HRT 251: Organic Farming Principles and Practices

Course Code: HRT 251

Credits and Offerings

  • 3 credits
  • Spring semester of every year

Course Objectives

Students will

  1. Develop a deep understanding of the following principles and practices and how each relates to various organic farming systems and enterprises and be able to answer the following questions:
    1. Organic certification – why and how do farmers certify as organic? What practices are allowed, restricted or banned in organic production? What other certification options are available?
    2. Soils – What are the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of soil? What management practices can organic farmers use to build organic matter and ensure fertility, tilth, water retention and a healthy soil food web? How can one assess soil health?
    3. Farm Ecology - How can organic farmers manage farm biodiversity, crop rotations and plant health to ensure crop productivity and reduce weeds, pests & diseases?
    4. Enterprises – How are vegetables, fruit, grains, livestock and other farm enterprises managed on organic farms and educational gardens?
    5. Entrepreneurship – How do organic, sustainable and small farms fare financially? What opportunities, challenges and barriers exist for beginning and established farmers?
    6. Food & Farming Systems – What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in local, national and international food and farming systems? How can each of us have a positive impact on food and farming systems?
  2. Research organic farming topics and write fact sheets to explain farming practices in language that is accessible to farmers and farm advocates.
  3. Collaborate in groups to synthesize information from many fact sheets into a well-organized, fact-checked, visually engaging Guide to an organic farming topic, such as a collection of farm profiles or Guides to organic certification, cover crops, organic soil management practices, organic weed management, organic pest control strategies or organic crop production.
  4. Develop hands-on farming skills through service learning at the MSU Student Organic Farm.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to knowledgeably discuss organic and sustainable agriculture ideas and methods.



  • Create 7 Organic Farming Fact Sheets
  • Organic Farming System Guides Group Project and Presentation using information from 30 Fact Sheets
  • 8 hours of Service Learning at the MSU Student Organic Farm
  • Midterm and Exam