Eco Farming Certificate

Whether you’re looking to turn farming into a full-time profession or simply scale up your home garden, our eco-farming certificate is designed to meet your goals. During the year-long certificate, you’ll learn to start and efficiently operate your own farm, manage existing farms, or work for organizations promoting farm and food education and production.

"The Eco-Farm Certificate has helped me understand how everyone can contribute to biodiversity by growing nourishing edibles."

Certificate Overview

We designed our curriculum with local farmers to create the optimal combination of classroom activities and practical, hands-on learning opportunities in a supportive environment. Over the course of a year, we’ll focus on:

  • Ecological production methods
  • Techniques for high-altitude, diversified crop production and season extension
  • Marketing and business management skills
  • Small farms as a tool for positive social, economic and environmental change

By the end of the certificate, you’ll have the skills to confidently operate a sustainable, small-scale farm and pursue careers in agriculture and food systems.

AT A GLANCE
number of courses
7
estimated total tuition
~820*
weekly commitment
~12 hours
length of certificate
1 YEAR

* For CA Residents

QUESTIONS?

Contact Dr. Darla DeRuiter
530.283.0202 x 262
dderuiter@frc.edu

Why Choose #EcoFarmFRC?

We believe in the power of food. We believe in local. That’s why our curriculum teaches students the skills needed to farm and garden for themselves and others—the privileged and less-than-privileged—in a supportive learning environment designed to build community. Because everyone deserves healthy food.

As one of the few rural community colleges in California, Feather River College is an ideal setting for growing a new generation of leaders of the food movement. Our students will re-envision a food system that values everyone from the farmer to the consumer, respects our planet, and nurtures the connections between people and their food.

Plumas County’s mild mountain climate offers the ideal setting to learn high-altitude growing practices suitable for market growers. Skilled local farmers and strong community support provide a real-world learning laboratory to explore the positive economic, social, and environmental benefits of farming.

"The Eco Farm Certificate program has helped me understand a practical way to start saving the world, deliciously."

About the Certificate

Through the seasons, our local farmers have gained plenty of insights into how to grow delicious, nutritious food at a small scale in a less-than-optimal climate. That’s why we worked closely with them to design our curriculum, which has a focus on learning skills for growing in tough climates. Given our mountain environment, season extension is key!

Courses will take place on the FRC campus and at Follow Your Heart Farm—the field site for course work and labs. Follow Your Heart Farm is a diversified, small farm located just 2 miles north of FRC. The farm features vegetables appropriate for our climate, a diverse orchard, berries, and small animals (American Guinea Hogs, pack goats, and chickens). Collaboration with this farm will provide practical experience in the operation and marketing of a for-profit farm. A community of  local farmers are committed to support you through the learning process as guest instructors, internship hosts, farm tour and activity hosts.

Outcomes

Upon completion of the certificate, students will:

  • Demonstrate application of sustainable agriculture production techniques specific to high altitude crop production.
  • Understand the complexities of managing a small farm, including product and market development, and appropriate technologies.
  • Increase understanding of the food system and how small farms can be used as a tool for positive social, economic, and environmental change.

The following topics will be covered throughout the certificate:

  • Soil & Fertility Management
  • Vegetable Production
    • Solanaceae (Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes)
    • Cucurbits (cucumbers, summer squash, winter squash)
    • Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, Asian Greens, etc)
    • Roots (beets, carrots, radishes, rutabaga, turnips)
    • Salad Crops (head lettuces, mixes, arugula, salanova)
    • Sweet Corn and Green Beans
    • Herbs
  • Season Extension Techniques (hoophouses, high and low tunnels, greenhouses, row covers, mulches, shade cloth, etc.)
  • Irrigation
  • Cover Cropping
  • Tree Fruit & Berries
  • Food Preservation (canning, fermenting, drying, pickling - even tinctures & salves!)
  • Flower Production
  • Crop Planning & Scheduling
  • Organic Certification
  • Harvest & Post Harvest Handling and Food Safety
  • Transplant Production
  • Passive Solar Greenhouse Management and Production
  • Direct and Wholesale Marketing
  • Business & Farm Planning
  • Tool & Equipment Usage and Maintenance
  • Plant Biology for Farmers
  • Organic Weed, Pest, and Disease Management

The Ecological Farming Certificate will prepare students for a variety of job opportunities, including:

  • Garden or Farm Manager
  • School Garden Educator
  • Produce Department Manager/Buyer
  • Farmer’s Market Manager
  • Produce Sales and Marketing
  • Food Handling, Packaging, and Shipping
  • Compost Production and Sales
  • Organic/Sustainable Retail and Support Services (fertilizers, seeds, equipment)
  • Chef/Restaurateur
  • Sustainable Landscape Design
  • Market Gardener or Farmer (Urban or Rural) 
  • Organic and Sustainable Certification Services, Organic Inspector
  • Sustainable Agriculture Consultant
  • Extension Agent or Farm Advisor
  • Pest Control Advisor
  • Distribution Chain Manager
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications 
  • Nursery Sales/Garden Center

Jessie Mazar

Jessie MazarJessie is our lead instructor and works on program development and instructs the high altitude crop production (early and late season), introduction to food systems, season extension, fruit & berry production, and pest management courses.

Jessie has a background in regenerative agriculture, community food initiatives, and teaching in the food system with a concentration in experiential learning. She’s taught undergraduate students in a program called Rethinking Food Security: Agriculture, People, and Politic in Tanzania, India, India, Italy, Ecuador, and Malawi. 

In 2016 Jessie received an M.S. in Food Systems at the University of Vermont, where her research focused on a community food access project with farmworkers in the state. Jessie is skilled at growing food within a limited growing season after eight seasons in the Northeast. She coordinated and taught at a permaculture project where she worked with a team to keep beehives, learn about medicinal plants, establish an educational garden, put up a hoop house, and build an outdoor classroom, kitchen, and pizza oven. Jessie has also worked on farm-to-school education initiatives, where she built school gardens, ran after-school programs, and taught summer classes. 

What do students say about Jessie? She is "a walking encyclopedia of eco-sustainable farming wisdom, especially at high altitude!" "Jessie is a dynamic, energetic, kind, knowledgeable, enegagin, personal, fun, helpful, caring, involved instructor." Jessie represents "all the best qualities we're looking for in our gardent...diversity, adaptability, resilience, beauty."

Ann Bullard

Ann BullardSince 2014, Ann has been the co-owner of Follow Your Heart Farm. She and her partner established a small market vegetable farm, fruit orchard, chicken egg, and a pasture raised pork business here in Quincy. Starting with 3 acres of undeveloped pasture, she installed over 500 feet of irrigation, constructed a season extending high tunnel, converted a storage shed into a chicken coop, added a small goat barn, and built numerous fences, both conventional and electric, to keep animals in and predators out.

Ann is a graduate of Santa Rosa Junior College and Empire College School of Business, both located in Santa Rosa, CA.  She has an A.S. in Mathematics, a 2-year certificate of Civil Engineering, along with a Specialized A.S. in Paralegal Studies. Before moving to Quincy, she worked as a Land Surveyor and real property paralegal. Today she a farmer, a participating member of the Plumas Sierra Food Council, a part-time employee at Quincy’s local food co-op, and a founding member of the Plumas Grown Farmers Guild.

Bridget Tracy

Ken Cawley

Bridget Tracy has a split position, teaching earth science as well and environmental studies courses. She started on the faculty at Feather River College in 2012, after finishing her graduate degree, working with the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at UC Davis. Bridget has worked for many years teaching summer courses for UC Berkeley about Sierra Nevada ecology and forest management in Plumas County, which has given her lots of experience working with local resources and resource professionals. She has also worked for the National Park Service, the Marin Municipal Water District, and various research labs at UC Berkeley. She is delighted to be living and working in the Northern Sierra.

 

Rick Leonhardt

Rick Leonhardt Rick is an instructor in the Business Program at Feather River College. Prior to becoming a full-time instructor at FRC, he taught as an associate faculty member in the business and agricultural business departments. Rick holds a BS degree in Business Administration from CSU, Chico and an MS degree in Finance from Golden Gate University. Rick has a wide-ranging background in both business and agriculture. 

He has worked for large multi-national corporations, small regional companies, and has started several business ventures from the ground up. Rick is a third-generation cattle rancher who has operated his own grass-finished beef business and is Past President of the Plumas/Sierra Cattlemen’s Association.

Rick is involved in the local community as President of the Quincy Rotary club, board member of the Central Plumas Recreation and Parks District, American Valley 4H Beef leader, member of the Plumas/Sierra Cattlemen’s Association and Plumas/Sierra Farm Bureau, and advisory board member of the Feather River College Rodeo team.

Courses and Schedule

Students can start the certificate during any semester. 10 credits of core course requirements and 4 - 5 units of electives are required for certificate completion. Download the class schedule here.

In the spring, courses will build community and develop teamwork among students by focusing on how food works from the local to the global level, from soils to farm economics. Spring classes begin January 13 and run through May 22.

Required

  • Intro to Sustainable Food Systems - hybrid course taught both online and in-person
    ENVR 130 - 2 units
    This class is the foundation of the Ecological Farming Certificate—it’s an introduction to local and global food systems, and their ecological, economic, and social sustainability. Through field trips and labs, you’ll explore Plumas County’s local food and farming movement, and gain an introduction to the basic concepts of farm design and management.

  • Intro to Soil Science
    ENVR 210 - 3 credits
    In this course, which includes a 3-hour lab each week, you’ll learn about soil types, how to test them and interpret the results, understand the importance of soil organisms, and how soil forms. Choose your own research project and expect lots of time in the field—literally!

Electives

  • Season Extension Structures
    ENVR 134 - 1 credit 
    A hands-on course with training in cost-effective season-extension technologies and experience designing, building, and using them. Need to avoid or create microclimates? Here’s where you’ll learn about, design, and use floating row covers, mulch, cold frames, caterpillar tunnels, high tunnels, and greenhouses.

  • Human Relations in Business
    BUS 116 - 3 credits
    Are you thinking of starting your own food or farm business? This could be the class that helps you bump up your professionalism to the next level! Practice your written and oral communication skills and apply them to practical tasks like financial documents, business plans, emails, team and individual presentations, social media, and social etiquette. 

  • Project Based Learning
    BUS 171 - 1 to 3 credits
    This is a hybrid course where you’ll do online activities in entrepreneurship skills and digital fluency and—most importantly—an internship with a small farm or other appropriate sustainable food systems business of interest to you. What a great way to network and figure out what your future might hold! Offered every semester.

In the height of our growing season, we’ll capitalize on long days and warmer weather to learn what to plant and how to take care of crops in the mountain climate of Plumas County.
Summer classes run June through August

Required

  • High Altitude Crop Production - Early Season
    ENVR 132 - 2 credits
    Get your hands in the dirt! Make crop plans and implement them at Follow Your Heart Farm - seed starting, soil preparation, potting-up, transplanting, and crop management will test your farming skills. Select high-altitude varieties, manage nutrients, and adjust watering systems. Our goal is to provide food for local Food Banks, schools, etc! 

  • Ecological Pest Management
    ENVR 133 - 1 credit
    Sure, there are pests like gophers and aphids on the farm - this course will focus on how to deal with them in an ecologically-friendly manner, along with long-term approaches to building a balanced farm ecosystem.

  • Project Based Learning
    BUS 171 - 1 to 3 credits
    This is a hybrid course where you’ll do online activities in entrepreneurship skills and digital fluency and—most importantly—an internship with a small farm or other appropriate sustainable food systems business of interest to you. What a great way to network and figure out what your future might hold! Offered every semester.

Fall is our time to focus on late season crops, improving farm infrastructure and mechanical skills, and maybe even developing a business plan for your food-based start-up!
Fall classes run August 24 through December 18.

Required

  • High Altitude Crop Production - Late Season
    ENVR 131 - 2 credits
    Early fall is prime time late-season crops that love cool, crisp nights and warm sunny days (perfect weather, in other words). This course will focus on developing late-season crop plans, season extension, nutrient management, and the impact of temperature on crop productivity. Plant, cultivate, and harvest crops at Follow Your Heart Farm for local Food Banks, schools, etc!

Electives

  • Small Farm Tools & Infrastructure
    ENVR 135 - 1 credit
    If you like to build things (or want to learn how to build things!) check out this class - packing sheds, hoop houses, irrigation systems, farm structures, seeders, hand tools, small-scale equipment...let’s get to work!
     
  • Fruit Tree & Berry Production
    ENVR 137 - 1 credit
    This courses focuses on the fruit trees and berries that can be grown in the high altitude environment. Learn to prune, graft, coppice, and transplant from a variety of local experts, and best of all, harvest! If you don't eat everything fresh off the tree and vine, techniques for juicing, freezing, drying, and storing will be taught. Yum!

 

  • Introduction to Mechanized Agriculture
    AGMA 160 - 3 credits
    This hands-on course will go deeper into the skills you need to own or work on a small farm: woodworking, electrical, plumbing, concrete projects. Hand and power tool use and safety will be covered. You got skills!
     
  • Small Business Management
    BUS 130 - 3 credits
    If you’ve got a goal to own and operate your own small food-related business or work with others who do, this class can provide you with critical information about how to handle personnel issues, financing, marketing, insurance, promotion, and much more. For many farmers, this can be one of the most challenging aspects of farming - this course will help prepare you!
     
  • Project Based Learning
    BUS 171 - 1 to 3 credits
    This is a hybrid course where you’ll do online activities in entrepreneurship skills and digital fluency and—most importantly—an internship with a small farm or other appropriate sustainable food systems business of interest to you. What a great way to network and figure out what your future might hold! Offered every semester.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Certificate

No farming experience is necessary to apply—although we believe a resilient attitude, an interest in connecting people to real food, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a commitment to collaboration will help you thrive in our certificate!

Classes can be taken in any order—whatever is convenient for your schedule and life!

You can take one course in a semester or be a full-time student. It all depends on what works best for you.

Here’s the scoop with auditing classes, or what we call “Pass / No Pass”. If you actually want to earn the certificate (the full 14-15 units), you need to take the classes for a letter grade and earn a C or better in all courses. If you don’t care about the certificate, you just need to pass the class (not get an F) to get a “P” on your transcript. The P or NP would be listed on your permanent FRC transcript.

2019 is the first year of our Ecological Farming Certificate so unfortunately we can’t answer that yet! But we do have some thoughts on prospective job opportunities after you complete the certificate. Check out the career opportunities section above!

Here are some of the plans members of the 2019 cohort are thinking about:

"In the future, I plan to double my farming area, grow more for community, get involved with Master Gardeners, and grow more sustainable food year-round."

"In the future I plan to expand public awareness around all the easy ways anyone can interact with our beautiful planet Earth using Forest & Farm as a working model to exemplify 'Alpine Alchemy' through various agroforestry techniques."

"In the future I plan to demonstrate sustainable farmstead practices through berry, pumpkin, and apple U-pick harvests and workshops in soap-making / salves / tinctures using produce grown organically on my property."

 

Admissions

FRC has a rolling application deadline, depending on which course you are enrolling in. For semester-long courses starting in January (like ENVR 130 Intro to Sustainable Food Systems or ENVR 210 Soil Science), the “drop-dead” deadline in January 24th, 2020. This is the end of the first week of classes, so it’s much better to get going before then! The point is, there is plenty of latitude if you make a late decision.

The certificate starts January 13, 2020 and can be completed in three semesters. The fall semester ends December 18, 2020.

Yes! We designed the certificate to compliment a variety of schedules - whether you’re working or going to school, we hope you’ll be able to fit the Ecological Farming Certificate courses into your life.

Students under 18 years of age are welcome at Feather River College. Admission is open to anyone under 18 who:

  • Has graduated from high school, or has passed the California High School proficiency test
  • Is a high school junior or senior and has the approval of their school principal, parent, and the FRC Registrar.

The courses and the certificate will appear on your official transcript (after you complete the certificate). It will appear as a Certificate of Specialization in Ecological Farming.

Here's a link to step-by-step information for new and continuing students with for applying and enrolling in classes at Feather River College. Here's a link to the Applications Page.

If you're a new user here are some tips:

  • Select First-time User Account Creation or enter your 9-digit Login ID and PIN.
  • Fill out the application using the checklist provided.
  • You can complete it in one sitting or choose “Finish Later” to return to the application.

Financial Information

Costs vary by location and classes. We estimate that the certificate may cost California residents $820 and out-of-state students about $4,350. For a more accurate estimate, visit FRC’s financial aid section.

Farm tools and supplies will be provided at no cost as part of the certificate. Some courses will require you to purchase books or other course reading materials. Every effort will be made to keep these costs to a minimum. If you qualify for Extended Opportunities Programs and Services (EOPS), book vouchers and other services are available.

Miscellaneous

Plumas Transit Systems provides free bus service to FRC students in the Quincy area, from Portola, Greenville, and Chester. See schedules on the bus or view them online.

As a student, you have access to computers in the library (Learning Resource Center) on FRC’s campus. You will need to get your student email address by filling out a simple form on-line or in person in the library.

Quincy may be a small town but it has a very welcoming community! Visit the Quincy Chamber of Commerce's website for more information or watch this short video to get a feeling of the Quincy vibe. We'd also be happy to answer any questions you may have about living in Quincy.

Still have questions?

Contact Dr. Darla DeRuiter, Program Director at (530) 283-0202 ext. 262, dderuiter@frc.edu