Agriplex gears up for another year of programs 

Children work on a craft at a previous Little Farmers program at the North Alabama Agriplex. (contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – With modern homesteading on the rise and residents wanting to learn how to be more self-sufficient, and influx of less-than-true advice flowing on social media, knowing where to go for accurate advice for a successful growing season may seem daunting. On the heels of a successful 2023 season, the North Alabama Agriplex has returned with myriad programs for 2024 to benefit farmers, growers and homesteaders of all ages and skill sets.  

Executive Director Rachel Dawsey said educational outreach programs offered by the Agriplex are important to further its mission of cultivating a community passion for preserving agricultural heritage and growing a more sustainable future. 

“We feel that we are able to do that through our educational outreach into the community. The programs we’re offering are a wide range,” Dawsey said, mentioning that while many of its programs are well-attended, she’s most excited about the expansion of the Agriplex’s Beginning Farmer and Military Veterans programs. 

“We’re excited to expand our Beginning Farmer and Military Veterans programming, also. We got an RCS grant, and Tony Glover and Arnold Caylor are both going to be contracting with us as farm technical assistance providers. They will be able to mentor and guide farmers, be able to make farm visits and even help them know of grants and resources available to them,” she explained, noting that research shows that the first seven years of farming are the most impactful to the longevity of a farm. With resources at the farmers’ fingertips, she doesn’t want any slipping through the cracks. 

Dawsey also made note of the fact that many in the Beginner Farmer program are young or recent transplants to Alabama, some from as far away as Hawaii or the Pacific Northwest at large, making for quite the learning curve when learning to farm and grow in the Heart of Dixie. 

“Alabama is a different climate, so there’s a lot of learning to start farming in Alabama,” Dawsey laughed. 

By offering a holistic approach from seed starting to farm management, the Agriplex takes pride in being able to assist growers and farmers from start to finish. If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry – the Agriplex also has a full schedule of Heritage Skills programs like sewing and quilting, cooking, food preservation and more. 

“We love to be this community hub for Cullman. We like to see families of all ages coming and participating in programs,” Dawsey smiled, saying that the family approach of including kiddos in farming and growing education through the Agriplex’s Little Farmers, Farm Kids Club and Heritage Homeschool programs keeps Youth Programs Coordinator Samantha Catland, busy throughout the year. 

Said Catland, “We’re doing a lot of new programs this year! Some are repeats from a few years ago, but lots of new ideas. For the kids programs, I’m excited about incorporating music and art. We’re usually focused on science.” She said that by offering art and music, the Agriplex can offer a wide-lens approach to educating youth. While some new inclusions are on the menu for the kids’ programming, dedicated Agriplex attendees can expect the same flow and routine of programming they’ve come to enjoy. 

“Specifically for the kids’ programs, I try to follow the same template. Parents and kids like to know what is going to be going on,” she said, explaining that for preschool especially, students and parents alike thrive on routine and knowing what to expect. “The structure will be the same, but the material will be different!” 

Catland echoed Dawsey’s sentiment of wanting the whole family involved, sharing, “Be prepared to learn along with your child. Some people expect to be able to sit back and just let their kid do their thing, but we’re really hands-on! We like the parent to get involved, too.” 

The Agriplex offers a wide variety of educational programming, many free or inexpensive to attend. Find a full schedule of programs at Registration for programs ends 24 hours before the program starts, and the Agriplex does not offer refunds. For more information, call the Agriplex at 256-297-1044 or visit 1714 Tally Ho St. NW. 

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