More colleges across the country are offering students degree or certificate programs in organic and sustainable agriculture. There are likely two main reasons pushing the demand for these programs: the aging American farmer population and the increased demand for organic and sustainable products by American consumers. Just two years ago Fast Company magazine named farming as the hottest green job for this decade and the recent increase in college programs is helping to support this claim.
Shannon Dininny looks at this trend in her article for the Associated Press, College organic, sustainability programs growing. For example, Washington State University is expanding their programming and now offers an organic agriculture certificate online. This allows students from around the country to obtain a solid understanding of organic agriculture without needing to travel to Pullman, Washington for in-person classes.
Students in organic and sustainable agriculture programs will have a variety of job opportunities available to them upon graduation, even positions in conventional farming operations. Roger Pepperl with Stemilt Growers comments on one benefit of sustainable agriculture training to conventional farms; the students “have new ideas about methods for handling pests, fungus and weeds that use fewer chemicals, making them environmentally preferable and potentially less expensive.”
While organic and sustainable farming degree programs are on the rise, there is also an overall increase in the number of farmers pursuing a formal college education. According to Dinniny’s article, approximately 25 percent of today’s farmers hold a bachelor’s degree with 70 percent having completed some college coursework. In 1965, only 4 percent of farmers and ranchers had completed a college degree program.
To learn more about trends in organic and sustainable agriculture, visit the Organic Farming Research Foundation website.