The College of Charleston announced recently that it is now offering a Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture.
Wait a minute. What’s college got to do with farming?
Actually, this new certificate program is one of several professional development opportunities that the College provides through its JobBridge Program, which was established within its Center for Continuing and Professional Education. According to Alice Hamilton, who directs continuing education for the College, this non-credit program and the others are intended to help area residents learn new skill sets or deepen those they already have in key topic areas.
“We offer a number of programs that help people position themselves for new jobs or career advancement,” explained Hamilton. “Sustainable agriculture is important to Charleston – and to this state – so this is an essential, community-serving program.”
To offer the new certificate, the College has partnered with Lowountry Local First’s Growing New Farmers program. (Growing New Farmers is part of the College’s Farm to School initiative, which is supported by Boeing South Carolina.) The certificate program will consist of a six-month course focused on an introduction to agricultural production and business education. Registration is currently open, and the course, which will meet twice a week, begins in mid May. Participants will also have the opportunity to apply to be matched with a farm mentor as a means of gaining additional hands-on training.
Nikki Kelley, the Director of Sustainable Agriculture for Lowcountry Local First, explains that this certificate isn’t just for aspiring farmers. “Some of the participants who are now in our apprenticeship program won’t ultimately become farmers. But like the people who will pursue this new certificate, they’re individuals who want to be food system leaders. Regardless of their background, they’re all seeking a means of deepening their understanding of the food system through a genuine hands-on experience.”
Kelley added that the course uses a nationally based and locally adapted curriculum, yet relies heavily on time spent in the field with a variety of mentors. “Participants will definitely glean a realistic perspective on farming. But perhaps the key value is that they’ll be introduced to a close-knit network that really isn’t accessible otherwise. Through this program, they’ll become part of a system that includes the farmers, their suppliers and distributors, restaurant owners and personnel, and everyone associated with sustainable agriculture on a local basis.”