Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

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LAND-BASED EDUCATION

Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture is a bilingual (English-Spanish) hands-on, applied course in Certified Organic production and small farm business management. Over the course of the 3-quarter program, participants will apply knowledge and practice techniques of sustainable agricultural production on a Certified Organic parcel, located at the Viva Farms Skagit County or King County student farm.

As a cohort, participants will go through an entire farming season and explore the fundamentals of organic production and small farm management, including crop & farm planning, soil health & cultivation, seed propagation, fertility & pest management, irrigation, and harvest & food safety best practices, as well as sales and marketing. After the growing season, while reflecting on their farm operations experience and through the use of sales records from the student farm parcel, participants will examine the basics of farm business management, including financial statements, profitability analysis, recordkeeping, regulatory issues, access to financing, insurance & taxes and basic bookkeeping.

The application period for the 2023 cohort is now open. For all questions, please contact practicum@vivafarms.org. Thank you!

Course Details

The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture (Practicum) is a hands-on, applied course in certified Organic production and small farm business management. In Skagit County, the Practicum is a bilingual training, offered in both English and Spanish. The Practicum takes place over 8 months from early April through mid-November and corresponds with 3 academic quarters – Spring, Summer and Fall. The Spring and Summer quarters focus on production practices and farm operations and the Fall quarter moves into applied business management.

Options for Course Registration:

  • Viva Farms – Register directly through Viva Farms to take the course at either our Skagit or King County location. Successful completion will earn a Certificate of Completion from Viva Farms and eligibility to apply to start an independent farm business at Viva Farms.
  • Seattle Central College – Viva Farms partners with the Continuing Education Division to offer the Sustainable Agriculture Applied Planning & Management Certificate of Completion. This certificate is taught at our King County Student Farm in Woodinville, WA, and awards 20.4 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to students who attend regularly and demonstrate satisfactory course and field work.

    Continuing or Adult Education

    The Practicum is offered for Continuing Education Units through Seattle Central College, or as adult education directly through Viva Farms.

    The Practicum is offered at both Viva Farms’ locations — in Mount Vernon in Skagit County, and in Woodinville in King County. The Skagit Practicum is offered in English and Spanish.

    Upon successful completion of the program, student farmers will be eligible to apply to participate in the Viva Farms incubator program as an independent operator of their own farm business. The Viva Farms incubator is a non-profit organization with the mission to empower aspiring and limited-resource farmers by providing bilingual training in holistic and organic farming practices, and access to land, infrastructure & equipment, training, marketing and capital.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    How much does the Practicum program cost?
    Viva Farms Registration
    • Taking the practicum from Viva Farms directly costs $1,200 for the entire 8-month program.
    • Payment installation plans and partial or full scholarships are available on a financial need basis.

    Seattle Central Registration
    • Students who would like to earn continuing education credit through Seattle Central College and receive an SCC Sustainable Agriculture Applied Planning & Management Certificate of Completion will pay an additional $200 administrative fee on top of the $1,200 tuition, for a total of $1,400.

    When does the Practicum begin and end?

    The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture begins in early April and runs through late November. The exact start and end dates will be clarified in subsequent communications with accepted participants. We encourage students to participate in farm activities throughout the course to maximize their exposure to the farm through the changing seasons.

    Where does the Practicum take place?

    The Practicum is offered in Skagit County (English and Spanish), and in Woodinville in King County (English only).

    Participants will apply their learning and practice techniques of sustainable agriculture on Certified Organic land at the nearest Viva Farms location.

    *Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, portions of the course may be held online via Zoom. Participants must have the technological capacity to participate in remote video learning.

    What is the time commitment of the program?
    • Each week, there will be 2 hours of instruction on Tuesday evenings from 5:30pm-7:30pm, so as to accommodate normal working hours. Participants will be required to complete independent work hours for an additional 4 hours per week on average throughout the course. Often, the field-based independent hours do not start until several weeks into the course and end several weeks before the course, corresponding with the demands of the farming season. So, the total time commitment is a total of 6 hours/week on average, but not each and every week. In the past, participants have enjoyed farming so much that they spend more time on the farm than required!

    • The timing of independent work hours will vary with the farming season. Independent hours ramp up as task demand increases and decrease as the season tapers off, but should average out to 4 hours per week each quarter. As with any farm, students should anticipate working more during the peak summer season, from June to September. Independent hours are independent and often times, course instructors are not available during the times that participants choose to come out. Instructors will offer times outside of class, during business hours that they are available (“office hours”), so that participants wanting to spend more time with instructors can prioritize coming during those hours. Participants wanting to complete their independent hours during the early mornings, evenings, weekends, or outside of normal business hours should expect to be working on their own, and instructors will be available to plan activities and share any necessary instructions in advance of the student’s arrival.

    • It is important to remember that the Practicum parcel is part of a working farm. We will be harvesting to order for customers of Viva Farms and must be able to maintain both high quality and consistency. We ask for high commitment and for participants to reliably arrive on time and be ready to work during their scheduled independent hours.

    • Finally, the Practicum is a course with a competitive application process and there is often more demand for the program than spaces. Please be realistic in your capacity to commit to the time requirements for the course and know that there is a waiting list of others that would like to take the course.

    Do I need to complete the entire program in order to farm independently in the Viva Farms incubator?

    To apply to enter into the incubator program, participants must demonstrate competency in the knowledge and techniques introduced during the Practicum. The Practicum 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 environment. For that reason, we strongly encourage all prospective incubating farmers to participate in the entire Practicum and complete all of the course requirements, especially independent work hours.

    We will give preference to prospective incubating farmers based on satisfactory attendance and participation.

    Space in the incubator is not guaranteed even upon successful completion of the course — availability of farmland in the incubator will be subject to the specific conditions going into the following season.

    There are, however, some cases where participants can “test out” of Practicum requirements. To do so, prospective incubator farmers must demonstrate significant previous experience in organic farm production and business management. Depending on experience, applicants for the incubator may be required to take only a portion of the Practicum to qualify for the incubator.

    For more information, visit the Viva Farms website. For further questions, contact: practicum@vivafarms.org or call (360) 969-7191 x 2.