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 incubator.

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 and using the actual operations and sales of the 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.

Course Details

The Practicum is offered as a fully accredited program in partnership with Skagit Valley College, Seattle Central Community College and the Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAgE) Collaborative. The course takes place over 3 academic quarters each season from early April through mid-November. 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:

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 three quarters will also earn a Certificate of Completion from Viva Farms.

  • Skagit Valley College: Enroll in ENVAG 298 for the Spring, Summer and Fall quarters. Successful completion of all 3 will earn the micro-certificate:

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

  • Seattle Central College: Enroll in ENVS 196 for Spring, ENVS 198 for Summer, and ENVS 199 for Fall. 

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 course, participants will be eligible to apply to participate in the Viva Farms incubator program as an independent operator of their 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 colleges:

  • Non-credit
    • Taking the course from Viva Farms directly costs $219.98 per quarter or $659.94 for the entire program.
    • Payment plans and scholarships are available on a financial need basis.
  • College-credit
    • Taking the course for college credit through Skagit Valley College costs $219.98 per quarter or $659.94 for the entire program.
    • Taking the course for college credit through Seattle Central College costs $220.52 per quarter or $661.56 for the entire program.
    • Additional fees may be required by SVC or Seattle Central College. 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 mid-November, corresponding to the academic calendars of Skagit Valley College and Seattle Central College. There are a couple of scheduled breaks in the academic calendars of the Colleges. We encourage students to participate in farm activities during these breaks to maximize their exposure to the farm through the changing seasons. Students who participate in the entire program, including breaks, receive preferred status when applying for the incubator program.

What is the time commitment of the program?

Each week, there will two hours of instruction on Tuesday evenings 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. In the past, participants have enjoyed farming so much they spent 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 for each quarter. As with any farm, students should anticipate working more during 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 difficult physically. 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 incubating 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.