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.

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.

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

*Note: All topics may not be covered in depth every session. We do not cover aqua culture and hydroponics. 


The 2024 program is scheduled for  12 weeks from September 23 to December 9. It is delivered virtually,  Mondays from  6 to 8 pm on Zoom.  An optional field day is  scheduled for Saturday September 28, 2024 from roughly 9:30 am - 12:30 pm (time subject to change).  The cost for the 2023 training was $150. 2024 fees will be similar and due at registration. 

If you are interested in our next session, please click here or reach out to Sarah Batka  to be added to our Interest list for 2024. 

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.

Headshot of Extension educator Kathryn Pereira

Kathryn Pereira

Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator
Urban Agriculture
Farm Business Management
Sustainable Agriculture
Business Development
Local Foods and Small Farms
Community Garden
Farmers Markets
Economic Development
(773) 233-2900