Small Farm Certificate Program

About the Program

The U of I Small Farm Certification program is a six-month, hands-on program for young and beginning farmers that provides skills-based education in what is required to successfully run a small farm business. In this non-degree, in-person program, participants will engage with U of I Crop Science professionals, researchers, and farmers to dive deep into specialty crop production in the context of a curriculum focused on the issues that impact food producers and the food system at large. This certification program is housed at the University of Illinois’ Crop Sciences Department, providing participants the opportunity to interact with and learn from experts while also gaining valuable applied knowledge through an entire growing season at the Sustainable Student Farm. This certification program will prepare you to be a successful producer and advocate in the local food industry. 

Top Learning Objectives

  • Develop the agricultural, business and marketing knoweldge to run a vegetable farm
  • Understand and apply concepts that make a farm more sustainable
  • Build a plan for your own small farm business

Program Format

  • Participants will be paid 20 hrs/wk for working on the farm in the mornings to learn all the hands on and physical skills necessary to run a vegetable farm.
  • We will do a weekly farm walk that we will use in combination with our planning documents to develop our weekly priorities
  • Participants will rotate through different management roles on the farm, including managing our farm stand, our CSA, our online store, our record keeping, outreach/marketing, food safety and later in the season Farm Lead.
  • We will have a weekly learning Module each week that will cover the different elements in caring for vegetable crops, soil, water and people while building an organizational structures to run a successful farm business. These modules will usually include a reading a lecture and an activity of some kind.
  • We will go on field trips to local farms and food organizations.
  • Participants will develop and implement the fall crop plan for the SSF.
  • Participants will develop a farm and business plan for a future/dream farm.

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Develop business plans and structures that will set farms up for success in the markets of their choice. 
  • Understand the social and environmental context and consequences of agricultural practices in order to make informed decisions on how they would run a successful and conscientious agricultural business.     
  • Draft farm planning documents to support a smooth growing season. 
  • Implement farm planning and record keeping documents to improve farm operation. 
  • Develop an awareness of, and begin mastering, the physical and organizational skills to work on and operate a farm  
  • Understand the principles and practices of how to keep plants, soil, people and ecosystems on and around your farm healthy  
  • Develop awareness of Eco-systemic thinking in your farm system and your place in the greater community  
  • Build connections with local food system organizations. 
  • Demonstrate efficient task management based on physical and operational systems 
  • Understand how to effectively develop and maintain records to evaluate the success of the operation 

Advance Your Career

Running a farm requires a wide range of specialized skills, if you are looking to work in local food networks you will benefit from any number of the skills that you will develop in the program.  If you are looking to start a new career in food production or are interested in expanding the skills you already have, this program will teach you tools to use in the field, in the office, with your staff and at market.  These tools will help you to be able to operate a farm business or become an invaluable team member in an already existing organization.

Areas of Employment

  • Farmer
  • Farm Manager
  • Food Access Organizer
  • Farmers Market Manager
  • Local Food/Farm Support Organizations
  • Garden Coordinator
  • Food production and processing

In order to apply, fill out the form in this link and upload your resume to the form by March 31st. . We will also be having 2 more informational sessions if you want to learn more or ask questions. These sessions will be Saturday March 18 10:00 AM Registration Link: and Sunday March 26 4:00 PM. Registration Link–spjktHNxniG3ZjJZbnr9dqH_GNPt5

Program Requirements

High school degree or GED

Program Tuition:


payment options available

Contact Us


Program Time Frame

May 6-November 17