Farmer Training Opportunities
This online resource can be used to learn more about and identify relevant training and educational opportunities specifically for organic farming - as well as, more broadly, for ecologically-based farm management. There is a wide range of opportunities - from two day short courses and online events to year-long intensive farmer trainings and certificate or degree programs. Below you will find information on the location, host organization, general topics covered, duration and timing, cost, and website links for each opportunity. The focus of this resource is to highlight both in-person and online training opportunities tailored to the unique crops and contexts of California. However, at the bottom there is additional information for programs in other areas of the country. If there are programs we missed or information that needs updating, please reach out to our email (email@example.com) and we will work to modify this resource as necessary.
- Opportunities within California -
Community-based organizations opportunities
Agriculture Land-Based Training Association, ALBA (Central Coast)
Farmer Education Course (PEPA)
- One year hands-on program focused on organic vegetable and strawberry farming. Over the 5 modules participants learn about crop planning, business planning, marketing, soil health, and organic production.
- Priority for farmers with limited resources.
Center for Land Based Learning (Sacramento Valley)
Beginning Farmer Training
- A 7 month intensive training program that combines lectures, hands-on farm experience, and farm visits. Topics include crop production, business planning, marketing, and development of personal business plans
- Program starts in February and ends in September.
- Cost $5,000. Discounts available for veterans.
The Beginning Farm Apprenticeship Program
- Approximately two year apprenticeship program connects aspiring and established farmers to support the continued development of skills needed for successful farming operations. Coursework required over the 2 year program that covers production skills, leadership, and management.
- Applications for the program are taken on a regular basis.
- Apprentices are offered minimum wage with wage increases every 6 months
Ecological Agriculture Training Cultural Center and Farm, EAT! (Riverside County)
Small Farm Apprenticeship Program
- A 10 month program with weekly classes and field work that takes place on the 5-acre organically management EAT! Farm in Norco, CA. The course covers 9 core agricultural knowledge areas (e.g., soil management, composting, irrigation, IPM, direct marketing, etc.)
- Offered annually starting in April. Late admission possible but requires finishing course the following year
- Cost is free.
Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture, MESA (Los Angeles and Bay Area)
Agroecology, Farming, and Food Pathways Program
- A 12-week course that combines weekly lectures, discussions, hands-on farm workshops, and site visits. Curriculum is built around foundational Agroecological design and management principles.
- Offered in the fall.
- Priority given to participants who hold identities of socially disadvantaged communities.
- Cost is free. Donations suggested for participants with greater economic means.
Santa Cruz Permaculture (Santa Cruz County)
Permaculture Design Course
- One weekend, 2 week intensive, or 6 month (over weekends) permaculture design course offerings. Topics covered include principles of regenerative and ecological management, economic permaculture, community development, integrated animal and forest management, and soil management.
- Weekend offerings throughout the year, 2 week offering in summer, and 6 month offering late fall to spring.
- Cost varies depending on course, discounts available for early registration, students, youth, and teachers
Sierra Harvest (Nevada County)
- A six-week business planning course for beginning farmers to learn about planning and project out financial aspects of farming operations. Topics include setting prices, projecting sales, and calculating expenses.
- Season-long skill build course with hands-on opportunities to learn how to successfully manage a farm in the Sierra Foothills.
- A four-part course designed to prepare farmers for the organic certification process. Topics include what to expect when certifying organic, how to decide if it’s right for you, how to create of Organic Systems Plan (OSP), how to select an agency for certification, and the cost.
- Offered winter annually
- Cost $85-125 on sliding scale basis.
Soil Borne Farms (Sacramento Valley)
Workshops and events
- Workshops and classes are tailored to organic management at the garden to small farm scale. Topics covered include composting, irrigation, crop production, animal husbandry, and preservation.
- Offered throughout the year, best to sign up for the newsletter and refer to the event calendar.
- Cost ranges $15-30.
Wild Willow Farm and Education Center (San Diego)
- 8-week introductory farm school course (weekly online lecture and weekend workday) that is tailored to skill development from gardens to small-scale farms. Topics covered include soil management and cultivation, propagation and planting, irrigation, and integrated pest management
- Offered spring, summer, and fall
- Cost $700.
University of California opportunities
UCSC Center for Agroecology (Santa Cruz County)
Short Courses and public workshops
- Intensive courses that offer professional development and skill-building opportunities for experienced participants. Topics covered include seed propagation, soil management and cultivation, food preservation, and business management.
- Offered throughout the year, best to sign up for newsletter and refer to events calendar
- Cost dependent on course offered
UCCE Foothill Farming (Placer and Nevada Counties)
Farm business planning
- Intensive 6-week course for experienced producers to build a cohesive farm business plan.
- Offered February/march annually.
Beginning farming academy
- A two-day intensive overview course for those considering farming and ranching careers.
- Offered twice per year around April and November.
California Grazing academy
- A two-day hands-on field course on grazing techniques
- Offered April annually.
- A two-day course focused on developing unique marketing strategies tailored to farmer’s operations.
- Offered annually.
- A two-day hands-on course on grazing management for sheep and goats
- Offered September annually.
Integrated pest management
- A series of 5 workshops on integrated pest management strategies tailored to local contexts.
- Offered February and March of odd years (e.g., 2019, 2021, etc.)
*Additional field days and on-farm workshops are offered throughout the year
UCCE Mendocino County
Sheep Shearing School
- A five-day hands-on course on sheep shearing techniques to maintain quality and minimize stress for shearer and sheep. Participants will also learn how to care for tools and handle fleece once it is off the sheep.
- Offered around March-May annually.
- Cost $850 (scholarships available to offset costs)
UC SAREP (Statewide)
- A range of workshops, field days, and webinars covering operational topics, processing techniques, and marketing strategies.
- Offered throughout the year, best to sign up for the newsletter and refer to events calendar.
- Free to attend
UC Small Farms (Central Valley, Southern California, Central Coast)
Workshops and events
- Range of workshops focused on (organic and non-organic) production practices and regulatory requirements offered in multiple languages with translation services available.
- Offered throughout the year, refer to event calendar
California Certified Organic Farmers, CCOF (Statewide)
The Organic Training Institute
- Training videos on a range of topics including organic record keeping, financial planning, ranching and animal management, soil health, the certification process, food safety, marketing. A few topics have offerings in Spanish.
Organic Farming Research Foundation, OFRF (Statewide)
Beginning Farmer Training Program
- Online, self-guided training program that includes videos, written materials, and additional resource links for a range of introductory topics on organic agriculture. Topics include soil management, weed management, irrigation, pests and diseases, business planning, and marketing
- Open and accessible at any time
Nitrogen Planning and Management in Organic Production of Annual Crops
- Series of 3 online trainings on understanding nitrogen biologically, estimating nitrogen release from organic inputs, and completing a nitrogen budget
- Offered fall annually.
- Cost $25
Online trainings and videos
- A range of trainings that cover operational topics, processing techniques, and marketing strategies.
- Available on their website
Additional programs are available through community-based educational programs, colleges, and universities. Multiple resource guides have been developed that provide information on these programs such as where they are located, what degree and certificate programs are offered, and how long the duration of the program is. You can use the links below to further explore these opportunities.
Farm Training Programs - Urban Agriculture
Getting the Degree: Organic Higher Education in California
- Opportunities outside of California -
Rodale Institute (Pennsylvania)
Farmer Training Program
- Fully immersive 9 month, full-time program on organic and regenerative agriculture. Application is required and weekly stipends are given to participants
- A range of online courses offered for animal and cropland organic production.
- Cost $55-99