A Barrel-Full Of Continuing Education Options In Agriculture


What do you call someone who is outstanding in their field?

A farmer!

Besides being an opportunity for a lame joke, nothing else screams agriculture like corn fields, tractors and a “crop-load” of continuing education options.

If you are a recent graduate in the agricultural sector and you want to “beef up” your resume, many schools across Canada offer you the chance to further your education and make yourself more marketable to the industry.

Take a look at these options to get a taste of what the world of post-secondary institutions can offer you in the agricultural sector:

Post-grad diploma and certificate programs in agriculture

Sustainable Agricultural Co-op

Peterborough’s Fleming College offers a Sustainable Agricultural Co-op program. This three-semester program provides a 21-week, on-farm, co-op experience over the summer for beginner farmers seeking an intensive learning experience in sustainable and natural farming methods. The program uses experienced farmers to guide the students through farm field days, site visits, community-based learning activities and up-to-date resource materials.

Graduates of this program have diverse career options, ranging from starting their own small-scale farming operation or managing a farmer’s market to the planning of urban gardens. Entry requirements are either a two-year college diploma or at least two years of university-level undergraduate study.

Certificate of specialization in Organic Agriculture

Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture website says employment opportunities in the organic agriculture sector are expected to increase in an industry that is growing at the rate of 20% per year. Courses you can put toward the certificate include Composting and Compost Use, Principles of Organic Horticulture and Organic Field Crop Management, and you may also put courses from six other universities toward earning the certificate. You must complete four of these courses with an overall average of 60% to qualify for the certificate.

Post-graduate diploma in Aboriginal Agriculture and Land Management

Aboriginal Agriculture and Land Management at the University of Saskatchewan is a unique program that provides practical training in agribusiness and land management. The program is specifically designed for Aboriginal students who have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a non-agricultural discipline, however all students are welcome to apply.

This diploma will prepare you for employment at the management level in the agriculture/agri-business sector as well as help develop the skills required to become effective land managers. The program blends applied training in agri-business management and agricultural production systems with training in land and resource management issues specific to Aboriginal communities.

Masters or PhD programs

Masters/PhD in Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics

The University of Guelph offers graduate programs through the Ontario Agricultural College in Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics at both the masters and PhD level. As stated on the website, this department “is the most research-intensive department of its kind in Canada,” specializing in the economics of both food and the environment, international trade and agricultural policy and regulations.

The master’s (MSc) program allows students the opportunity to develop an understanding of these economic principles and  gives the opportunity for learning to identify and and analyze problems in the industry. This program can be taken as an 18-24 month thesis-based option (which offers more funding opportunities), or as a 12 month, course-based option. The PhD program emphasizes these economic principles by looking at both the developed and the developing worlds.

MBA/Masters of Agriculture combined degree

The University of Alberta’s MBA/MAg (Master of Agriculture) joint degree is designed for individuals interested in pursuing an advanced degree in agriculture with a strong management focus. The degree offers opportunities to pursue your interest and goals in agronomy, agribusiness, food industries, environmental conservation sciences, or environmental planning. You’ll also have the option to complete a four-month summer work internship as part of their MBA elective course requirements.

To apply, you must have at least a BSc, BA or BComm degree and three years of relevant professional experience.

Master of Science in Agricultural Economics (thesis)

This program at McGill University provides students with applied economic concepts and tools to identify, define, and analyze economic problems affecting the performance of the agri-food sector and the environment. You may specialize, by way of your research program, in agribusiness, development, finance, marketing and trade, policy, and resource economics. The program prepares you for careers in research, analysis and decision-making in academia, private and NGO sectors, and government.

To apply, you should have a BSc in Agricultural Economics or a closely related area, with the equivalent cumulative grade point average of 3.0/4.0 or 3.2/4.0 during the last two years of full-time university study.

Continuing education courses

Another option if you’re looking to place some specialization on your existing degree or diploma is to take some continuing education classes.

Pesticides and animal breeding

Lethbridge College demonstrates the impact these classes can have by stating that they “make you invaluable to your career, are recommended by top employers and turn your passions into a rewarding career.”
One option this college offers is short one- or two-day workshops resulting in a specialized certificate – and when I say specialized, I mean specialized.

For example, there is the option of going for a Pesticide Authorized Assistant Certificate. This workshop includes one day of legislation and safety training followed by a two-hour exam on the following morning.

If breeding animals is more your thing, Lethbridge also offers an AI & Pregnancy Checking course that teaches heat detection, sire selection and pregnancy testing of your own herd or your employer’s herd.

Agriculture finance

Olds College, located in Olds, Alberta, about 90 km north of Calgary, offers a number of agriculture finance courses, including an Agricultural Finance Certificate, a Family Farm Succession course, and a Rural Finance and Entrepreneurship Certificate among other continuing education options in agriculture.

The University of Guelph also offers a wide range of continuing education courses which can be taken alone or over an extended period of time and built into a certificate. Similarly to Lethbridge, these courses can be as broad or as specialized as you want. For example, Growing Plants for Profit teaches you how to effectively grow healthy plants while simultaneously implementing smart business practices.

Guelph also offers an innovative Sustainable Urban Horticulture Certificate (but you can also just take courses) that focuses on the environmental, social and economic implications of horticulture in our cities, and examines land management practices and choices that can maintain plants intended in urban landscape designs.

Like the joke at the beginning of this article suggests, we often associate agriculture with a single farmer out standing in his field. However, there is so much more to the industry – and so many more career paths for you to choose from!

Agriculture Week featuring Bayer CropScience and Agrium Wholesale

Photo credit: Blue Ridge Business Journal