HORT 3131: Student Organic Farm Planning, Growing, and Marketing
Organic fruit and vegetable production has been one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. economy for almost two decades, stimulating an overwhelming number of biological and ecological innovations to produce food using organic approaches. This course aims to increase student knowledge of ecological concepts and theory as applied to managing organic systems, with an emphasis on soil nutrient cycles and plant-soil-microbe interactions that serve as the cornerstone of organic systems. This course also addresses where organic products go once they are grown, including effective marketing and tools farmers use to connect to those markets. We review soil nutrient cycling, spending a good amount of time learning the role of organic matter in helping us to achieve our production goals. We also learn how to use soil and organic nutrient inputs such as cover crops, manure, and fertilizers, to provide vegetable crops with the nutrients they need to grow, and are introduced to elements of pest management, including both weeds and disease/insect pests, and compare different tillage and irrigation options available to organic producers. Throughout the course we use case studies, guest speakers, games, and active learning discussion approaches to move these classroom sessions ‘beyond the lecture’ and allow students to engage with the material in a meaningful way, providing opportunities each week to practice skills and delve deeper into the applied aspects of organic production in our two-hour laboratory session. The lab is designed as a space to allow practicing of concepts learned in lecture, including soil organic matter analysis, microgreen propagation, calculation of organic fertilizer rates, operation of tractors, and more!