Commercial Organic Vegetable Growing

Work for a commercial organic vegetable growing farm or set up a profitable organic farm. This course covers all aspects of organic vegetable growing from propagation to soil manement to marketing.

Course Code: VHT241
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
Get started!

Working or Want to Work on an Organic Vegetable Farm?

Organic growing generally involves compromises; but those compromises bring advantages as well:

  • Methods of pest and disease control can be more costly or less effective; but you end up with produce that is free of pesticide residues.
  • The cost of production can sometimes be higher; but your produce will appeal to a group of customers who are prepared to pay any price to get cleaner food.
  • To be commercially viable; an organic vegetable farm does need to do things differently: not only how they grow their vegetables, but also how they market them.

“Learn the processes required to tap into the commercial organic vegetable market; this extensive course provides a wealth of knowledge and practical skills and shows you how to market your produce. Organic vegetables are crops with a future.” - Adriana Fraser Cert.Hort., Cert.Child Care, Adv.Cert.App.Mgt., Cert 1V Assessment and Training, Adv.Dip.Hort., ACS Tutor.  

Learn to grow better vegetables!


Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Organic Growing and it's definitions
    • Influential people in the organic movement
    • Different ways to grow -permaculture, biodynamics, etc.
    • Organic certification
    • Transition to organic production
    • Management Plan
    • Industry awareness
    • Resources and Networking
    • Understanding Plant Names
  2. Cultivation and Planting
    • Cultivation methods
    • Crop rotation
    • Green manures
    • No dig growing
    • Planting
    • Sowing vegetable seed outside
    • Germinating indoors
    • Transplanting seedlings
    • Crowns, offsets, tubers
    • Crop scheduling
    • Tillage, Ripping, Harrowing, Dis ploughing, etc
    • Tractors
  3. Soils and Nutrition
    • Physical soil properties -profile, texture, etc
    • Chemical properties -pH, cation exchange capacity, buffering etc.
    • Soil water, air, temperature
    • Humus and Organic matter
    • Nutrient elements
    • Organic Fertilizers
    • Animal manure
    • Liquid feeds in an organic system
    • Rock dusts
    • Diagnosing nutritional problems
  4. Soil Management
    • Importance of soil
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Cover crops
    • Green manures
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Rhizobium bacteria
    • Mycorrhizae
    • Composting
    • Hot heaps vs cold
  5. Review of Major Vegetable Varieties
    • Getting the best from an organic vegetable plot
    • Vegetable Directory -Beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Sprouts, Cabbacge, Capsicum, Carrot, Cauliflower, Corn, Celery, Eggplant. Lettuce, Onion, Pak Choi, Parsnip, Pea, Potato, Pumpkin, Marrow, Squash, Radish, Spinich Turnip
    • Transplanting Guide
  6. Pests and Disease
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Allowable Inputs
    • Understanding Pest and Disease
    • Understanding Other Plant Problems
    • Lifecycles
    • Review of common problems
    • Companion Planting
  7. Seed
    • Organic seed
    • Seed production -preventing cross pollination
    • Choosing seed plants for vegetable crops
    • Collecting seeds
    • Cleaning and storing seed
    • Seed germination
  8. Greenhouse Growing
    • Types of greenhouses
    • Framing and covering materials
    • What greenhouse is appropriate
    • Siting a greenhouse
    • Benching
    • Greenhouse hygiene
    • Problems with greenhouses
    • Other structures -cold frames, shade houses
    • Environmental controls
    • Heating, Cooling
    • Controlling light
    • Growing media
    • Fertigation in organic systems
    • Carbon dioxide enrichment
    • Irrigation Methods
    • Crops Directory -Tomatoes, Cucumber, Melons, Zucchini
  9. Lesser Grown Varieties and Herbs
    • Growing herbs
    • Review of many culinary herbs-Alliums, Corriander, Mints, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Pasley, Savory, Thyme, etc.
    • Review of lesser grown vegetables -Amaranth, Artichoke, Asparagus, Cassava, Chicory, Dandelion, Garlic, Endive, Ginger, Horseradish, Chicory, Mint, Leek, Okra, Pigface, Rhubarb, Sweet Potato, Warrigul Greens, Taro, Yams, etc
  10. Irrigation
    • Irrigation objectives and feasibility
    • Soil and water
    • Understanding classes of soil moisture
    • Soil and transpiration
    • Field capacity
    • Permenant Wilting point
    • Tensiometers
    • When to irrigate
    • Scheduling irrigation
    • When to irrigate
    • Cyclic watering
    • Pulse watering
    • Plant root depth
    • Irrigation type -flood, sprinkler, ytickle etc.
    • Portable, permenant or travelling sprinklers
    • Sprinklet spacings
  11. Mulching and Weeds
    • Understanding mulch
    • Types of mulch materials
    • Rules for using mulch
    • Living mulch
    • Weed Management
    • Preventing weeds
  12. Harvesting and Marketing
    • Harvesting techniques
    • PostHarvest quality considerations
    • Harvesting hints
    • Post harvest treatment of vegetables -field processing
    • Cooling
    • Quality standards
    • Monitoring and reviewing
    • Marketing
    • Business capabilities
    • Market research
    • Target marketing
    • Understanging economics

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Discuss general horticulture and plant taxonomy principles
  • Describe a range of cultivation and planting techniques
  • Explain soil properties, and their relationship to organic plant production
  • Diagnose basic soil nutrient deficiencies
  • Discus major and minor commercial vegetable varieties
  • Describe a variety of pest and disease management principles
  • Explain the use of seed in commercial organic agriculture, including storage, viability, germination, genetic purity, and hybridisation
  • Discuss the principles of greenhouse growing
  • Describe a variety of irrigation methods suitable for organic vegetable production
  • Explain organic weed control methods
  • Explain issues relating to harvesting and marketing of vegetables

What You Will Do

  • Compile reference lists of vegetable varieties, industry contacts, organic fertilisers and pest control products, etc.
  • Evaluate the merits and deficiencies of agricultural equipment and products
  • Build a no-dig garden and monitor its progress
  • Classify soils
  • Evaluate the role of soil organisms
  • Identify nutrient deficiencies such as nitrogen deficiency
  • Build composts
  • Evaluate seed sources and plant varieties
  • Perform sowing and germination trials
  • Evaluate the merits and deficiencies of greenhouse growing
  • Evaluate the principles of irrigation
  • Perform mulching trials
  • Evaluate pricing, packaging and presentation of retail vegetables

Organic Systems

Under organic systems, open pollinated varieties (ie. those pollinated by insects or wind) and/or organically produced seed, should be used where possible. Seeds are usually considered to be organic when they have been grown to an organic standard (e.g. IFOAM) for at least one generation.

Organic and open pollinated seeds are now also widely available through accredited seed suppliers and seed-savers networks (which often hold ‘seed-banks’) and also accredited specialised seed growers. These seed producers, often small companies or family businesses, help to maintain the genetic gene-pool; the quality and genetic diversity of open pollinated, hybrid and heirloom varieties. The source of the seed needs to be reliable and preferably accredited, as this minimises the chance of contamination with weed seeds and maximises quality. 

Reproduction
Seed is produced by pollen from a flower (ie. the male part of the flower) fertilising the ovary of a flower (ie. the female part).  If the pollen comes from the same plant as the ovary, then the seed will grow into a plant identical to the parent plant. If the pollen and ovary come from two different plants (cross pollination), the seed will grow into a plant which will be a mixture of characteristics from the two parents.

There are two main types of reproductive categories for plants:

  • Self pollinating – pollen is transferred, on the same flower and the same plant, from the male anther to the female stigma. This means that genetic diversity can be maintained with fewer plants and less distance is required between varieties of the same species to make sure of genetic diversity. Beans and tomatoes are examples of self-pollinating types.
  • Cross pollinating – Pollen is transferred from the anther of one plant to the stigma of a different plant through wind, insects or by hand-pollination. Constant inbreeding between cross-pollinators can lead to a loss of vigour and quality in following generations. To prevent this, cross pollination of varieties within the same species should be avoided. 

Pollination may be through three means:

  • Wind – species pollinated by wind can be either cross-pollinators or self-pollinators. Pollen can travel several kilometres in high wind – isolation distances and barriers are needed to prevent crossing between varieties.
  • Insects – travel between flowers which aids pollination. Certain flowers attract specific insects to encourage pollination you should ascertain which insects prefers which species. In an open situation insect pollinated varieties will require up to a kilometre or more to prevent crossing within species. 
  • Self-pollinating – reduces but does not eliminate the incidence of cross-pollination within species. Some self-pollinating varieties of plants have long and protruding styles that aid cross-pollination. These species would need to be isolated from other varieties in the same species.


WHAT CAN THIS COURSE DO FOR YOU?


  • This course is a great starting point for anyone wanting to work in this industry.
  • Study this course if you are thinking of setting up a commercial organic vegetable growing farm.
  • This course will give you all the fundamentals needed to confidently move ahead in this industry.
  • If you have a property and are looking to start out in organics, understand the transitioning process.
  • Know what is required to grow and sell your produce as 'organically certified'.
  • Learn from tutors with years of knowledge and experience.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.

Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.


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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Leading horticultural expert in Australia.
Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Mitchell Skiller

Mitchell has had over 25 year’s experience in the Horticultural Industry. He has held positions as a supervising horticulturist, landscaper, consultant, and a business owner growing cut flowers, specialising in tropicals.

Rosemary Davies

Originally from Melbourne, Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Burnley, a campus of Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.

She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.

Yvonne Sharpe

Over 30 years of experience in horticulture, education and management, Yvonne has travelled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

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