Certificate in Applied Agroecology

Certificate in Applied Agroecology

Join MESA’s global cohort of farmers, thinkers and doers working toward an agroecological future

Want to gain a foundation in agroecology or deepen your on-farm experience? 

MESA’s interactive course provides the technical and theoretical toolkit needed to face our increasingly globalized food system. Drawing on agroecology’s ancestral roots in the Global South, you will gain an excellent foundation and join a global community seeking to build a just, agroecological future. 

For all interested farmers, students, educators, thinkers and doers.

Agroecology is a lens to understand and evaluate how different food and farming systems affect human culture and ecosystems.

Gain a holistic understanding of agroecology through 7 engaging Lessons, with particular emphasis on the socio-political connections within agroecology. The interactive presentation of indigenous practices, scientific research, historical data and individual case studies will enable you to analyze and ultimately begin to transform your own local food and farming systems.

Upcoming Cohort Dates


August 19th, 2019

Cohort Full


Dates TBA

Let us know you’re interested


Dates TBA

Let us know you’re interested

By taking this course you will:

Deepen your knowledge of agroecology and sustainable food systems

Gain practical on-farm skills with a socio-political and economic lens

Add structure and merit to your hands-on farm internship or apprenticeship

Connect with MESA's global, multi-generational network of farmers, educators and mentors

Have the option to earn MESA's official Certificate in Applied Agroecology

Learning about the politics affecting food production globally is something that wasn’t granted to me in a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. I’m so thankful to have been linked with a program that aligns with my values, and has brought me to what I’ve wanted to learn about for so long.

Maggie R.

Applied Agroecology Graduate

How learning happens

Online Lessons

Combines academic, scientific, socio-political and ancestral knowledge in 7 online lessons composed of multimedia modules - learn from anywhere in the world without leaving your home or farm.

Global Connection

Learn alongside an international cohort. Using our Map & peer-peer private forums, you'll compare ideas, share techniques, and co-create knowledge with fellow learners across the globe.

Live Feedback

Certificate-track enrollees receive individualized feedback from a MESA facilitator on Applied Activities, plus course forum engagement to deepen and expand learning.


Assess your knowledge at the beginning and end of each lesson to track your progress, observe assumptions, and build your own foundation of discovery and understanding.

Applied Activities

Each lesson includes an on-site Applied Activity, helping you analyze and apply new principles and practices while reflecting how different concepts relate to your own farm and/or food system.

Designed for You

Set the pace to shape learning around your busy schedule. Offering video, podcasts, discussion forums, readings and multimedia, this course is designed for all learning styles and paces.

1. Agroecology and Food System Transformation (10 topics)

Lesson 1 offers a variety of answers to the question “What is agroecology?”. First, you’ll explore definitions of agroecology and trace its roots to provide an agrecological foundation to build on. Next, you’ll explore practices of traditional farmers around the world, and learn how these practices relate to the principles of agroecology.

2. Unpacking the Global Food System (11 topics)

Lesson 2 unpacks the global food system, while exploring common myths around the root causes of global hunger. You’ll explore alternatives to a globalized food system, and discover the intersections of farming and social issues like gender, labor and race. Through this Lesson, you’ll understand what a resilient, community-based farming systems looks like, and envision steps toward building them.

3. Ecology and the Agroecosystem Concept (8 topics)

Lesson 3 asks: “What is ecology, and how does it relate to agroecology?”. Analyze ecosystem functions, explore different examples of the dynamic processes occurring within ecosystems, and observe how these processes are manipulated in an agroecosystem.

4. Linking Soil Health and Human Health (6 topics)

Lesson 4 offers in-depth overview of the linkages between soil nutrition and human nutrition, the global shifts in our agricultural systems, and delves into practical applications for plant nutrients and agroecological practices to manage soil fertility.

5. Hands in the Soil: Biocultural Diversity and the Ecosystems Approach (10 topics)

For as long as humans have walked the earth, they have interacted with soil. Lesson 5 offers solutions to apply an agroecosystems approach to understand complex relationships between land, soil, biocultural diversity and management strategies. 

6. Water: Shaping our world (9 topics)

Lesson 6 explores how water, climate and weather shape your ecosystem, how to manage water in excess and as a limited resource, agroecosystems approaches to water management and the politics of water in our global system.

7. “Pest” Management: Toward a Sustainable Agriculture (11 topics)

In Lesson 7, you’ll explore how industrial agriculture pits farmers against nature, learn the history of pesticides, analyze the idea of “pest”, and learn how agroecology can offer many alternative strategies for pest management and whole-ecosystem health. 

We’ll wrap up the course with more ways to continue expanding your world of agroecology.

Created in Community

MESA's Network

MESA initially developed the Applied Agroecology Course to augment our international stewards’ hands-on U.S. farm training experience. Enriched by contributions and resources from our amazing network of farmers, ranchers scientists, and community field experts across the world, we now proudly offer this course for online learners everywhere.

Farmers & Field Experts

With deep appreciation for contributions from pioneers in the ecological farming community, including: John Jeavons, Dr. Clara Nicholls, Miguel Altieri, Singing Frogs Farm, Steve Gliessman, Nancy Vail, and many others – see full list below.

Sponsors & Contributors

Made possible by generous support from Frey Vineyards,  Earls Organic Produce and Clif Bar Foundation, and materials contributed by UC Berkeley. California Farmlink, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, Food First and more.

This Course was made possible by some amazing funders. Thank you to our generous supporters! 

Clif Bar Family Foundation

Earls Organic Produce

Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation

Frey Vineyards

Indiegogo Crowdfunding Supporters

Patagonia Foundation

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Our collaborators and contributors help shape and inform MESA’s curriculum, seminars and workshops. If you are interested in contributing, please email caap[at]mesaprogram[dot]org

Miguel Altieri – Professor of Agroecology at University of California, Berkeley
Saray Siura – Professor of Agroecology at Universidad Agraria de la Molina, Peru
Ignacio Chapela – Professor of Microbial Ecology at University of California, Berkeley
Stephen R. Gliessman – Professor of Agroecology at University of California, Santa Cruz
Kevin Cody – Professor of Environmental and Sustainability Studies, University of Northern Colorado
Sean Gillon – Asst. Professor, Food Systems & Society, Marylhurst University
John Jeavons – Founder/Director, Ecology Action
Haleh Zandi – Co-Founder/Co-Director, Planting Justice
Clara Nicholls – Professor, Sustainable Development in Latin America, University of California, Berkeley and Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia
Laura Murray – California Certified Organic Farmers
Scott Murray – Organic Farm consultant and founder, Murray Farms
Pandora Thomas – Co-founder, Black Permaculture Network
David Runsten – Community Alliance of Family Farmers (CAFF)
Reggie Knox – California Farm Link
Eric Holt-Giménez – Ph.D. Executive Director of Food First
Ann Baier – Program Specialist, National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)
Rex Dufour – Manager, NCAT/ATTRA National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service
Jon Hoffman – Occupy the Farm
Claire Kremen – Professor, Kremen Lab Group. UC Berkeley Center for Diversified Farming Systems
Annie Shattuck – PhD candidate, UC Berkeley and Fellow, Food First
Damien Parr -Research and Education Coordinator, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, UC Santa Cruz
Nancy Vail – Co-Founder/Co-Director, Pie Ranch
Barrett “Bear” Boaen – Manager, Swanton Berry Farm
Liz Carlisle – PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley and Author
Micaela Colley – Program Director, Organic Seed Alliance
Jared Zystro – Research and Education Asst. Director, Organic Seed Alliance



Frequently Asked Questions

The Certificate-track augments on-farm training and builds community, connecting you to MESA’s global network of agroecology experts, farmers, activists and change-makers. While all course materials are freely accessible, the paid Certificate-track provides access to MESA’s facilitators and the following benefits:

  • Assignments and Activities reviewed by a dedicated team of educators and mentors
  • One-on-one project review with a MESA facilitator
  • A cohort of international peers learning along with you
  • Invitation to help build and shape future course curriculum
  • An electronic or paper-mailed (lower 48 U.S. only) “Certificate in Applied Agroecology” from the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA). Based in Berkeley, California, MESA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization and J1 trainee (aka Steward) visa sponsor for aspiring global farmers.

Certificate Requirements

  • Complete 6 field based Applied Assignments
  • Complete 14 self assessments
  • Complete 6 of 7 Lessons*
  • Active forum participation

*While we encourage you to complete all 7, we understand your busy schedule and/or recognize that you may already be familiar with key parts of a specific Lesson. Hence, you may opt to skip one Lesson and still earn the Certificate.

A computer & high speed internet connection to download readings or watch videos; a farm or an open space suitable for doing the Applied Activities; your active imagination!

Yes! Overwhelmed with the daily realities of running a farm? Struggling to provide a meaning training and mentorship for your apprentices beyond a simple “learn-by-doing” approach? This course helps busy farmers offer more structure to contextualize daily activities for interns and apprentices. Offering the Certificate option and sharing or covering the sliding-scale fee will help to attract more committed interns and apprentices. 

Want to inquire about group rates for several interns? Email <caap@mesaprogram.org> to discuss your needs and explore options. Are you an intern interested in adding structure and a Certificate to your experience? Share this information with your host farmer/mentor or sign up today!

Course materials are highly applicable for farmers, interns, apprentices, person(s) serving farmers, college students, and anyone regardless of background. While accessible to many different learning backgrounds and styles, this course is currently tailored for those with a minimum of basic English reading and comprehension. 

You will need to choose a field site for the Applied Activities. While a farm is ideal for assessing ecological and social features of the land, you won’t need to physically alter the land. No access to a farm? You may instead opt to use a community garden, a park, or even your own backyard to fulfill your course requirements. 

All course materials are freely accessible for students wishing to audit without earning the Certificate.

To earn the Certificate and have access to an instructor along with many other added benefits, we offer a sliding-scale fee (see below).

Course fees help MESA pay for facilitators, staff time and tech support needed to maintain, monitor and provide feedback to participants, along with printing and mailing your Certificate (paper Certificate mailed only within the continental U.S.).

Our suggested sliding scale is:

$150 (suggested annual income bracket: $20,000 or less)

$250 (suggested annual income bracket: $20,000-$39,000)

$350 (suggested annual income bracket: $40,000 or above)

Please give the maximum amount you can afford to support MESA’s mission and to help make our materials accessible to more learners with limited incomes.


The Certificate-Track option begins on your registered start date. After that, the pace is up to you! Some learners have finished in 8 weeks, others take 6 months to a year. Your MESA Facilitator will be with you for the first four months to provide feedback, after that you have access to the course for one year and may continue to send your assignments to be tracked toward earning your certificate.

So glad you asked! Go to this page to register for the course and submit payment (fee required to earn a certificate). If you’d like to get in touch, email <caap@mesaprogram.org> We look forward to learning with you!

What our learners are saying

Start Earning a Certificate in Applied Agroecology Today

Join our global cohort of farmers, thinkers and doers working toward an agroecological future!

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Mail:  MESA, Inc., P.O. Box 40113, Berkeley, CA 94704

email: caap@mesaprogram.org