Course credits can apply toward a degree program
Washington State University has made its organic agriculture program available on the Internet for students who want to learn online.
"WSU is the first in the nation to do that," university spokeswoman Kathy Barnard said. The 18-credit program can equip the student for employment or for starting a farm.
Though the online organic certificate is not part of a degree program, credits earned in completing the certificate can apply toward a degree program, she said.
Degree-seeking majors in organic ag still need to fulfill many requirements at the Pullman campus.
The first requirement, Barnard said, is admission to WSU. There's a $25 fee, and the schedule for tuition fees is available on the website.
Coursework includes required classes in organic gardening and farming (which is available for this fall semester), soils and agro-ecology.
A hands-on requirement can be fulfilled either through a practicum or an internship.
Electives include sustainable food systems, nutritional science, world ag systems, plant breeding, microeconomics, macroeconomics, food safety and quality, marketing, soil fertility, and agriculture, environment and the community.
Courses are taught by the same faculty members that teach the courses at the main campus.
Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU, said he expects needs and opportunities to continue to grow as more businesses tap into the growing market.
"The largest food retailers in the nation, including Wal-Mart, are making major investments in developing their organic product lines," he said.
Details, Barnard said, are at www.wsu.edu -- under Admission, click on Online Courses, Degrees and Certificates, and Organic Agriculture.
-- Steve Brown