The 5 Best Urban Farming Certifications of 2021

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More and more people are looking for ways to shop local—or even grow their own food at home. If you’ve thought about exploring urban farming, there are a ton of great online certifications that can help you learn everything from preparing your soil to choosing crops and selling your products after harvest. 

To help you get started, we reviewed online programs to identify the best urban farming certifications available by comparing course curricula, faculty, and online resources. We also considered the flexibility of each program and how long it will take students to complete.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Purdue University Extension

Purdue University

Purdue University

Why We Chose It: The Purdue Extension Urban Agriculture Certificate is our overall best urban farming certification because of its comprehensive curriculum, flexible schedule, and top-tier faculty and resources.

What We Like

- Required courses can be taken at any time and in any order

- Can be completed in less than a year

- Supported by a series of other relevant events and workshops

What We Don't Like

- More expensive than some other programs

- Not as many course options as other more comprehensive programs

Offered through Purdue Extension, the Urban Agriculture Certificate is a totally online program that’s for everyone from non-profit community gardeners to for-profit market farmers.

Each course costs about $200 for in-state students (roughly $250 for out of state), for a total of around $800 for the four required courses. Plus, the program is completely asynchronous, so you can start classes at any time and then have 60 days to complete each course.  

Required core courses can be taken in any order, but Purdue recommends starting with Roadmap for Strong Roots, which covers topics like setting and communicating your goals and vision for a farm.

Aspiring urban farmers will also take Agricultural Site Design and Soil Health as well as Site Assessment for Fertile Ground—to learn about designing an urban farm, building soil health, and overcoming the challenges of agriculture in an urban environment. The final course requirement, Growing Guide for Healthy Crops, teaches students how to plant crops, seed and transplant, manage pests, and harvest. 

Best Budget: Agritecture

Agritecture

 Agritecture

Why We Chose It: Agritecture is our top budget-friendly urban farming certification because it offers a full course for under $100 as well as discounts for bundling other courses. 

What We Like

- The lowest cost option we reviewed

- Focuses on the economic realities of urban farming

- Students can bundle the program with other Agritecture courses

What We Don't Like

- Less content than included than in other programs

- Students can only access course materials for 30 days

Agritecture is a consulting firm and blog that offers workshops and online resources for urban agriculture entrepreneurs. The Commercial Urban Farming course is available through the company’s Designer platform and costs just $99 for 30 days of content access, making it our favorite option for future urban farmers on a budget. 

The course features over 2.5 hours of video, dedicated to six lessons that are broken into several five- to 10-minute modules. Lessons are taught by consultants with extensive experience in various areas of farming, and include everything from choosing a growing system to conducting market research and financial modeling. Once you complete four of the lessons, you’ll also get access to a webinar with one of Agritecture’s urban farming consultants.

In addition to the base offering, Agriculture lets students bundle the urban farming course with the Project Feasibility and Market Research tools for a total of $249 (with 90 days of access). This class gives you further insights into creating financial projections for your farm and conducting data-driven research to calculate prices in your market. For $499 total, you can also schedule two calls with Agritecture’s experts and receive a $499 discount on future consulting services.

Best for Hobby Farmers: Oregon State University PACE

Oregon State University

 Oregon State University

Why We Chose It: We chose Oregon State PACE’s certificate as our top choice for hobby farmers because it offers a free introductory course that lets you explore the topic free of charge.

What We Like

- Students can take a free introductory course

- Qualified and enthusiastic instructors

- Helps hobby farmers decide if urban farming is a good fit

What We Don't Like

- Courses limited to specified start dates

- Topics are more limited than in other certificate programs

Oregon State University’s Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) program offers a totally online, four-course certificate in urban agriculture. Courses are meant to prepare students to take on an urban gardening project in their own yard or in a small urban space—making it perfect for hobby farmers. Plus, at roughly $405 for the entire certification, the program is more affordable than some other options we considered. 

Courses take a crop-specific approach that lets students focus on a single crop over the course of the program and then extend it to other plants after they’ve earned the certificate. The first course—Introduction to Urban Agriculture—creates a foundation in urban agriculture and introduces students to the requirements of farming. Advanced lessons cover topics like how to optimize soil quality, maximize plant growth, and develop pest management strategies. 

Finally, if you want to expand your urban farming beyond a kitchen or hobby garden, the final Urban Agriculture Business course will show you how to comply with local regulations, minimize operating costs, and create a sustainable business.

Best for Pursuing a Degree: University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

 University of Massachusetts Amherst

Why We Chose It: The UMass Amherst Certificate in Sustainable Food and Farming is our top choice for students who are considering a degree in farming because credits can be applied to an online B.S. or Associate of Science degree.

What We Like

- Large selection of courses

- Can be tailored to fit a number of interests, including urban agriculture

- Courses can also count towards an online B.S. or Associate of Science degree

What We Don't Like

- More expensive than other certificate programs

- Not specifically focused on urban farming

The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers an online certificate in Sustainable Food and Farming through its Stockbridge School of Agriculture.

Students must take 15 credits to complete the certificate, and credits are about $482 each (or roughly $569 for upper-division credits)—for a total of more than approximately $7,000. And, while this is the most expensive option on our list, credits also count towards an online B.S. or Associate of Science degree through the university. 

All students must complete at least one foundation course—like Organic Vegetable Production or Sustainable Agriculture—but the program can be customized beyond that. Electives that can help you develop your own urban farm include Urban Agriculture, Food Justice and Policy, and Non-profit Management for Community Food Programs. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about hydroponics and aquaponics, site design and planning, and integrated pest management.

Best Organic Farming: IAP Career College

IAP Career College

 IAP Career College

Why We Chose It: We chose IAP Career College for readers interested in organic urban farming because it offers a comprehensive curriculum focused on organic growing practices.

What We Like

- Can be completed in as few as four weeks

- Money-back guarantee

- Ability to get feedback and assistance from faculty members

What We Don't Like

- Isn’t specifically focused on urban farming

- Not affiliated with a recognized university or extension system

The International Association of Professions (IAP) Career College, a division of the career guide publisher FabJob Inc., offers an online organic farmer certificate course.

The program is a six-week, part-time program and costs roughly $377 before any discounts. In addition to being moderately priced compared to other programs, there’s a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.

Unlike other options on our list, the certificate course has set start dates. However, it’s still flexible in that, once started, it can be completed in anywhere from four to 12 weeks. While the certification is not focused on urban farming, in particular, it’s an excellent option if you’re interested in starting an organic urban farm.

Topics include an overview of the organic farming industry, an introduction to the business side of organic farming, and how to start and manage your own farm. In addition to the course materials, students can get feedback and assistance from a faculty member throughout the course—including up to three hours of business mentoring. 

What Is Urban Farming?

Urban farming is the practice of growing, harvesting, and marketing food in an urban environment. Depending on the city, available land can be scarce, so urban farms may be as small as someone’s yard or as large as entire city blocks. Because of limitations in some areas, urban farmers often face challenges like city ordinances regulating agriculture, contaminated soil, or complaints and other pushback from neighbors. 

Is Urban Farming Profitable?

Whether urban farming is profitable depends on several factors like your location, crops, and rates of production. While some urban farmers take a community-based approach that’s grounded in providing affordable produce to locals in need, others have success marketing and selling their harvests at farmer markets and to grocery stores and local restaurants. Generally, though, it's estimated that urban farms make annual sales of less than roughly $54,000.

How Do I Start My Own Urban Farm?

Depending on where you live, starting an urban farm can be as easy as building raised beds and cultivating produce in your own yard. That said, the best way to start an urban farm is to first educate yourself on relevant topics like how to build up soil quality, which crops are most likely to be successful (and profitable) in your area, and how to market your crops after harvest. Then, develop a plan for your garden, prepare the plot, and get started. 

How We Chose the Best Urban Farming Certifications

To select the best urban farming certifications, we reviewed 10 online programs and compared them based on factors like cost, scheduling flexibility, and curriculum. We also considered the quality of faculty and course materials as well as the affiliated university or extension service. Finally, we looked at student reviews, how long students have access to course materials, and whether each program offers student support—like supplemental events or faculty feedback.

Bottom Line

The best urban farming certification will ultimately depend on your needs, but top options generally feature a flexible course schedule, comprehensive curriculum, and qualified teachers. And while some online certificate programs cost as much as traditional college credits, many are more accessible. Our overall best urban farming certification, offered through Purdue Extension, offers first-class course materials for about $1,000 or less.