Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

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LAND-BASED EDUCATION

Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture (PSA) is a bilingual (English-Spanish) hands-on, applied course in certified organic production practices and small farm business management. Over the course of the 9-month program, participants will be able to apply their knowledge and practice techniques of sustainable agricultural production on a certified organic parcel, located at the Viva Farms incubator.

Land-Based Education

Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture (PSA) is a bilingual (English-Spanish) hands-on, applied course in certified organic production practices and small farm business management. Over the course of the 9-month program, participants will be able to apply their knowledge and practice techniques of sustainable agricultural production on a certified organic parcel, located at the Viva Farms incubator.

As a cohort, participants will go through an entire farming season and explore the application of the fundamentals of sustainable production and marketing, including crop- and whole farm-planning, soil health, seed propagation, tillage and cultivation, fertility and pest management, irrigation concepts, and harvest and post-harvest best practices, as well as sales and direct marketing. After the growing season and using the actual operations and sales of the farm parcel, participants will examine the basics of small-farm business management, including financial statements, profitability analysis, record-keeping, regulatory issues, access to financing, insurance and taxes and basic bookkeeping.

Course Details

The PSA is offered as a fully accredited program in partnership with Skagit Valley College, Seattle Central Community College and the Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) Each quarter is a stand-alone, 2-credit course, for a total of 6 credits for the entire program. The Spring and Summer quarters will focus primarily on sustainable production practices and farm operation, whereas the Fall quarter focuses primarily on applied business management. Participants will enroll in ENVAG 198 for the Spring, Summer and Fall quarters to complete the entire PSA. Successful completion of the program results in the award of a micro-certificate in: Sustainable Small Farm Agriculture Applied Planning and Management (Level 1).

Credit or Adult Education

The Practicum is offered for credit through Skagit Valley College and Seattle Central Community College, or as adult education directly through Viva Farms.

The PSA is offered at both Viva Farms’ locations — in Mount Vernon in Skagit County, and in Woodinville in King Country.  Participants’ location and farm business goals will dictate which location he or she chooses to take the course. Currently, the PSA in Woodinville is offered only in English.

The PSA is a fully accredited program in partnership with Skagit Valley College (SVC), Seattle Central College (SCC) and the Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) program. The course takes place over 3 academic quarters each season — Spring, Summer and Fall — from early April through mid-December. The Spring and Summer quarters will focus primarily on sustainable production practices and farm operation whereas the Fall quarter moves onto applied business management.

Upon successful completion of the course and with approval from Viva Farms’ staff, participants will be eligible to enter into the Viva Farms’ incubator as an independent operator of their farm business. The Viva Farms incubator is a non-profit organization with the mission of helping lower the barriers of entry to the creation of successful and sustainable farm businesses by providing access to the essentials of farming: land, equipment & infrastructure, marketing, capital, and training.

SUSTAINABLE SMALL FARM AGRICULTURE APPLIED PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT (LEVEL I)

Course Details

The PSA is offered as a fully accredited program in partnership with Skagit Valley College, Seattle Central Community College and the Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) Each quarter is a stand-alone, 2-credit course, for a total of 6 credits for the entire program. The Spring and Summer quarters will focus primarily on sustainable production practices and farm operation, whereas the Fall quarter focuses primarily on applied business management. Participants will enroll in ENVAG 198 for the Spring, Summer and Fall quarters to complete the entire PSA. Successful completion of the program results in the award of a micro-certificate in: Sustainable Small Farm Agriculture Applied Planning and Management (Level 1).

The PSA is offered at both Viva Farms’ locations — in Mount Vernon in Skagit County, and in Woodinville in King Country.  Participants’ location and farm business goals will dictate which location he or she chooses to take the course. Currently, the PSA in Woodinville is offered only in English.

The PSA is a fully accredited program in partnership with Skagit Valley College (SVC), Seattle Central College (SCC) and the Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) program. The course takes place over 3 academic quarters each season — Spring, Summer and Fall — from early April through mid-December. The Spring and Summer quarters will focus primarily on sustainable production practices and farm operation whereas the Fall quarter moves onto applied business management.

Upon successful completion of the course and with approval from Viva Farms’ staff, participants will be eligible to enter into the Viva Farms’ incubator as an independent operator of their farm business. The Viva Farms incubator is a non-profit organization with the mission of helping lower the barriers of entry to the creation of successful and sustainable farm businesses by providing access to the essentials of farming: land, equipment & infrastructure, marketing, capital, and training.

SUSTAINABLE SMALL FARM AGRICULTURE APPLIED PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT (LEVEL I)

Credit or Adult Education

The Practicum is offered for credit through Skagit Valley College and Seattle Central Community College, or as adult education directly through Viva Farms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does the Practicum program cost?
The cost of the program depends on which enrollment option participants take:

  • Non-credit
    • Taking the course from Viva Farms directly costs $200 per quarter or $600 for the entire 9-month program.  
    • Payment plans and scholarships are available on a financial need basis.
  • College-credit
    • Skagit Valley College:
      • The cost of the program is based upon the Tuition cost at SVC. Based on the 2017-2018 fee schedule, tuition plus fees for WA residents are $124.48 per credit. So, each 2-credit quarter is $248.96 and the entire, 3-quarter program is $746.88.  
      • For the latest tuition and fees, please visit Skagit Valley College’s Tuition and Fees page.
    • Seattle Central College:
      • Course availability through SCC is still in development and cost information will be updated as it becomes available.
When does the Practicum begin and end?
The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture begins in early April and runs through early December, with breaks in instruction that correspond to the academic calendar of SVC.  While there are several breaks, participants are highly encouraged to continue working on the Practicum parcel, especially during the height of the growing season.  For exact dates, please contact Viva Farms at: info@vivafarms.org or call (360) 969-7191 extension 2.
What is the time commitment of the program?
Each week, there will two hours of instruction in the evenings, so as to accommodate normal working hours. Beyond the 2 hours of in-class time, participants will be required to work independently for an additional 4 hours per week that can be scheduled with the instructor, so as to meet the participants’ needs, as well as those of the farm operation. So, there is a total of 6 hours per week minimum, though hopefully, we’ll be having so much fun that participants will want to put in more time!

The timing and quantity of independent work hours will correspond with the farming season—ie, they will ramp up with the season as task demand increases and decrease as the season tapers off—but will average out to 4 hours per week for each quarter. Students can expect to work fewer than 4 hours per week in the beginning of the Spring quarter and end of the Fall quarter, and more during the peak season.

It is important to remember that the Practicum parcel is a working, fully functioning, albeit small farm. We will be harvesting to order on actual sales and must be able to maintain both quality and consistency. That being said, the level of commitment is high in that participants must reliably arrive on time and be ready to work during their scheduled independent hours.

What are the physical requirements of the Practicum program?
Farm labor can be difficult physically. Work happens outside, in variable weather conditions and can begin early in the morning or late into the evening. There are often repeated motions involving bending over and lifting, working with potentially hazardous tools, and regular lifting of up to 50lbs is required. We will make sure to rotate tasks as use ergonomic principles as much as is possible. Participants should come prepared with proper clothes, footwear and ready for physical labor.
Do I need to complete the entire program in order to farm independently in the Viva Farms incubator?
Proven demonstration of core competencies learned and practiced during the Practicum are necessary to enter into the Incubator program as an independently owned and operated business. The Practicum course is a valuable way to apply the fundamentals of sustainable production and small-farm business management, as well as to learn the particulars of operating a farm at Viva Farms in a relatively low-risk manner.  For that reason, all prospective incubating farmers are strongly encouraged to enroll in the entirety of the program and complete course requirements, especially independent work hours.

There are, however, some cases where participants can “test out” of the requirement to take the Practicum course in its entirety.  In these cases, prospective incubator farmers will be need to demonstrate the significance of their previous experience in sustainable production and/or farm business management. Depending on the individual’s specific experience, they may be required to take only a portion of the Practicum in order to qualify for entry into the incubator.

For more information, please view the Farm at Viva page on the Viva Farms website. For any further questions or concerns, please contact Viva Farms at: info@vivafarms.org or call (360) 969-7191 extension 2.