Organic Farming 101 Certificate Program

College Level Education program


Session One May 16-August 28.
Session Two Sept. 13 – October 30.

Application to Organic Farming 101

Scholarship application
Partial Scholarships now available

Organic Farming 101 is a Certificate Class at the Women’s Environmental Institute that starts in mid-May and runs until the end of October. It is exclusively designed for students who want to become organic farmers or work in partnership with organic farmers in alternative food systems.  Only a few students will be admitted to Organic Farming 101 with some of the graduates from Session One continuing in Session Two (September-October).

The course takes place at Amador Hill Farm and Orchard, a four-season farm, organically certified by MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association) and managed by the Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI). Organic Farming 101 is part of WEI’s nonprofit mission which is dedicated to promoting environmental, agricultural, and food justice and to the development of organic farming and well-trained organic farmers. WEI’s Amador Hill Farm is located near North Branch, Minnesota, in Amador Township, on the edge of Wild River State Park and the St. Croix River.

In 2020 Organic Farming 101 has two sessions. Session One runs from mid-May to the end of August. Session Two runs from mid-September until the end of October.  In Session One all the basics in organic farming are covered and put into daily farming practices. Over the course of several months of study and training, students will learn about different aspects of growing crops organically with hands-on work at the garden scale and the tractor-cultivated work at the field scale.  Students will also become familiar with different kinds of farm plans:  growing for a small CSA, for farm stands/farmers market and for wholesale and/or restaurants.  Successful graduates from Session One will be eligible to continue with Session Two which starts in mid-September.  In Session Two students will advance to the knowledge and managerial skills needed to run an organically certified farm in the autumn and early winter.  This will include management and field responsibilities for fall harvesting and marketing, winterization of the farm, winter farming start up, and 2020 farm review for next year’s farm plan. This will complete the 2020 season. Students will be awarded WEI’s Organic Farming Certificate of Completion and WEI will provide extensive letters of recommendation as requested by our graduating students for your future plans. If you have a home academic institution, we will work with you to secure some kind of recognition for your Intensive on-the-farm farmer training. We will stay connected and supportive as you move forward.


The total tuition for Session One is $2,500 and for Session One and Two $3,000. Half this amount as a down payment (non-refundable) must be paid shortly after admission to the program, with payment in full completed by April 15, 2020. The tuition includes the cost of a personal set of farm tools to take home, textbooks and articles, study materials, and the cost of Room with “Partial” Board. “Partial  Board” means that WEI will provide some bulk items, such as grains, cooking oils, spices, pastas, rice, flour etc.(TBD) and extra produce from the farm for meals. Note that our Organic Farming 101 farmer training includes 3.5 to 5 months of residency at the farm campus, included in the tuition fee, which is a significant savings on rental and travel costs for students.


Amador Hill Farm is a multi-generational and multicultural farm. In WEI’s Organic Farming 101, you will be taught and mentored by elder farmers and experienced farm crew members and visiting farmers/teachers.  Amador Hill Farm Manager and WEI Education Director, Jacquelyn Zita (professor emerita U of M) will coordinate the teaching and the teaching staff.  Teaching will be facilitated by extensive field work (up to 35 hours per week), classroom structure, visits to other farms, educational videos, access to all WEI classes, and additional teaching by visiting farmers, professors and Master Gardeners.


Amador Hill Farm is a multi-generational and multicultural farm. In WEI’s Organic Farming 101, you will be taught and mentored by elder farmers and experienced farm crew members.  Amador Hill Farm Manager and WEI Education Director, Jacquelyn Zita (professor emerita U of M) will coordinate the teaching and the teaching staff.  Two experienced farm crew members will work in the field every day along with Jacquelyn with the students. Hilary Sandall, our elder garlic farmer will share her expertise in garlic farming and insightful wisdom. Guest mentors – invited professors, master gardeners, farmers and specialists – will visit the farm to lead a day’s work or provide a lecture with discussion on a special topic.  Karen Joy Clark, WEI’s Executive Director, will lead monthly discussions on public policy aspects of farming, urban agriculture, environmental justice, farm legislation and the Green New Deal.  Teaching will be facilitated by classroom structure, field-based learning, hands-on workshops, skill-building demos and field work — this is a teaching philosophy based on “learning by doing” that requires the true rigor and endurance of what it takes to be a full-time farmer on your own

                    Benefits and Perks for Students in Organic Farming 101

  • Intensive, hands-on, structured educational and skill-building learning experience
  • Summer residency in WEI’s Eco-Retreat Center on the WEI farm campus
  • Advancement from beginning farmer to managerial training levels in half-year
  • * Room and partial board (3.5 months), provided by abundant farm produce.
  • Registration waiver for all WEI classes while in residency
  • WEI Certified Readiness-to-Farm based on actual experience and stud
  • Transfer of effort for required service learning and internship requirements
  • Healthy eating, exercise, fresh air, comradery and radical vision
  • Continuing Education credit CEU credits or student internship credits may be available depending on approval from profession, department or school

Course objectives for Organic Farming 101 generally fall into the following categories:

  • Principles and techniques of organic farming: seed selection, plant  propagation, greenhouse techniques, crop planning, French-intensive bed preparation, transplanting and sowing, crop care, weeding, harvesting techniques, food safety standards, seed saving, and irrigation.
    Soils — soil physical and chemical properties, soil/plant interactions, soil fertility management, soil testing, soil microbes, composting, rotations, and cover cropping.
    • Botany, farmscaping for pollinators, and crop culture — botanical characteristics and cultural requirements of specific vegetable crops, herbs, flowers, fruits, and trees.
    • Pest and Disease Management —management of weeds, vertebrate and invertebrate pests, plant pathogens in organic systems, and organic IMP.
    •Livestock care: beekeeping, vermiculture, chicken and possibly other animal husbandry.
    •Harvesting and Marketing — harvest and post-harvest handling, food safety SOPs, marketing strategies and outlets, including direct marketing through farmers’ markets, restaurant outreach and delivery, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and wholesale production.
    •Farm Machine and Tool Maintenance – how to keep everything in its place and ready to work.
    • Budget and Crop Planning – how to create a 5-year financial plan and annual budget for your farm which is based on capacity and sustainability; how to create a master plan for your farm to meet pre-determined goals and contracts
    • Record Keeping for Organic Certification, GAP Certification, Food Handling Safety, Standard Operating Procedures, Farm Emergency Plans, Specific Operating Procedures, farm mapping, protocols and checklists.
    • Promotions and Presentation – how to use social media and other strategies to promote your farm; how to make the best presentation at farmers’ markets; how to develop branding and a unique identity for your farm
    • Farmer Self-care – how to take care of yourself as a full-time farmer who also has other social roles and responsibilities

Because of WEI’s commitment to environmental, agricultural and food justice, these kinds of public policy topics will be woven into the educational and training experience provided for Organic Farming students. We are especially interested in the sustainability challenges of small-scale farms using organic and sustainable farming practices succeeding in the face of challenges from industrial farming, climate crisis and increasing food insecurity. We will examine how race, class, gender, urban/rural division, and other significant differences create systemic relations of power, privilege and disadvantage in global and local food systems. We endorse the belief that agricultural acts are political in nature and open to inquiry. All questions and ideas are welcome.