Online Certificate

UMass B.S. Degree Program


Urban Agriculture - STOCKSCH 290U –  (Spring Semester)


Urban Agriculture

Innovative Farming Systems for the 21st Century

Spring Semester

Urban Agriculture

Innovative Farming Systems for the 21st Century


STOCKSCH 290 U - 3 credits

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Instructor:  Helena Farrell, MLA


Course Overview:  Students will learn about innovative production methods and critical social, economic, and environmental dimensions of modern day urban agriculture.  Multi-media presentations by the instructor, articles and videos online, and a custom, library research guide provide a strong foundation for students to investigate important topics and evaluate the performance of real life urban farm systems. The course will consist of readings, videos, quizzes, and research assignments in which students critically assess major strengths, weaknesses and issues of 21st century urban farm systems.


Learning Objectives:


1.     To learn about the origins and driving forces of urban agriculture and why it is needed in the context of current events and contemporary issues.

2.     To understand urban farms as complicated, dynamic systems with a range of outcomes and benefits. 

3.     To learn critical thinking, scholarly research, and communication skills in an online classroom.




1.     Attendance and participation 30% - Attendance and participation is imperative.  Students are expected to engage fully with the online classroom to access course content, take quizzes, complete assignments, receive feedback from the instructor, and interact with each other.  This course utilizes open-source information, which requires that students navigate the Internet, library databases and web-based media as instructed.  The assigned readings and videos are meant to provide a general understanding of the subject, to inspire students’ own research inquiries, and to prompt meaningful and relevant class dialogues.


2.     Research Paper 45% - Students will choose a real-life urban farm (case study) or a research topic within the subject of Urban Agriculture.  Aided by research methods developed by the instructor and a custom research guide in the UMass library database, students will gather and synthesize information to present the evidence for urban agriculture’s role and impact in contemporary issues, locally and globablly.


3.     Class dialogue 25% - The class dialogue is an online “space” where students meet to ask and respond to important questions about 21st century Urban Agriculture.  It is an opportunity to practice critical thinking, to explore and develop a research question, to give and receive constructive feedback, and to learn more about the subject by learning others’ perspectives.  The quality and quantity of student’s participation in class dialogue are evaluated for credit. 


Major Products


Research Paper – Students have the option to conduct case study research or topical research.  The Case Study research paper clearly presents farm system analysis and assessment achieved with the research methods provided and conclusive findings with references to articles from the library database.  The topical research paper clearly presents a discussion of the topic and conclusive findings that integrate current research and evidence from scholarly articles from the library database.  Conclusive findings can be a) recommendations for improving the performance of an urban farm (case study research) or a particular issue (topical research), and/or b) a creative approach to implementing a new urban farm or becoming an urban ag professional. A list of references will be required.



All required reading assignments will be made available through the online class blackboard system.


Suggested Texts (not required)



Gottlieb, Robert. Environmentalism Unbound., 2002.

Holmgren, David. Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond sustainability, 2002.

Jacke, Dave. Edible Forest Gardens, 2005.

Viljoen, Andre, et al. Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes. Oxford: Architectural, 2005.

De la Salle, Janine. Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food Systems in 21st Century Cities, 2010

Fox, Thomas J.  Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World”  BowTie Press, 2011

Reich, Lee, Weedless Gardening, 2001, & Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, 2004

Smith, J. Russell, Tree Crops for a Permanent Agriculture, 1929


For information contact Helena Farrell at

This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Series.  A UMass Certificate may be earned by the successful completion of 15 credits of approved courses in this series.  For information, contact Dr. John M. Gerber at;




@2013 John M. Gerber