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Perfect City Farming Certifications of 2024


When it comes to groceries, most consumers are looking for ways to shop local—some even go as far as growing their own food at home. If this endeavor seems attractive to you, but you live in the city, don’t worry. You can still grow fruit and veggies in a small space. Urban farming, and its thoughtful and sustainability-focused techniques, allow city dwellers to reap the bounty of homegrown veggies. Quality online certifications can teach you how to prepare your soil, choose your crops, and even sell your harvested products (should you choose to go that route).

To help you get started, we reviewed several programs and identified the best urban farming certifications available. We compared course curricula, faculty experience, flexibility, and online resources. Check out our top picks before breaking ground and planting your first seed.

Best Urban Farming Certifications of 2023

Best Overall: Purdue University Extension

Purdue University


Key Specs

  • Cost: $750 for in-state students, $800 for non-residents
  • Timeframe: Up to two months for each course (total of four courses)
  • Continuing Ed Offered? Yes

Why We Chose It

Purdue University Extension’s Urban Agriculture Certificate has the most comprehensive curriculum, a flexible schedule, and top-tier faculty and resources.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Required courses can be taken at any time and in any order
  • Can be completed in less than a year
  • Supported by a series of other relevant events and workshops

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Limited course options

Overview

Purdue University’s Urban Agriculture Certificate can be taken entirely online and is suitable for everyone from a non-profit community gardener to a for-profit market farmer.

Individual courses cost $200 for in-state students making the price for all four required courses $750. The program is completely asynchronous, so you can start classes at any time, and you then have 60 days to complete each course.  

Required core courses can be taken in any order, but Purdue recommends starting with Roadmap for Strong Roots, which covers topics like setting and communicating your goals, as well as creating a vision for your farm.

Aspiring urban farmers will also take Agricultural Site Design and Soil Health, as well as Site Assessment for Fertile Ground. These lessons teach you how to design an urban farm, build soil health, and overcome the challenges of agriculture in an urban environment.

The final course, Growing Guide for Healthy Crops, teaches you how to plant and transplant crops, manage pests, and harvest your bounty. 

Best Budget: Agritecture

 Agritecture


Key Specs

  • Cost: $29 per month
  • Timeframe: One month for each course (total of six courses)
  • Continuing Ed Offered? Yes

Why We Chose It

Agritecture offers one course, and 30 days of content access, for $29 a month, as well as upgrades for bundling other courses. 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Inexpensive in the short term
  • Students can upgrade their plan and receive other Agritecture courses
  • Pro Plan focuses on the economic realities of urban farming

Cons:

  • Students can only access course materials for 30 days without buying a monthly plan

Overview

Agritecture is a consulting firm and agricultural software developer that offers workshops and online resources for urban agriculture entrepreneurs. The company’s Commercial Urban Farming course costs just $29 for 30 days of content access, making it our favorite option for farmers on a budget.

The course features over 2.5 hours of video, dedicated to six lessons that are broken into several five- to 10-minute modules. Lessons are taught by consultants with extensive experience in various areas of farming, and include everything from choosing a growing system to conducting market research and financial modeling.

In addition to this base offering, Agriculture also offers subscription-based continuing education. The Pro Plan, for $149 a month, grants you access to the Certified Urban Farming Masterclass and other advanced courses. (You will need to upgrade to this model should you want to receive full certification.) The Pro Plan also lends access to advanced farm modeling tools and discounts on equipment.

The Enterprise Plan (coming soon) will grant you everything in the Pro Plan, in addition to farm benchmarking tools. This level will also allow you to become a consulting network partner with Agritecture.

Best for Hobby Farmers: Oregon State University PACE

 Oregon State University


Key Specs

  • Cost: $265, plus a $60 registration fee
  • Timeframe: Not currently available online
  • Continuing Ed Offered? No

Why We Chose It

Oregon State PACE’s certification offers a free introductory course for hobby farmers that lets you explore the topic free of charge.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Students can take a free introductory course
  • Qualified and enthusiastic instructors
  • Helps hobby farmers decide if urban farming is a good fit

Cons:

  • Courses are limited to specified start dates
  • Topics are limited

Overview

Oregon State University’s Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) program offers a totally online, four-course certificate in urban agriculture.

Courses are designed to prepare students to take on an urban gardening project in their own yard or in a small urban space—making it perfect for hobby farmers. Plus, at roughly $325 (including registration fees) for the entire certification, the program is more affordable than some other options we considered. 

Courses take a crop-specific approach that lets students focus on a single crop over the course of the program, and then extend what they’ve learned to other plants.

The first course—Urban Agriculture Overview Online Course, which is free of charge—teaches the foundations and introduces students to the requirements of farming. Advanced lessons cover topics, like how to optimize soil quality, maximize plant growth, and develop pest management strategies. 

Finally, if you want to expand your urban farming beyond just a hobby garden, the Urban Agriculture Business course will show you how to comply with local regulations, minimize operating costs, and create a sustainable business.

Best for Pursuing a Degree: University of Massachusetts Amherst

 University of Massachusetts Amherst


Key Specs

  • Cost: $482 per credit, plus a $50 registration fee per semester (15 credits total)
  • Timeframe: Full-time for one year
  • Continuing Ed Offered? Yes

Why We Chose It

The UMass Amherst Certificate in Sustainable Food and Farming allows students who are considering a degree in farming to apply credits earned to an online Bachelor of Science or Associate of Science degree.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Large selection of courses
  • Can be tailored to fit a number of interests, including urban agriculture
  • Credits count towards a college degree

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not specifically focused on urban farming

Overview

The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers an online certificate in Sustainable Food and Farming through its Stockbridge School of Agriculture.

Students must earn a total of 15 credits to complete the certificate. Credits cost about $482 each, making the total cost for this certification approximately $7,000, not including registration fees. And, while this is the most expensive option on our list, credits also count towards an online university degree.

All students must complete at least one foundation course—like Organic Vegetable Production or Sustainable Agriculture—but after that, the program can be customized to suit your interests.

Electives specific to urban farming include Urban Agriculture, Food Justice and Policy, and Non-Profit Management for Community Food Programs. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about hydroponics and aquaponics, site design and planning, and integrated pest management.

Best Organic Farming: IAP Career College

 IAP Career College


Key Specs

  • Cost: $377 (with special discounts offered seasonally)
  • Timeframe: Part-time for six weeks
  • Continuing Ed Offered? Yes

Why We Chose It

IAP Career College’s Organic Farmer’s Certificate Course is suitable for people interested in organic urban farming, as it offers a comprehensive curriculum focused on organic growing practices.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Can be completed in as few as four weeks
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Ability to get feedback and assistance from faculty members

Cons:

  • Not specifically focused on urban farming
  • Not affiliated with a recognized university or extension system

Overview

The International Association of Professions (IAP) Career College, a division of the career guide publisher FabJob Inc., offers an online organic farmer certificate course. The program is a six-week, part-time program and costs roughly $377 before discounts. This moderately priced certification also offers a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.

The certificate course has set start dates, however, it can be completed in anywhere from four to 12 weeks. While the certification is not specifically focused on urban farming, it’s an excellent option if you’re interested in starting an organic urban farm, and you can then go on to tackle a master’s course in the same subject.

Topics include an overview of the organic farming industry, an introduction to the business of farming, and how to start and manage your own farm. In addition to course materials, students can get feedback and assistance from a faculty member throughout the course, including up to three hours of business mentoring. 

Final Verdict

We chose Purdue University Extension’s Urban Agriculture Certificate as our best urban farming certificate because it offers a comprehensive curriculum at a moderate price. Unlike others on our list, this program allows you to take courses at any time, and in any order, and the entire certification can be completed in less than a year. This flexible schedule, combined with access to Purdue’s top-notch faculty members and resources, made it stand out from the rest.

Compare the Best Urban Farming Certifications

Company Cost Timeframe Continuing Ed Counts Towards College Degree
Best Overall Purdue University Extension $750 for in-state students, $800 for non-residents Two months per course (four courses)  Yes No
Best Budget Agritecture $29 per month One month per course (six courses) Yes No
Best for Hobby Farmers Oregon State University PACE $265, plus a $60 registration fee Not currently available online No No
Best for Pursuing a Degree University of Massachusetts Amherst $482 per credit (15 credits) Full-time for one year Yes Yes
Best Organic Farming IAP Career College $377 Part-time for six weeks Yes No

Frequently Asked Questions


  • What Is Urban Farming?

    Urban farming is the practice of growing, harvesting, and marketing food in an urban environment. Depending on the city, available land can be scarce, so urban farms may be as small as someone’s yard, or as large as entire city blocks. Urban farmers often face challenges that rural farmers do not, like city ordinances that regulate agriculture, contaminated soil, or complaints and pushback from neighbors. 


  • Is Urban Farming Profitable?

    Profitability depends on several factors, like location, crops grown, and rate of production. While some urban farmers take a community-based approach grounded in providing affordable produce to locals in need, others successfully sell their harvests at farmer markets, grocery stores, and local restaurants.


  • How Do I Start My Own Urban Farm?

    Depending on where you live, starting an urban farm can be as easy as building raised beds and cultivating produce in your own yard or on the roof of your building. But first, educate yourself on relevant topics, like how to build quality soil, what crops are successful (and profitable) in your area, and how to market your crops after harvest. Then, develop a plan for your garden, prepare the plot, and get started. 


  • What Qualifies as an Urban Farm?

    To qualify as an urban farm, your farm must take up a small space, use less water, emit low to no greenhouse gases, and produce fewer food miles (farm to consumer) than a typical large-scale farm.

Methodology

To select the best urban farming certifications, we reviewed 10 online programs and looked at factors like cost, scheduling flexibility, and curriculum. We also considered the quality of the faculty and course materials, and if the program was affiliated with a university or extension service. Finally, we checked out student reviews, access duration of course materials, and whether or not each program offers student support, like supplemental events or faculty feedback.

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