VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY, Va. — Community gardens and urban farms seem to sprout up out of nowhere. You can find okra growing at churches, squash at middle schools and green peppers on apartment rooftops. Urban farming isn’t a new trend, but its appeal continues to cultivate interest across the Commonwealth as more nontraditional farmers look to sow seeds in inner city communities.
“Urban farming has experienced a rise in popularity in recent years, and there is a growing need for more academically trained urban agriculture professionals to serve in this sector,” said Dr. Leonard Githinji, sustainable and urban agriculture Cooperative Extension specialist at Virginia State University (VSU).
To fill this need, Githinji leads VSU’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program, which he began with his colleagues at VSU and Virginia Tech three years ago. Registration is open for the next class, which will run from March 7 through May 30.
The 12-week program is taught on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at VSU’s Randolph Farm in Ettrick, Va. It is designed for educators, Master Gardeners, home gardeners, commercial growers and community or nonprofit organizations who are interested in starting an urban farm or who are managing an urban farm and want to increase marketability. The curriculum is rich in science-based knowledge needed to successfully and safely grow produce in an urban environment. In the program, students learn about sustainable soil management, plant propagation and nursery management, permaculture, plant disease and pest management, greenhouse production using hydroponics and aquaponics in a hands-on environment.
The fee for the program is $250. The program accepts about 35 students per year and the deadline to register is Feb. 28.
“This certificate program provides the public access to a university-based curriculum taught by university professors so that graduates can take what they’ve learned and practiced back to their communities to increase access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables,” Githinji said.
If you need further information or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Saajida Chohan at email@example.com or call (804) 524-5252/TDD (800) 828-1120 during the business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to registration closing.
–Michelle Olgers, Virginia State University