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Descriptions, Costs, and Policies

Certificate Title: Sustainable Food Systems
Level: Professional Development (noncredit)
Cost: $995 if registering for the certificate; $239 for individual Courses, $49 short topics
Learning Format: Online / self-paced
Time Commitment: 50 hours Certificate; 10 hours per Course; 2 hours per topic

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The Sustainable Food Systems certificate is a self-paced, independent study format. It contains topics of study with resources and activities, as well as questions guiding to a discussion forum.

Participants in the certificate will gain an understanding of sustainability and how it relates to the current United States food system model. The certificate will provide a strong foundation of learning and skills for working in regional food systems from production, to advocacy, to service, to education. The certificate will provide opportunities for online learners to acquire the knowledge, skills, and understanding that are needed to create change in their communities and build a sustainable food system model for the future – one that is ecologically, economically, and socially viable.

Course 1: Local and Global Food Systems
Begin a fascinating journey into the study of Local and Global Food Systems in the first of five Courses in the Sustainable Food Systems Certificate. Explore the history of the United States agriculture system from its indigenous practices, to its industrial revolution, Dust Bowl, Victory Gardens, Farm Bill, and Post WWII era. In this overview of local and global food systems, you will discover the cultural practices and impacts of modern technologies and land use practices in the United States and learn what is meant by the term sustainable agriculture. Travel from farm fields to food factories to farmers markets, restaurants, dinner tables, and back to the beginning via composters and landfills. Examine the effects of eating in the 21st Century: obesity, population growth, water shortages, food prices, and climate change. Complete your initial journey through local and global food systems by studying the relationship between a food culture and agricultural practices, and be ready to further explore the ecology and sustainable systems as they relate to agriculture.

Course 2: Sustainable Farming and Urban Agriculture
Continue on your Sustainable Food Systems journey, by gaining an understanding of the key principles and scientific concepts of Sustainable Farming and Urban Agriculture in Course 2, while exploring best practices and production technologies used by sustainable farmers within today’s agricultural ecosystems. Examine several sustainable models of social ways to organize agriculture, from community and school gardens, to rooftop and edible landscape projects, to Community Supported Agriculture farms. As the Course draws to a close, you will begin to consider the different ways that agriculture can be practiced in unusual places and seasons.

Course 3: Between Farm and Table

We have become accustomed to an international diet, foods from all over the world, and foods out of season for our own region. Are the methods of food production we depend on degrading the ecological base in other countries? Is our demand for cheap food costing some a living wage and basic access to health care and education? Why does local food matter? In Course 3, Between Farm and Table, begin to explore the practices used to grow food in a large scale industrial system. Discover the types of businesses that are focusing on local foods and why. Examine factors driving the growth of sustainable foods consumption in schools and hospitals. Discover how growing vegetables in school gardens is benefitting students across the country and why processing can be a significant barrier to integrating local whole foods into hospital menu plans.

Course 4: Food Justice: Ethical Production and Distribution
Everyone deserves access to good food that is reasonably priced, right? Understanding the relationship between local practices for sourcing our food and global insecurity is essential to understanding the complexity of the topic of food justice. In Course 4, Food Justice, you will begin to learn about the complex relationship between global inequity, local food sourcing, and distribution practices. You will also develop an understanding of the sense of urgency about this topic and reflect on the process for creating change. Although the issues are complex, Course 4 will provide tools for putting your online study into action as you learn what is needed for communities to counter issues of unfair food justice.

Course 5: Food Systems Policy and Trends
A growing number of Americans are concerned about the food system and its interconnectedness with major health, environmental, justice, and community issues, more attention is being paid to food/farm policy. The U.S. farm bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. It impacts international trade, environmental conservation, food safety, and the well-being of rural communities. It can also be controversial. In Course 5, Food Systems Policy and Trends, join the growing numbers of Americans who are examining the U.S. Farm Bill more closely. Find out what is leading to practical changes in United States agriculture and food policy, and discover what is new on the horizon that will shape the pace and direction of food system policy change in the United States industrial food system and emerging regional food systems.

Learn more about the short topic courses.

Terms and Conditions

Registration Process
Once you register, you will receive an email confirmation and a login ID and password within two business days. Detailed instructions on how to enter the Course will be described.

Course and Certificate Fees

Enroll in Full Certificate: Pay $995

Enroll in Individual Courses: $239/each

Enroll in short topic courses: $49/each

Change Your Mind – want to sign up for the entire certificate?
For those who decide to enroll in the entire certificate after completing one Course at the individual Course rate of $239, a prorated fee for the remaining Courses will charged. Full cost of certificate in this instance is $1,035. Completing all the short topics will not result in a certificate.

Contact UMD Continuing Education at to be enrolled in the certificate. The prorated fee will only apply for those who declare intention to enroll in certificate after completing one Course.

How to Pay for a Course or Certificate
Payment for online offerings (noncredit) through UMD Continuing Education (UMD CE) must be received in full before you will be enrolled. Noncredit learners do not qualify for student loans or in-school deferments. We accept the following forms of payment for noncredit offerings:

In order for UMD CE to invoice your company/employer for the cost of your noncredit offering(s), we must receive a copy of your company/employer purchase order faxed to the following number: 218-726-6925

Refund Policy for Online Offerings (noncredit):


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UMD Continuing Education