(Nov. 8) At traditional U.S. colleges, hard work merits good grades and courses cost money.

At Organic Produce College, hard work will earn the first 200 students a Grateful Harvest produce knife and enrollment costs nothing.

Albert’s Organics Inc., Bridgeport, N.J., a national organic produce distributor, released the Web-based Organic Produce College as a way to quickly educate independent natural food store owners, general managers and produce managers about organic produce.

“We have had a constant stream of requests from our customers,” said Frank McCarthy, vice president of marketing for Albert’s. “‘We don’t know how to handle it. How do we sell? We don’t know how to store it.’ And we’ve decided to answer all those questions at once.”

Organic Produce College’s 20 lessons review the handling, merchandising and marketing of organic produce.

Titles include: “What Is Organic?”, “Receiving and Storing Your Product”, “Product Rotation” and “Creating a Pricing Strategy.”

Each lesson is followed with a short quiz that must be answered correctly in order to proceed to the next lesson.

Simcha Weinstein, an expert in organic produce merchandising, created the course. Centric, a Valencia, Calif.-based online marketing and advertising agency, was the producer.

And for students more comfortable with the Spanish, Albert’s Organics plans to release a Spanish version of the Produce College before 2006.

To enroll in Organic Produce College, visit www.organicproducecollege.com.