Sustainable food and farming courses online

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We have seen a major increase in interest among students wanting to study Sustainable Food and Farming at the University of Massachusetts.  At the same time, there are more work opportunities emerging for young farmers and marketers as consumers turn to local food as a way of improving their quality of life (as well as a way to “occupy the food system“).

A recent blog post at Seedstock, highlighted recent developments in the UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Program, which has experienced a tenfold increase in student numbers over the past 7-8 years.

In response, the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture has developed a menu of exciting new courses such as Urban Agriculture, which are now offered in an online format for those individuals who can’t go to college and study full time.  Among the students who are taking courses online are:

  • mid-career professionals looking to redirect their work life,
  • young adults who must work but are looking for a career in food related businesses,
  • recent high school graduates who are not yet ready to “make the leap” to college,
  • some full-time students wanting to get ahead on their course work, and
  • people already working in food and farming related occupations who want to enhance their knowledge and experience with an online class.

Students in the program generally focus on growing good food, farm education, or advocacy and public policy. They study topics from permaculture and organic farming to medicinal herbs and community food systems.

The following courses are offered online this summer

(click on the course number below for more information)

PLSOILIN 100 – Botany for Gardeners (4 credits) is a class on the science of plant growth, using world food production, our favorite foods, and backyard gardening as the framework for study.

PLSOILIN 115 – Environmental Biology (3 credits) a science course that explores how various human activities affect the environment with specific attention to plant and soil resources.

 PLSOILIN 265 – Sustainable Agriculture (3 credits) explores the ethical, practical and scientific aspects of agricultural sustainability including economic, social and environmental impacts of food and farming.

 PLSOILIN 290C – Land Use Policies and Agriculture in the U.S. (3 credits) provides students with an opportunity to explore the political, economic and societal forces that influence land use decisions, an understanding of the history of land use policies and planning in the U.S. as they relate to agriculture.

 PLSOILIN 397C – Community Food Systems (3 credits) examines the movement of food from seed to table. Participants in the course explore local and global food systems, and specific food related issues that impact health of communities.

STOCKSCH 290U – Urban Agriculture: Innovative Farming Systems for the 21st Century (3 credits) explores the subject of Urban Agriculture through the investigation and evaluation of current urban farming systems and agroecological research.

These courses are offered as part of either the Bachelor of Sciences degree in Sustainable Food and Farming or the 15-credit Certificate Program.  Courses may also be taken without participating in one of the UMass degree programs.

The Stockbridge School of Agriculture was established in 1918 to provide practical and science-based education – and the tradition continues today.  In the Fall of 2012, the UMass Sustainable Food and Farming program will merge with Stockbridge to offer a 15-credit certificate, a 2-year Associates degree, and a 4-year Bachelor of Sciences degrees in all aspects of sustainable food and farming.  This program is part of the UMass College of Natural Sciences.

For information on any of these programs or work opportunities in this growing field, please contact me at jgerber@psis.umass.edu.

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