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Pamela Galovich

CCHE 640 – Course Outline Assignment



Submitted To: San Jaciento Community College Curriculum Committee

Date: January 24, 2017

Prepared By: Pamela Galovich

Course Origin: Original course

Department: Sustainable Agriculture

Course Number: SUS 201

Course Title: Organic Farming Principles and Practices

Credit Hours: 5 credit-hours

Catalog/Course Description: Principles and sustainable practices of organic crop

cultivation (production) for small-scale farming operations and land stewardship.

Students are introduced to sustainable systems and organic growing methods, gaining

the knowledge and skills needed to plant, harvest, and manage an ecologically based

farm or agricultural business. Labs and field work provide (active learning) important

hands-on experience in organic cultivation practices.

Course Target Audience: Any student enrolled at San Jaciento Community College

Prerequisites: BIO 100 (General Biology) or BIO 105 (Ecology and Evolutionary

Biology) and ENG 100 (English Composition 1)

Co-requisites: None

Curricular Emphasis: This course is a requirement for an Associates of Arts degree in

Sustainable Agriculture, and a Career Studies Certificate in Organic Farming Practices

Lecture/Lab Hour Breakdown: 1 hour lecture MW and 3 hour lab Thursdays

Semesters to be offered: Fall, Spring, and Summer Semesters

Grading Options: A – F

Required Textbook: Organic Farming: The Ecological System (Agronomy Monograph).

Charles Francis, Editor. Publisher: American Society of Agronomy, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-


Instructional Method: Students receive first-hand experience, working in the College’s

organic farm (field work) and greenhouse (laboratory). This immediate experience is

supplemented by classroom (bi-weekly) lectures that include PowerPoint presentations

and instructional videos, classroom discussion, collaborative group projects, guest

speakers and field trips to organic and/or sustainable farm operations in the region.

Students augment their knowledge with personal research using peer-reviewed journal

articles from the Library’s online databases. Learning outcomes are assessed by

student research assignments, weekly journal entries, and laboratory outcomes.

Course Goals:

Students will:

 develop an appreciation for the complex, interdependent relationships between

the environment and agricultural activities;

 recognize the characteristics of organic agriculture systems, and understand

some of its challenges in our present system of food production;

 demonstrate the basic ecological principles and biological processes critical for

successful organic farming.

Course Outcomes:

Students will:

 describe the characteristics of a natural ecosystem, and how it is impacted by

conventional farming methods;

 evaluate the impact of weather and environmental conditions on plant growth

particularly as it relates to soil type;

 explain concepts of plant health and identify, anticipate, and manage key plant

pest and diseases for location;

 identify plant varieties suited for local soil, pest, and weather conditions;

 manage soil fertility specific to the past and present conditions of the land;

 plan and implement strategies of rotation and crop diversity to protect against

crop diseases and pests;

 design and construct systems to optimize the use of water, soil and other natural


Course Content/Topics:

Overview of Organic Agriculture Principles and Philosophy

 Natural biological cycles and controls

 Conventional agriculture is not sustainable

 Origin, history, and philosophy of organic agriculture

 Recent trends in the organic market place

 USDA organic and other certification standards

Soil Fertility and Nutrient Cycling

 Biological and physical properties of soils

 Soil development and fertility

 Tillage

 Nutrient recycling

 Composting

 Nitrogen fixing

 Erosion control

Cultivation Methods

 Crop rotation/seasonal planting

 Cover crops/mulching

 Companion planting/intercropping

 Fallow periods

Water Management

 Natural and artificial water sources

 Water conservation and storage

 Drought-tolerant plant species

 Reduced-volume irrigation systems

Weed/Pest/Disease Management

 Pests, weeds, and “nuisance” wildlife

 Physical controls

 Biological controls

Rationale for Course:

The proposed course, Organic Farming Principles and Practices, provides students

with a practical, working knowledge of organic farming methods that integrate ecological

principles into agricultural production. Students apply their classroom training to

practical experiences. First, by working on the college’s organic farm and greenhouse,

and second, with scheduled field trips to organic farms in the area. These first-hand

opportunities will help students understand the real-world application of the concepts

learned in this course, allowing them to develop the skills needed to grow food

organically for profit.

Recent years have seen a substantial decline in the number of small farms in the

region. Rising taxes from inflated land prices, weak markets for traditional crops, and

increasing equipment costs, have resulted in loss of many traditional livelihoods.

Providing the practical and cultural training needed in organic farming can theoretically

stop the demise of the small farm in the region. Students will learn the technical and

business skills to develop and manage a profitable, ecologically-sound business.

Organic Farming Principles and Practices builds on the growing interest in organic

agriculture and other solutions to natural resource depletion and human health

problems associated with corporate farming methods. The demand for organic food is

growing rapidly. According to a 2015 report by the USDA’s National Agricultural

Statistics Service (NASS), “organic farms in the United States sold a total of $5.5 billion

in organic products in 2014, up 72 percent since 2008.” In 2015 organic sales in the

U.S. “reached an all-time high of $6.2B,” in addition to an “increase in the importation of

organic products in order to meet demand” (USDA NASS, 2016). To meet current and

future demands “domestic production of crops will need to increase” (Jenkins & Ory,


The organic farming industry also shows a great potential for growth as

approximately “39 percent of organic producers state they intend to increase organic

production in the United States over the next five years”. In the same survey, another

688 farms using conventional farming methods claim “they are in the process of

transitioning into organic agriculture production” (USDA NASS, 2015).


Organic Farming Principles and Practices is the proposed introductory course to a

future degree program in sustainable agriculture. Students enrolled in the program will

develop the technical and business skills needed to operate and manage a profitable

business based on land stewardship. The program’s unique curriculum has the

potential to attract not only local residents, but students from throughout the state, as

well as the greater southwest region.

Many students will use their education to develop organic farms locally, reversing the

current trend of the declining number of farms in the area. The county will also benefit

from the addition of stable, healthy business operations owned by prosperous farming

families. Other students who successfully complete the program will seek employment

at established organic farming operations. Additional opportunities can be found at

schools, parks, environmental centers, and at non-profit organizations that focus on

farmer advocacy (Melone, 2006).


Jerkins, D. & Ory, J. (2016). 2016 National Organic Research Agenda: Outcomes and

Recommendations from the 2015 National Organic Farmer Survey and Listening

Sessions. Retrieved from


Melone, B. (2006). Broadening the education infrastructure in organic agriculture for

farmers. Crop Management . doi: 10:1094/CM-2006-0921-10-RV

USDA NASS. (2015). Sales from U.S. organic farms up 72%, USDA reports. USDA

Census of Agriculture. Retrieved from


USDA NASS. (2016). 2015 Certified organic survey: Farms, land, and sales up.

National Agricultural Statistics (NASS) Highlights. Retrieved from