College of DuPage Offers New Sustainable Urban Agriculture Program

urban agriculture lab

By Brian Kleemann

The new Sustainable Urban Agriculture degree and certificate program at College of DuPage uses a hands-on approach to help students become professionals in urban farming.

Recently approved by the Illinois Community College Board, the program gives students practical experience and the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals in an urban farm setting. Funding from a Perkins Grant enabled the College to build a new sustainable urban agriculture lab on west campus that provides students with experiential learning opportunities.

“Urban agriculture is a large movement across the country and it continues to grow,” said Brian Clement, Horticulture program instructor. “Restaurants are installing rooftop gardens in order to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Cities and municipalities now have green roofs and expanding urban farms, and Chicago has been a leader in this area for more than a decade. You can even become an entrepreneur and grow organic produce that can be sold at farmer’s markets.”  

The degree requires 66 credits in program requirements and general education coursework, while the certificate requires 28 credits in program requirements and electives. Eight new courses have been developed specifically for the program: Introduction to Sustainable Urban Agriculture, Principles of Agroecology, Local Foods, Introduction to Composting, Urban Agriculture Issues, Sustainable Vegetable and Herb Production, Business Principles of Sustainable Agriculture, and Hydroponic and Aquaponic Production Systems.

The new urban farm features 10 raised beds, including two for organic production. A high tunnel extends the growing season and allows students to continue hands-on work as the weather turns colder. Students are also gaining experience on hydroponic lettuce tables and Dutch Bucket hydroponic systems.

Clement said the new lab is a learning facility, not a production facility, although some produce may be donated to local food pantries. In addition to students looking for a career, the program is ideal for horticulture students who want to cross-train as well as community members who want to improve their knowledge and skills in gardening.

“People are excited about the whole industry,” he said. “Students who complete either their degree or certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture are ready to enter the workplace.”

For more information, visit www.cod.edu/programs/horticulture, email clement@cod.edu or burghoj@cod.edu, or call (630) 942-2526 or (630) 942-3095.

College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 27,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.  In celebration of its 50th anniversary, College of DuPage will host a series of on- and off-campus events throughout the year to highlight the institution’s history and service to students and District 502 residents over the past half-century.

Pictured: Horticulture Instructor Brian Clement (left) and Greenhouse Supervisor Amy Hull work in one of the raised platforms in the agriculture lab on COD’s west campus. (Photo courtesy of College of DuPage)

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