DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — Beginning in the spring 2013 semester, Delaware Valley College, in collaboration with the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pa., will offer a 36-credit certificate program designed for veterans interested in organic farming.
The one-year program will incorporate classroom courses on animal science, marketing, vegetable production, organic crop science, integrated pest management, weed science, entomology and sustainable agriculture.
It will be taught by Jacqueline Ricotta, DelVal’s Distinguished Faculty Award winner in 2012, and Steve Debroux, the department chairman for natural resources and biosystems management during the spring and fall semesters on the DelVal campus.
During the summer semester, students will get hands-on experience at Rodale’s 333 acre organic farm, learning post-harvest, plant disease diagnosis, as well as soils with world-renowned soil biologist Elaine Ingham, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute.
“Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity,” said Russell Redding, dean of DelVal’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
The program, specifically designed with veterans in mind, harkens back to Delaware Valley College’s roots, when Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf founded the National Farm School with the needs of young Jewish men in mind, teaching them agriculture, the calling of their ancestors.
“I know a lot of veterans who have a hard time committing to a four-year degree while trying to transition from doing four years or more in the military,” said Dennis Riling, veteran organic farming program coordinator and Marine Corps veteran.
“This more accelerated program will meet the demands of returning soldiers who are facing a multitude of challenges and give them the tools for a new career.” he said. “This is a mission-focused approach; the country needs more farmers and we need veterans’ help. The mission of food security is just as important as fighting terrorism, if not more.”
The management and leadership skills veterans have from the military, coupled with the accredited courses they will be taking in science, will enable them to obtain jobs with the USDA, organic producers or the food industry as a whole, or go into business for themselves. The program has a career placement and business plan development component as well.
U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. Sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent growth over 2009 sales. Experiencing the highest growth in sales during 2010 were organic fruits and vegetables, up 11.8 percent over 2009 sales, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey.
For more information about the Veteran Organic Farming Program, contact Riling at dennis.riling<\@>delval.edu or see the detailed course description at www.delval.edu/vofp.