do a card signing and greet with the students on their way from the cafeteria. Last year, one of our former staff members and students in The New Ag School was featured on a card. Alex is now at Virginia Tech on a 2 year program for animal husbandry.
Many of the farmers featured over the years can be seen at the farmers markets, at their farm or involved with the community. As this is a public school based program, the powers that be thought it was best to not include the farm wineries and farm breweries that focus on an alcoholic beverage as their end product. I was fortunate enough to be recognized this year as the director and head farmer of The New Ag School. Our focus is to use mentoring and on line modules to educate future farmers and agricultural leaders, giving our region more farmers to use these great lands for production. I had the opportunity to sign some cards for the students at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Leesburg. We talked about animals, pineapples, strawberries, the farming lifestyle and how they rely on farmers. Pizza was on the lunch menu so it was an easy transition to talk about making cheese from milk, sauce from tomatoes and pizza crust from grains. With the fifth graders, we were able to discuss entrepreneurism and sustainability and how that related to the farm and our program. Even though these kids were not old enough to participate in our program, they could get involved with the 4H. Reminding them to “thank a farmer 3 times a day” was my closing line.
The ability to stir up some thought with these kids is important to me. Yes, my main focus for farming is growing grapes that will be turned into wine, an alcohol based product. But understanding that crops from farms are processed into products of many types is very important. And those products are used and sold as clothes, food, fuel, building materials, decoration or whatever is very important as well. It’s not hard for these kids to look at the food on their lunch tray and take each product back to the farm. We just need to guide them there, and to educate them that someone has a job in growing that crop as well as processing that crop into the food they recognize.
I give a lot of credit to the Loudoun County School system for having the vision to reach this audience. Credit also goes to The Department of Economic Development for seizing this opportunity to connect the kids to the farmers. Our county leaders have recognized how important it is to keep our farms and farmland in the west. This effort is fundamental to establish that importance in the minds and hearts of our next generation. It is an honor to be recognized by this program and I will continue to do my part in keeping agriculture and Ag education in the forefront of our efforts.
Learn more about the Ag School at Newagschool.org and like us on the Facebook!
Our next event is May 23 at 6 pm. This will be held at Roots 657 at Spinks Ferry Rd and Rt 15. We will be talking with owner and chef Rich Rosendale about Hospitality, Entrepreneurism, and sourcing locally. Dinner will be provided by Loudoun Economic Development and Roots 657.
Please RSVP to email@example.com
Urban Millennials Go to Farmer School
LOUDOUN, VA —
Doug Fabbioli is concerned about the future of the rural economy, as urban sprawl expands from metropolitan areas into farm fields and pastureland. The Virginia winery owner decided to be part of the solution and founded The New AG School, the school’s mission is raising the next generation of farmers.
Farming, the hardship and joy
Being a farmer is hard work, but Fabbioli says if young people knew the joys and fulfillment of farming, they’d love it. But to succeed – they will need specialized skills.
That’s what Fabbioli is hoping to teach at his new school. The goal is to fill the immediate need for farm workers, but also to prepare future leaders, those who can to be mentors and teach new people how to do this down the road.
New AG School helps continue agribusiness in Loudoun County
LEESBURG, Va. – They’re calling it a school without walls, and after a pilot program, Loudoun farmers are ready to jumpstart the New AG School aimed grow the agricultural-business of Loudoun County.
The New AG School teaches agricultural leadership through agricultural skills and practices at Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg. Program mentors teach five modules including cleaning and sanitation, general horticulture, leadership and entrepreneurism, hospitality, and farm equipment and safety.
“Our schools are having less hands on education. We’re working on teaching the basic skills to get them an opportunity for a job, as well as help them be successful at that job,” said Doug Fabbioli, program director.
Minimizing Pesticide Drift
Free info guide from the University of Kentucky
Spray Pressure? Droplet Size? Vapor Drift? Chemical Trespass?
A free info guide from the Pesticide Education Program at the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology will help answer these questions and more when preventing the unwanted spread of applied pesticides on crops.
Drift is the uncontrolled movement of a pesticide away from its target area. Studies have shown that a sizable percentage of pesticides may never reach the intended target site because of drift. Significant drift can damage or contaminate sensitive crops, poison bees, pose health risks to humans and animals, and/or contaminate nearby soil and water.
This can mean lawsuits, administrative action, or criminal fines. Be able to recognize situations that increase potential problems and know how to deal with them. It is impossible to eliminate drift, but it is possible to reduce it to a tolerable level.