Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

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2024 Applications are now open!

LAND-BASED EDUCATION

Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture

The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture is a hands-on, applied course in certified organic production and small farm business management. The Practicum is offered at both Viva Farms’ locations — in Mount Vernon in Skagit County and in Woodinville in King County. In Skagit County, the Practicum is taught bilingually, offered in English with simultaneous interpretation into Spanish. (Leer esta página en español aquí.) The practicum course takes place over 8 months from early April through mid-November, following the farming season. Over the course of the 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 farms.

“The balance of instruction and experience is so invaluable!

This is exactly what I had been looking for for years.”

– a 2023 Practicum student 

As a cohort, participants will go through an entire farming season and explore the fundamentals of: 

    • Certified organic production 
    • Seed propagation & greenhouse management 
    • Irrigation 
    • Cultivation & weed management
    • Soil health & fertility management 
    • Pest & disease management 
    • Sales & Marketing 
    • Crop & Farm Planning 
    • Harvest & Post-Harvest Operations
    • Food Safety

Participants will also examine the basics of farm business management, including: 

    • Business Planning & Set-Up
    • Basic Bookkeeping & Financial Recordkeeping 
    • Profitability Analysis 
    • Regulatory Compliance 
    • Access to Capital 
    • Insurance & Farm Taxes

This course is designed to prepare and support the next generation of farmers. Are you interested in starting your own farm business? Apply today!

Applications must be submitted by February 16, 2024. Acceptance notifications will be sent no later than March 11, 2024. Please read the FAQs below and application materials thoroughly. Because space in the Practicum is limited, this is a competitive application process. We encourage applicants to respond completely, particularly in the “Previous Experience, Goals, and Outcomes” section. 

If the application itself is a barrier, Viva Farms’ staff are available (by appointment) to provide assistance in completing the application. To receive assistance, contact: [email protected] or call 360-969-7191 x810 for King County and x4 for Skagit County.

Applications can also be completed via Google or Word document. Please send completed documents to [email protected] with your name and “Viva Practicum Application” in the subject line.

Viva Farms students with onions

“This program is amazing for people [who want] to become farmers.

I wish there were more Viva Farms in the world.

– a 2023 Practicum student 

More 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 Department 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.

Applicants must fill out the Viva Farms application by February 16, 2024 no matter the registration channel.

    Upon successful completion of the Practicum, participants will be eligible to apply to participate in the Viva Farms Farm Business Incubator Program. The Incubator Program offers support to beginning farmers with access to land, infrastructure & equipment, training, marketing and capital in order to grow a successful farm business. Acceptance into the program is not guaranteed.

    For more information about the incubator program, please visit vivafarms.org/farm-business-incubator/.

    Information about the SAgE Collaborative is available here

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    How much does the Practicum program cost?

    Viva Farms will not turn anyone away from the program due to lack of funds. More details about tuition, payment plans and scholarships are available in the application.

    Viva Farms registration is offered in three tuition tiers that cover the entire 8-month program.

    1. Base Tuition – $1,200
    2. Community Supporter Tier – $1,200 base tuition plus an additional donation to our scholarship fund, which supports Practicum participants facing financial hardship. Our suggested contribution is $600 (half of our base tuition), but we welcome any donation amount!
    3. Scholarship Tier – Full and partial scholarships are available based on financial need. Participants who choose this tier will be sent scholarship applications separately. 

    Registration through Seattle Central College:

    Students who would like to earn continuing education credit through Seattle Central College and receive an SCC Certificate of Completion will pay an additional $200 administrative fee on top of their chosen tuition tier.

    When does the Practicum begin and end?

    The Practicum in Sustainable Agriculture begins in early April and runs through mid-November. This year, class begins April 2nd and ends November 19, 2024

    Where does the Practicum take place?

    The Practicum is offered at our student farms in Burlington in Skagit County (English and Spanish), and in Woodinville in King County (English only).

    Participants will complete the entire course at the location where they apply to. Online learning is not available. 

    What is the time commitment of the program?

    The Practicum commitments consist of class once a week plus weekly independent work on the student farm.

    Class: 2 hours of in-person instruction on Tuesday evenings from 5:30-7:30pm.

    Independent hours: Roughly 130 hours of independent work over the course of the 8 month season, for an average of 4 hours per week. The timing of these hours will vary with the farming season. As with any farm, students should anticipate an increase in responsibilities during the peak summer season, from June to September. Independent hours are independent, and can be scheduled and completed around each student’s schedule. Instructors may not be available when students are able to come out, so instructors will offer times outside of class, during business hours, that they are available (“office hours”). Participants wanting to spend more time with instructors should 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?

    We will give preference to prospective incubating farmers based on satisfactory attendance and participation in the Practicum course. Space in the incubator is not guaranteed even upon successful completion of the course 

    To participate in 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.

    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 send an email to [email protected] or call 360-969-7191 x2 and visit the Farm Business Incubator page

    Please direct any remaining questions to [email protected] or 360-969-7191 x4. ¡Hablamos español!

    USDA NIFA logo<br />

    This work is supported in part by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program,  Award #: 2021-70033-35709.

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