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WSU Extends Organic Agriculture Major with New Online Course

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University, home of the nation’s first major in Organic Agriculture Systems, is expanding its offerings this summer with its first online class in organic agriculture. The new course, “Organic Gardening and Farming,” was developed and designed by WSU Regents Professor John Reganold and doctoral student Jennifer Reeve, who will be the course instructor. The course begins May 7.

“We’ve had many inquiries from place-bound students in Washington and elsewhere as to the availability of the new Organic Agriculture Systems major via distance education,” said Cathy Perillo, coordinator of the Agriculture and Food Systems program which offers the major in Organic Agriculture Systems.

“There are many students who want or need to stay and start their baccalaureate near home but who plan to transfer to WSU Pullman for the organic major. This offering allows them to get a start on their major, and to do work beyond the basic biology, chemistry and humanities courses that often dominate the community college transfer curriculum,” said Perillo.

“Organic agriculture is so popular that we really needed to offer this course,” said Reganold. “Faculty, staff and graduate students at Washington State University have been researching organic and sustainable farming systems since the 1970s, so we have the experience and the people for offering such a course.”

Taught in a virtual classroom, “Organic Gardening and Farming” utilizes online technology to deliver the latest content and foster critical thinking. Streaming video will enable students to tour WSU’s organic teaching farm and composting facilities, while a threaded discussion board encourages students to discuss their ideas and experiences with each other and their instructor. Students will also engage in hands-on activities such as designing their own farm or garden, creating a taste test, conducting experiments on soil fertility and quality and interviewing organic farmers in their area.

The course introduces students to the principles and basic production practices of organic gardening and farming systems. It focuses on soil quality and fertility, crop management, food quality, weed and pest management, composting, greenhouse and hoophouse gardening, organic farm planning, mixed crop/livestock systems and organic certification standards. Critical thinking is fostered through a study of the literature and the controversies that surround organic gardening and farming.

“In agricultural science as a whole we’re trying to address issues of sustainability,” said Reeve. “Although it isn’t the only solution, organic systems address some of the problems we’re dealing with today.”

While “Organic Gardening and Farming” is the first course specifically designed for students interested in sustainable and organic agriculture, WSU’s Distance Degree Program, in conjunction with faculty in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, offers many courses in agricultural science, including a Master of Science in Agriculture.

For more information about distance education at Washington State University, please visit www.distance.wsu.edu. For more information on WSU’s Organic Agriculture Systems major, check out: www.afs.wsu.edu/organic.htm.