Washington State University in Pullman, which became the first institution in the country to offer an academic major in organic agriculture, is now offering the nation's first online certificate in the same topic.

"The U.S. organic food industry has grown at a rate of 20 to 30 percent each year for more than a decade and is really challenged to find employees who understand the unique approaches used in organic agriculture," says Kim Kidwell, associate dean for academic programs in the agriculture college. "Those who complete the certificate will hold the credential they need to succeed in one of the fastest-growing industries in the country."

Many of those working in agriculture throughout the United States already hold a bachelor's degree, but Kidwell says they may wish to expand their skill set to include organic agriculture. "This certificate fills that need," she says.

The program's first core course, Soils 101, "Organic Gardening and Farming," will be available summer semester, which begins May 5.  The foundation course was developed by WSU Regents Professor John Reganold, an international leader in organic agriculture.

Admission to WSU is required to enroll in courses and to earn the certificate, and participants may apply as non-degree seeking students. More information is available at WSU's Center for Distance and Professional Education Web site (http://online.wsu.edu/future_students/dc_organic_ag.aspx) or by calling (800) 222-4978.

Other courses in the program focus on topics ranging from economics and resolving environmental conflicts to ecological soil management and crop growth and development. The program also includes an "on ground" practicum or professional internship in organic agriculture.

To subscribe to the print version of The Grower, click here.