Small Farm Certificate Program 2025

About this Program

The U of I Small Farm Certification Program is for young and beginning farmers. It strives to provide skills-based education, giving the participants experience in all the elements that are necessary to successfully run a small farm business.  In this non-degree program, participants will engage with farmers and U of I Crop Science professionals and researchers to dive deep into specialty crop production. 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 and skills.  This certification program will prepare you to be a successful producer and advocate in the local food system.

Top Learning Objectives

  • Develop the agricultural, food handling, logistical and marketing knowledge to run a vegetable farm
  • Understand and apply concepts that make a farm more environmentally, societally and personally sustainable.
  • Learn how food systems work and where participants fit in and can be most effective.

Program Format: Consists of 3 parts

Introductory Course-March 17-May 12- Mostly remote

An 8-week online course that will include 3 days on site at the Sustainable Student Farm at UIUC.

  • Weekly lecture, reading and activities covering topics to crop/farm planning and agricultural fundamentals.
    • Crop Families and their respective needs
    • Pest and Disease control concepts
    • Weed control
    • Soils and nutrient management
    • Post Harvest and Food Safety
  • Create planning documents for farm beds
    • Field maps
    • Crop Rotations
    • Planting schedules
    • Crop Management plans
  • Create plans for Market and CSA
  • 3 Days on site
    • Start Transplants
    • Plant Spring Crops
    • Weed control.

Farm Training- May 12- August 15- Required to be on-site

A 3-month hands on experience at the Sustainable Student Farm at UIUC.  Developing the knowledge and skills you will need to plant, grow, wash, store, and market the produce you grow.

  • Participants will be paid 20 hrs/wk for working on the farm to learn all the hands-on and physical skills necessary to run a vegetable farm.
  • Plan, plant, manage and harvest 1 cool crops bed and 1 warm crop bed
  • We will do a weekly farm walk that we will use in combination with our planning documents to develop our weekly priorities.
  • Participate in running the SSF Farm stand and CSA
  • 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 structure to run a successful farm business. These modules will usually include a reading, a lecture and an activity of some kind and will often tie into your beds.
  • We will go on field trips to local farms and food organizations.

Farm Practicum-~August 26- ~November 22- Option to be on site or remote

  • Work for a farm
    • At least 15hrs a week at the SSF or at a farm of your choosing
    • Weekly reflection on experience on the farm
  • Produce a project for that farm that will expand the skills you are most interested in developing.
    • Could be focused on developing a new market, management/marketing plan for a new enterprise.
    • Develop a marketing strategy and materials for promoting the farm.
    • Develop a plan to tie the farm into other elements in the local food system in a new way
    • Develop a value-added product line from things already grown on the farm.
    • Many other options but will be developed with the program coordinators


Program Learning Outcomes

  • 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 give 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

Apply Today

In order to apply for the 2025 season, send your Resume, two references (at least one professional) and a cover letter describing why you want to be in the program and why you would be a good fit to .

Program Requirements

High school degree or GED

Program Tuition:


payment options available

Contact Us


Program Time Frame

March 17 -November 17

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