Organic agriculture continues to grow and is a thriving segment of the agricultural industry. There is a great need for educational programs and applied research to support the growing number of organic farmers, particularly those involved in livestock systems. In an attempt to answer these growing needs, schools such as Chico State University (CSU) and Washington State University (WSU) have developed organic agriculture curriculum plans to help guide students to a greater understanding of the organic industry. The programs described below are only excerpts and can be found in greater detail by visiting their respected websites.

Cal State Chico

The College of Agriculture at CSU was one of the first in the western region to devise an organic based agriculture curriculum. It began in 2006 when the college converted 85 acres of its farm land to organic production for the purpose of developing an educational model for integrated organic livestock and cropping systems. With support from the Agriculture Research Initiative, the University was also able to convert their conventional dairy to an organic, pasture-based production system that supports 80 Jersey-X cows.

Students at CSU who are interested in gaining knowledge and experience in organic dairy production practices will get the chance to learn milking, milking hygiene, ration formulation and feeding, calving, breeding, pasture management and rotation, seeding, pasture fertilization, irrigation and integrated pest management. Students will also be exposed to budgets, nutrient management plans, organic certification guidelines and waist management regulations. The program as a whole is run by the Dairy Management Team, which is a group of students who are selected by interview to work at the dairy.

Students interested in dairy production have the option of an integrated degree program in either Animal Science or Agricultural Business. Within these majors, students are expected to take core courses in Animal Science, Plant & Soil Science and Agricultural Business to fully prepare for careers in the dairy industry.

Washington State University

Another school that is revolutionizing the educational awareness of organic agriculture is Washington State University. WSU has taken it one step further in developing a major in Organic Agriculture Systems, which is the first of its kind to be offered in the United States. Students who choose this major can expect to take a diverse array of courses in natural, environmental, economic and social sciences, as well as a number of courses focused on organic production practices. 

Aspiring students, who are interested in a hands-on degree experience, will thrive in the organic major. WSU has a four- acre certified organic teaching farm, which is currently in the process of expanding to become a 17-acre multidisciplinary organic farming operation and community center. Students are also given the opportunity to tailor their program of study to specific areas of emphasis, such as: Organic Animal and Dairy Production, Economics and Marketing, Crop Production/Food Science, Pest Management, and Soil Management.

As an alternative to the Organic Agriculture Systems Major, WSU also offers an undergraduate Certificate in Organic Agriculture. This program helps students to develop a solid background in the agricultural sciences, including an understanding of complex agriculture and food systems. The Certificate in Organic Agriculture is an 18-credit undergraduate program that can be taken along with a major in another field, or as a stand-alone educational experience.

Organic food production is one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture, with retail sales increasing by 20% annually since 1991. This growing demand for organic products has created the need for employees who understand the unique production, processing, and marketing approaches used in organic agriculture. Colleges s like Washington State University and Chico State are among the select few pushing for a change and offering organic agriculture educational programs. To apply or get more information about these two programs, visit them online today.

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