On Saturday, November 3rd, I had the opportunity to be apart of the Farm-to-Business Venture & Consulting Project sponsored by Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School in partnership with OutGrowth.
The purpose of the project was a hands-on adventure where we learned about the business of farming and worked as consultants to solve some of Star Bright Farm’s business challenges. By far, this event was one of the best experiences I have had as a student to date.
The day began with a morning breakfast, courtesy of Star Bright's staff, where we learned about the history of the farm and how the family came into ownership. As we listened to how a young couple took a leap of faith by purchasing the land to raise a family on, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of admiration for their resolve and courage. My feelings were solidified even further after we heard how their son Peter chose to pursue a degree in agriculture and now runs the operations of the farm.
As we finished our breakfast, we were then split into groups for our hands-on activities. In the first station we learned how to harvest a variety of plants, such as lavender and sage, as well as the correct technique for cutting so as to not disturb the growth of future crops.
The key here is make a cut above the stem so the plant can re-grow in the future. We then transitioned to drying the plants out by separating them onto thin screens so they could receive natural air flow. Once the plants were properly dried, we learned how to pick the leaves which would be used for distillation into their products. The last stage, and my personal favorite, was learning how to measure the landscape for future plants in a technique
called Keyline design. The purpose of this method is to maximize the natural flow of water by measuring the topography of the land. At each point, we then would place a marker so the family could have a reference point in the future.
After our morning of activities, we were then treated to a truly farm to table lunch provided by the family. All ingredients were grown, sourced, and prepared on the farm which undoubtedly tasted amazing. After we finished lunch, it was now time to transition to our business challenges. Every individual was assigned to a group and we were given an information packet on the intend areas of improvement for the farm. We had two hours to prepare our recommendations which would be presented to the staff and our fellow students.
For my group, we chose to focus on 1) finding wholesale clients for the farm's distillation products 2) recommending industry segments who they could market their fresh & dried herbs and 3) other lines of business they could sell or service.
By the end of our session, we had generated a list of over 50 clients in the area and multiple recommendations of events they could promote on their land. As we gave our presentation to the staff, we could see the pure appreciation in their eyes which made it that much more of a rewarding experience.
As the day closed we knew we had to unfortunately say our goodbyes. Over the course of eight hours total strangers had become family. We felt the day not only gave us a hands-on education, but provided us with fulfillment in the connections made. If more immersive experiences were offered, I believe we could solve some of the most common issues faced by educational institutions.
Moreover, I cannot express how genuinely grateful I am to OutGrowth and JHU for providing us with this opportunity.
Christos is a professional working full-time while also pursuing an MBA at Johns Hopkins University. He is a first generation American, whose family is originally from Greece. Growing up in a military family, Christos has lived in over 14 different places across the globe.