By Arielle Gerstein
The pilot program of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate wrapped up this month. Over thirty participants from the Washington Metropolitan area ranging from students to professionals participated in one of three certificate tracks: general, food & agribusiness, and sustainable design.
Overall the participants found the courses engaging, interactive and full of new information about sustainable urban agriculture. Participants ranged in interest from wanting to start their own business like a food stand or truck to just trying to learn more about a favorite hobby. Some participants currently work in the environmental field while others are gardeners, beekeepers, or small-scale farmers recreationally.
What make these classes so unique is the experiential learning like understanding the technical functions of hydroponics and aquaponics at the Muirkirk Research Farm, testing soil quality in the lab, and touring a local school garden. Participants thoroughly enjoyed the level of technical and business information they received. These classes appealed to all ranges of experience from learning about basic agriculture principles to more advanced information about designing an urban agriculture site and how to grow nutrient-rich crops.
Here are a few testimonials from workshop participants:
- This class provided a hands on look at how soil is sampled, tested and repeated. Incredibly useful information! (AGR 120, Soil and Water Management and Conversation)
- The training provided an understanding of how the aquaponics systems work and how to use them as a business. (AGR 180, Sustainable Aquaponics)
- The discussions regarding programs and ideas for garden-based instruction were most helpful. Loved the hands-on activities. (AGR 320, Youth Program Development in Agriculture)
We are excited to begin planning this program again, likely scheduled for the spring of 2015. CAUSES also plans to offer more certificates in 2015 including: Environmental Project Management, Low Impact Development, and Environmental Impact Assessment. It is imperative to create a pipeline for environmental skills that are desirable in all sectors ranging from government to non-profit to private. As part of successful workforce development, UDC strives to offer programs and workshops that are not only informative but the first step in entering the workforce or job growth.