SRJC Sustainable Agriculture Program

Written By: By Dr. Joshua Beniston, Sustainable Agriculture Program Coordinator
Published: April 3, 2019

SRJC’s Sustainable Agriculture program is working on a number of fronts to create high quality, community-oriented, hands-on learning opportunities in ecological farming. The program provides students with skills to grow and market organic vegetables and offers both a one-year career training certificate and a two-year A.S. degree. The program also welcomes students who take a few classes to build their farming and gardening skills.

The Sustainable Agriculture program actively uses Shone Farm as a learning laboratory. During the past few years, Sustainable Agriculture classes have built a no-till learning garden and two high tunnel hoop houses where students learn to grow vegetables by working on the full process from seed through sale in many cases. Many students enhance their training by participating in paid and volunteer internships at Shone Farm. Students nearing completion of the program can also further build entrepreneurial skills through enterprise projects. Enterprise projects provide students with the opportunity to manage a small area at Shone Farm to produce a product of their choice and are provided support through mentoring, use of equipment and the ability to sell produce through Shone Farm’s existing markets.

Soil health and management have become key topics in the Sustainable Agriculture curriculum. Program coordinator Dr. Josh Beniston, a soil scientist, collaborates regularly with both Sonoma and Gold Ridge RCDs on soil health projects. Dr. Beniston’s updated Soils and Plant Nutrient class (AGRI 60) is popular among students. The program has also added online class offerings to provide a more flexible schedule and reach more students. The Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture (SUSAG 50) class, focused on agroecology, has high enrollment and is offered both online and in a hybrid model.

This year, the program is engaged in developing new facilities. A post harvest facility is planned for Shone Farm where sustainable agriculture students will learn best practices for packing produce and food safety. In addition, the program is building an on farm composting demonstration and education site at Shone. This project will train students in farm scale composting and use appropriate technologies to compost key types of biomass from our region’s agriculture. Public workshops on composting for the agriculture community will occur in 2019 and 2020. For more information visit: ag.santarosa.edu

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