Sustainable Ag Online

Sustainable Ag HeaderSTOCKSCH 265 – 3 Credits

Spring Semester (January 23 – May 5, 2017)

Register Here

Instructor – Jennifer Santry
Contact –
Cell: 970-389-8128 (available by text; by cell M-F, 8am-5pm Pacific Time; or by appointment)

Course Description – This course explores the principles of sustainable agriculture for animal, crop, and garden production. We will study the ethical, practical and scientific aspects of agricultural sustainability including economic, social and environmental impacts of food and farming. We will use system thinking tools to compare industrial and ecological agriculture, and ultimately each student will develop a plan for a sustainable farming system based on personal and learned philosophies and forms.

In this introduction to sustainable agriculture, we’ll be delving into the essential production practices that will empower students to make a farm, homestead, or garden a reality or to make current agricultural endeavors more sustainable, efficient, and profitable. Students will learn sustainable theory and be able to apply this to the nuts and bolts of market gardens, food forests, livestock management, and farm finances.

jensantryInstructor Bio: Jen recently moved to the Olympic Peninsula to work on her own farmstead including gardens, chickens, goats, and bees. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 13 years as an environmental instructor, land and animal conservationist, and local food advocate. Jen graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Zoology and minor in Anthropology. She completed her Masters in Nonprofit Management with an emphasis in environmental education from Regis University in 2007. As the former Community Programs Director at the High Country Conservation Center in Colorado, Jen spent six years developing sustainable food programs including community gardens, student-run CSAs, and urban farming policies. These days, she loves getting her hands dirty on her farm and hiking with her Great Pyrenees, Otis. Jen also teaches online for Peninsula College.

Student Learning Objectives –

Our goal by the end of this course is for students to:

  1. Define terminology and concepts related to sustainable farming practices.
  2. Describe the ecological, economical, and social implications of agricultural practices.
  3. Identify theories and forms of sustainable agriculture.
  4. Articulate principles and strategies of sustainable agriculture.
  5. Utilize a systems approach to analyze agriculture in your own backyard and/or community.
  6. Apply best practices for basic soil, crop, watershed, & livestock management.
  7. Identify resources for solving problems facing farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and consumers in order to reduce waste and energy consumption in agriculture.
  8. Describe strategies to increase profit and efficiency for sustainable producers.
  9. Design productive and ecologically sound land use plans.
  10. Expand consumer awareness and support of ethical alternatives.

Course Book – Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers by Mark Shepard – ISBN 978-1601730350. Additionally, there will be various assigned readings posted to Blackboard for each weekly module.

Academic Honesty: Students are expected to read and abide by guidelines for academic honesty detailed in the Undergraduate Rights and Responsibilities students/rights/. “No form of cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or facilitating of dishonesty will be condoned in the University community.” Academic dishonesty will result in an automatic 0% on that assignment or test. Students will also be expected to read and to act in accordance with the ANA Code of Ethics outlined in the required texts and SON Student Handbook.

Accommodation Policy Statement: The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), Learning Disabilities Support Services (LDSS), or Psychological Disabilities Services (PDS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.

Grades will be assessed as follows:

8 Online Discussions (“Food Blog”)              32 points
4 Assignments                                                  32 points
4 Quizzes                                                           16 points
Final Project                                                     20 points
TOTAL POINTS                                                100 points

Grading Policy:
If the student does not communicate with the instructor regarding late assignments on or before the due date of the assignment, no late assignments will be accepted. If communication regarding late assignments has occurred, assignments turned in after the due date may incur a 10% reduction for each day late up to a maximum of 50%. Late assignments will not be accepted after 7 days of the due date unless approved by instructor beforehand. Please be in constant communication with the instructor on late assignments.

Course Assessments: Each week’s assignments will be posted with details on Blackboard.

Discussions – “Food Blog”
Each week’s module (videos, readings…) are expected to be completed before you participate in online discussions. Using our online forum, answer discussion questions and complete assignments by posting on the class “Food Blog.” Discussion posts are due Wednesday by midnight (3 points). Comment on at least one of your peer’s posts by Saturday at midnight (1 point). 32
Activities & Assignments There will be four online assignments in addition to weekly discussions. Each assignment will be detailed in Blackboard with a due date – 8 points each.
Assignment 1 – Farm Interview
Assignment 2 – Case Study on Animal Management Systems Assignment 3 – Mind Maps for Systems Thinking
Assignment 4 – Case Study on Managing the Whole System

There will be four online quizzes throughout the course that will assess your understanding of the course materials. Quiz questions will be taken directly from assigned readings, online presentations, and videos. Each quiz is worth 4 points. 16

Sustainable Farm Management Plan: Presentation & Paper
Design and present your own farm agro-ecosystem. Throughout the course, you’ll be working on milestones that will help you complete your final project for this course – a Sustainable Farm Management Plan. This plan is for a self-designed farm for your family, a business, or a nonprofit organization managing local food projects in your community. Again, the components of your plan will be developed week by week as we address each topic. Components will include: goals, a fertility management plan, use of animals, and marketing and budgeting. Your paper is worth 15 points and your presentation is worth 5 points. 20

 Course Outline and Weekly Topics:


Students are responsible for completing weekly modules including assigned readings, videos, presentations and other assignments. Please refer to Blackboard for assignment details and due dates.

Every week, post your discussion answers and reflections on the Blackboard “Food Blog” by Wednesday at midnight. Comment on at least one of your peer’s posts by Saturday at midnight.

1/23 – 1/28 Module 1 – Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture Discussion 1
Quiz 1
1/29 – 2/4 Module 2 – Principles of Sustainable Agriculture Assignment 1 –
What’s Farming Like?
2/5 – 2/11 Module 3 – Water & Energy Discussion 2
Quiz 2
2/12 – 2/18 Module 4 – Soil & Plants Discussion 3
2/19 – 2/25 Module 5 – Fertility Discussion 4
2/26 – 3/4 Module 6 – Animal Production Practices & Livestock Systems Assignment 2 – Case Study on Animal Management Systems
3/5 – 3/11 Module 7 – Organic Agriculture Discussion 5
3/12 – 3/18 SPRING BREAK
3/19 – 3/25 Module 8 – Holistic Management Assignment 3 – Mind Maps for Systems Thinking
3/26 – 4/1 Module 9 – Permaculture & Polyculture Discussion 6

Quiz 3

4/2 – 4/8 Module 10 – Restoration & Perennial Agriculture Assignment 4 – Case Study
on Managing the Whole System
4/9 – 4/15 Module 11 – Biodynamic & Nature Farming Discussion 7
4/16 – 4/22 Module 12 – Agroforestry & Agroecology Work on Presentation & Paper
4/23 – 4/29 Module 13 – Financial Planning, Value Adding, & Ag Economics Quiz 4
Presentation – Due 4/29
4/30 – 5/2 Module 14 – Wrap Up and Final Papers & Presentations due!
PLEASE NOTE: The last day of class is Tuesday, May 2!
Final Paper – Due 5/2
Discussion 8 – Due  5/2

Course Expectations:

This course is organized by weekly modules in Blackboard. Modules must be completed by the end of the week – each week and module starts on Sunday and should be completed by the following Saturday by midnight. Each week’s module starts with an introduction to the module which includes details on readings, videos, discussion blogs, and assignments. Guidelines for graded activities, projects, and papers will include detailed rubrics that define expectations and available points. Success for this class will be achieved by following and completing weekly modules; turning assignments in on time; communicating with the instructor; and actively participating in online discussions and activities.

The course’s online “Food Blog” is the place for you to actively describe your learning experiences with the readings, class online discussions, videos, assignments, and engagement with the community. This is the part of the online class that takes the place of in-person class discussion. Blog posts will serve as reaction papers to readings, discussions and course activities. Your goal should be to turn this blog into a rich online discussion infused with intense debate, dialogue, and questioning concerning the readings. This is the place to display your knowledge of the material, curiosity, critical thinking and ability to link the reading material to outside experience. While these posts are understood to be relatively informal forms of writing—more like letters to friends than polished papers–please put some time and attention into the quality of these postings so they are clear, conceptually rich, and understandable to your classmates. You don’t have to write long entries, but these posts are an opportunity for you to make connections, bring up ideas that come up during the readings, and begin to articulate your thoughts about the nonprofit sector and complex food systems.

Register for this class here


This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science program.   Online classes cost $472/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.

Other classes available during the spring semester are:


Spring Semester (enroll here)

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.


6 thoughts on “Sustainable Ag Online”

  1. Hi I am interested in talking the sustainable class. Is there any groups or organizations may sponsor a person to take these classes?

  2. Hello, I would like to take part in you online certificate programme in Sustainable food and farming. I would need you to reply me on the cost and requirements for its application. Kinly reply me via my email

  3. Hello, I would like to take part in you online certificate programme in Sustainable food and farming. I would need you to reply me on the cost and requirements for its application so Kindly reply me via my email as I would know the fees and how I start this course

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