Master Urban Farmer Training Program

A program for aspiring urban farmers


After completing this course, students will understand what it takes to start an urban farm and how implementing systems and standardized production practices expands a farm's capacity to produce food. At the end of the program, participants will be able to write a simple business plan and have the information necessary to move forward with their urban farming goals.

We recommend you have at least two years experience growing food prior to attending this program. If you are seeking beginning growing information like how to grow a tomato in a container, please consider one of our other trainings. Some good places to get started with basic growing information include our online Horticulture resources and our online Successful School and Community Garden webinar series. You may also be interested in our Master Gardener Training. 

Who should attend?

  • Entrepreneurs who want to start an intensive urban produce farm.
  • Community members who want to develop their food production skill set in order to increase food security and/or establish a community food system project in their neighborhood.
  • Master Gardeners interested in intensifying their food production skill set.
  • Educators who want to bring food production knowledge back to their organization.
  • Growers interested in more intensive training programs, but not sure if they want to commit the time or the money.
  • Anyone who is interested in urban farming.

What topics are covered?*

  • Business plan basics
  • Compost and media-based growing systems
  • Community development using urban agriculture
  • Composting
  • Cover crops
  • Designing a vision and mission
  • Emerging specialty crops
  • Farm finances for beginning farmers
  • Farm law basics
  • Food safety
  • Grants and other resources for urban farms
  • Harvest and post-harvest handling
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
  • Introduction to urban agriculture 
  • Irrigation
  • Planning, scheduling, and recordkeeping for market gardens
  • Tools and equipment
  • Transplant production
  • Season extension and protected culture growing
  • Site selection
  • Small farm marketing
  • Urban soils
  • Weed management

*All topics may not be covered in depth every session. 

How is the course structured?

  • An online orientation session to meet your instructors and become familiar with our online classroom. 
  • Live Zoom lectures once a week. Attendance at and participation in these lectures is expected.
  • In-person demonstrations (optional) at our farm in Matteson 2 to 4 times per session.
  • Weekly homework assignments/quizzes are graded as complete/incomplete.
  • Dedication to course materials outside of class time is expected.

Who are the instructors?

Extension Educators Zack Grant and Kathryn Pereira are the primary instructors with guest lectures from regional and local topic experts. Local practicing urban farmers will share their real-world experiences and lessons learned following some lectures.

2023 Program

Our next program will begin on Sept 25, 2022, and run through Dec 11. This program will be delivered virtually 6 to 8 pm on Mondays. You will be required to attend one hour-long course orientation session tentative scheduled for Sept 18 from 6-7 pm. . 

Applications will open in July. If you are interested in our next session, stay tuned here or reach out to Sarah Batka for updates or further questions.

Please sign up for our mailing list to stay updated about our urban agriculture programming and to receive our quarterly newsletter, The Urban Ag Connect.