About the Course
Delivered in partnership with The Organic Research Centre.
The organic food and farming sector within Europe is continuing to develop in response to a growing market, and continued policy support. The sector requires well-trained individuals with technical and management skills to meet these challenges. There continue to be career opportunities for those wanting to work as practitioners, promoters and facilitators within the sector. SRUC offers this programme to enable students with a variety of academic and working experiences to gain a fast-track understanding of the key technical production, marketing and management aspects of organic farming and food.
This enables students to build on their existing expertise and aspirations, and to give them enhanced career opportunities as practitioners, promoters and facilitators within the sector.
- An ability to critically appraise organic farming both as an agricultural system and in a wider context
- A good understanding of the organic sector
- A sound knowledge of the science underpinning organic farming
- A clear understanding of marketing, financial and audit requirements for organic produce
- Work placement experience
- Research skills (in particular MSc. graduates)
The course is accessible through its delivery by part-time online distance learning and is currently the only specialised MSc in Organic Farming in Scotland.
The MSc Organic Farming is validated by the University of Glasgow.
Dr Lou Ralph
Tel: 01224 711218
A degree relevant to the sector, or the candidate's assessed ability to benefit from the studies e.g. extensive relevant work experience considered. Evidence of English competence.
For more information please download our course leaflet.
The course modules comprise of a mix of technical production, marketing and management, and skill development modules.
Organic Livestock Production
This module will look at the organic approach to livestock production in ruminant, monogastric and aquaculture systems. It will cover the relevant organic standards and the key elements of organic livestock management including breeds and breeding objectives, rearing systems, appropriate housing and nutrition, animal welfare and health. Students will gain an understanding of health planning and a whole-system approach to animal management and how these practices address the organic principles.
Soils and Nutrient Cycling
Organic certification requires farmers and growers to optimise production under certain constraints set by EU Regulation. In soil terms this particularly means restrictions on nutrient inputs and the need for soil properties to be optimal to ensure other agronomic and environmental requirements are met. This module provides students with the tools to manage soils optimally for organic production. Ultimately, they should be able to describe soil properties, evaluate soil fertility and assess management requirements in the context of organic farming.
Organic Crop and Grassland Production
Organic certification requires farmers and growers to optimise production under constraints set by EU Regulation. This module will explore a range of typical organic production methods for UK grassland, arable, horticultural and vegetable field crops, within the context of these constraints.
Organic Farming Case Study
This module will develop the student’s ability to undertake whole farm analysis and in particular organic conversion planning. Whole farm analysis involves a range of skills and examination of a wide range of issues: technical, financial, marketing and environmental. This module will require the student to integrate the knowledge gained in other modules to provide an evaluation and plan for the conversion to organic production of an actual farm example.
Organic Farming: Principles and Practice
This module will provide an overview of the philosophy, principles, history and development of the organic farming industry. The organic standards will be introduced and the ways in which they are used to regulate the organic food and farming industry at UK, European and world levels will be covered, serving the dual role of organic farming in both a growing organic market and the delivery of public goods. The roles of the main UK organisations and support schemes that influence the development of the organic sector will also be explored.
Organic Farming Work Placement
Worthwhile and relevant experience in industry is regarded as a desirable component of this degree. This module will allow students to focus on an existing or proposed organisation or business in the organic food and farming sector during a 6-week (or equivalent) work placement. The student will gather data, carry out a technical and business analysis and make recommendations which may be for an organic conversion, a new start or proposals for future development of an aspect of an existing organisation or business. The material will also be used in class discussion and to contribute to group learning.
Issues in Organic Farming
This module will explore contemporary issues relevant to organic farming and its relationship with wider society. It will develop a broader understanding and build on existing knowledge while developing critical evaluation skills for complex issues and how they relate to each other. The module may include topics such as the public goods and social capital delivered by organic farming; food quality and safety; the principles of environmental management in the context of organic agriculture; carbon management; the global context of organic farming; novel techniques; agroforestry and perennial crops. It will stress the multidisciplinary nature of such issues and the importance of an ability to present a balanced argument.
Marketing and Financial Management in the Organic Sector
This module will enable students to understand the business environment of the organic sector at the farm level and beyond. It will enable students to interpret financial accounts and aid the process of financial planning and control, and will provide an understanding of the concepts, principles and techniques involved in marketing management and how they are applied in the context of the organic farming sector.
This course is studied part time through on-line distance learning. This allows those in continuing employment or with family commitments to participate. With the exception of several weekend schools and a short study tour, the learning is carried out in the student's home or work place.
The MSc Project (taken following successful completion of taught modules) provides an opportunity for in-depth individual research on a topic related to organic farming.
The PgDip is a high level learning course taught at university post-graduate level for students who opt not to progress to the Masters. Students are required to complete all taught modules detailed above. Typically a student will study 4 modules per year and complete the PgDip in two years. This would normally take an average of 12 to 15 hours study time a week.
The study tour is used to visit a range of organic and conventional farms as well as businesses operating in the organic food supply and distribution chain. In the taught modules an element of student choice is often built in through the use of essay and other course work topics that cover areas of potential interest. There is also a Work Placement module. Students following the distance learning course may gain exemption from the practical element of the placement but will require to complete a report of their work experience.
The study weekends and short study tour are an integral part of teaching delivery and students are strongly recommended to attend these if they are to succeed in this course.