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 relfecting 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 2021 cohort has closed. For all questions, please contact practicum@vivafarms.org. Thank you!

We will begin accepting applications for the 2022 cohort in late fall of 2021. If you would like to be informed when applications become available, please follow the link below and leave us your contact information. Thank you!

Course Details

The Practicum is offered as a fully accredited program in partnership with Skagit Valley College, Seattle Central College and the Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) Collaborative. The program takes place over 3 academic quarters and the heart of farming  season from early April through November. The Spring and Summer quarters focus on production practices and farm operations, while the Fall quarter moves into applied business management.

Options for Course Registration:

Non-credit –Register directly through Viva Farms. Successful completion will earn a Certificate of Completion from Viva Farms.

College-credit—Complete the Practicum Application and enroll at one of our partner colleges. Each quarter is a stand-alone, 2-credit course, for a total of 6 credits for the entire program. Students who complete all 3 quarters will also earn a Certificate of Completion from Viva Farms.

 

  • Skagit Valley College: Enroll in ENVAG 298 for Spring, Summer and Fall quarters. Successful completion of all 3 courses will earn the Sustainable Small Farm Agriculture Applied Planning & Management (Level I) Micro-Certificate. These credits can be applied to the Sustainable Small Farm Agriculture & Food Systems certificate and degree.
  • Seattle Central College: Enroll in ENVS 196 for Spring quarter, ENVS 198 for Summer quarter, and ENVS 199 for Fall quarter. Successful completion of all 3 courses will earn 6 industry training program Continuing Education Units and the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Applied Planning & Management Certificate of Completion. These Units can be converted to academic credits and applied to the Sustainable Small Farm Agriculture & Food Systems emphasis and degrees.

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 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?

The cost of the program is based upon the tuition cost of Washington State community and technical colleges:

  • Non-credit
    • Taking the course from Viva Farms directly costs $300 per quarter or $900 for the entire program.
    • Payment plans and scholarships are available on a financial need basis.
  • College-credit
    • Each college has its own tuition costs and fees for tuition. For the latest tuition and fees, please visit Skagit Valley College’s Tuition and Fees page or Seattle Central College’s Tuition & Payment.

When does the Practicum begin and end?

The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture begins in early April and runs through late November, corresponding to the academic calendars of Skagit Valley College and Seattle Central College. 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 program to maximize their exposure to the farm through the changing seasons. Students who participate in the entire Practicum receive preferred status when applying for the incubator program.

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 two hours of evening instruction from 5:30pm-7:30pm, so as to accommodate normal working hours. Participants will be required to work independently for an additional 4 hours per week, for a total of 6 hours/week minimum. Typically, participants enjoy 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 demands increase and then decrease as the season tapers off, but should average out to 4 hours per week for each quarter. As with any farm, students should anticipate working more during the peak summer season, from June to August.

It is important to remember that the Practicum parcel is 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.

What are the physical requirements of the Practicum program?

Farm labor can be physically demanding. Work happens outside, in variable weather conditions and can begin early in the morning or run late into the evening. There are often repeated motions involving bending over, working with hazardous tools, and regular lifting of up to 50 lbs.

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

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 Incubator farmers farmers based on satisfactory attendance and participation.

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, please contact Viva Farms at: practicum@vivafarms.org or call (360) 969-7191 extension 2.