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Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production - growing low input, diverse and resilient food systems

MSc and PG Diploma (full and part-time) and PG Certificate programme approved and awarded through Plymouth University

Please note that this programme will not run in 2015 but that we are currently accepting enquiries and applications for January 2016 enrolment.

The College will not be running this programme in 2015 due to changes in faculty staff. Dr. Jane Pickard is returning to Australia for family reasons and Bethan Stagg will be on maternity leave for 9 months. Given our desire to ensure the quality and ethos of the programme, this will allow us to develop and integrate the new faculty staff team, for a return in January 2016

MSc Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production >>

Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production >>

Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production >>

MSc and PG Diploma part-time options >>


The application process, term dates and fees >>


Click here to download our 2013/14 Student Handbook >>


For more information about this programme please email shfp@schumachercollege.org.uk


Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production at Schumacher College

Schumacher College is the first in the world to offer a postgraduate programme in Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production, developed in collaboration with Plymouth University, The Organic Research Centre (ORC), The Campaign for Real Farming and the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).

Join the growers, leaders and change agents at the forefront of new thinking in Horticulture for resilient and healthy food systems.

This course explores the frontiers of research and practice that will meet the social, ecological and economic challenges our food systems face in the 21st Century.

We offer you a unique and transformative blend of academic and practical learning opportunities from Schumacher College, Plymouth University, ORC and CAT.

The sustainable horticulture programme started in 2009 with a suite of craft-level courses in Sustainable Horticulture, which have developed into the Apprenticeship Programme. Click here for more information on these.

VIDEO Click here for to find out what Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production students have been doing this term >>


“Schumacher College and their collaborating institutions have the necessary depth and breadth to re-think production from first principles. The course combines serious scholarship from science, economics and – that much neglected but essential discipline – metaphysics, and of course with a continuing interest in growing. The MSc will discuss the practicalities of a new form of growing and ensure that the practical know-how is rooted in deep understanding.”
Colin Tudge, Advocate, Journalist and biologist

“The course is practical and stretching, both technically and philosophically, and should result in an increased number of well informed and forward thinking existing and aspiring growers – exactly what the horticultural sector needs to face the interest and challenges ahead.”
Phil Stocker, Chief Executive, National Sheep Association


Sustainable Horticulture

Now that global population has passed 7 billion in 2011, we urgently need to consider how our food systems will cope in the coming years. Can they produce enough? And are they resilient to an unpredictable climate and reduction in fossil fuels and other high-energy inputs on which they’re currently dependent?

This programme brings together the thinking, research and practice at the cutting-edge of a global food revolution. Drawing from many different projects and schools of thought around the world, and looking at the roles of large scale food production, biotechnology, ‘human scale’ horticulture and botanical diversity, our starting point is natural systems.

How can we work with nature and biological cycles to improve our horticultural production? And how do we do it without increasing environmental degradation, climate change or consumption of finite resources, the pressing questions of our time.

Why Schumacher College?

Since 1991, Schumacher College has pioneered radical thinking in sustainable living, of which food is central. We have attracted the leading teachers, practitioners and activists and have inspired, supported and led thousands of organisations and individuals from many different countries in their quest to achieve a more sustainable and equitable world.

Alongside our short courses and vocational training in sustainable horticulture and food, we recognise the urgent need for a more strategic approach to developing resilient food systems. To address this we have woven together a unique partnership of forward-thinking and acting institutions and individuals that care passionately about the future of food production.

Schumacher College has an international reputation for its holistic and systemic approach to sustainability. It has an ecological horticulture specialism with neighbouring long-term agro-forestry and forest garden trials. It is close to Totnes, home of the Transition Movement, a living example of a pioneering human-scale food production project and is also part of the historic Dartington Hall Estate, which runs a sustainable land-use and organic market garden programme.

The course is validated through the School of Biological and Biomedical Science at Plymouth University, which has a well-established profile in horticulture, nutrition and ecology alongside high quality research and laboratory facilities.


Our teachers

From Schumacher College: Bethan Stagg, Stephan Harding, Philip Franses, Jonathan Dawson and Tim Crabtree.

Guest contributions from:

Who is this course for?

This course is for growers, entrepreneurs and leaders who want to progress food systems that are ecologically, socially and financially sustainable.

You will have the opportunity to further develop your technical, strategic, and critical skills and the space to regenerate and hone your passion and creativity for a better world.

We are delighted to receive your applications whether you are coming from an undergraduate degree, taking time-out to study mid-career or wanting an opportunity to retrain in a subject area that is of huge importance to our future resilience and well-being.

We are looking for enthusiastic agents of change who are ready to co-create a new sustainable food system in practice. Are you prepared to take a risk and stand on the cutting-edge of new thinking in this area?

Schumacher College welcomes students from all over the world in its diverse mix of cultural experience and age groups which allows for rich peer to peer learning.

Where will this course take you?

Graduates from this programme will have the skills and knowledge to work for sustainable food and farming change in the public, private and NGO sectors or to set up their own projects or organisations that will be a part of the transition to holistic food systems that respond to global challenges.

Previous students have embarked on a variety of food growing and land-based projects, as well as becoming consultants, leaders, growers and instructors in therapeutic, educational and community-based agricultural initiatives.

Course programme overview

The course format has been designed to allow students to study at Masters, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate level. Part-time options are available.

There are six taught modules between January and July, followed by an 18 week dissertation period. Postgraduate Diploma students do not write up a dissertation, but must complete all six Core Modules including Research Methods. Postgraduate Certificate students take Core Modules 1, 2 and 3 only.

“This course, and the exciting collaboration behind it, will break new ground in providing an opportunity for growers of the future to safeguard our ability to produce into the long term. Food security depends utterly on environmental security which in turn depends on people. The course makes these connections and looks at food in a truly sustainable way from the perspectives of production, ecology and people.”
David Riddle, National Land Use Director, National Trust

“There is no similar course available that provides the insights and tools to facilitate the transition of the horticultural sector towards a resilient future.”
Andrew Brown, Executive Director Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden, Hong Kong, China


Module 1: Living Systems

Module 2: Plant Science and Botanical Diversity

Module 3: Ecological Design and Practices in Horticulture

Spring Break

Module 4: Research Methods

Module 5: Food Systems in a Post-Carbon World

Module 6: New Food Economy

Click here for a more detailed description of each module >>



Collaborating institutions in our postgraduate programme

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)





CAT aims to empower people to live a more sustainable life. Through a combination of post graduate, short, and school courses and practical onsite examples.

Plymouth University






Plymouth University is committed to social and environmental sustainability.

“Bringing in lecturers who are at the forefront of their study was great as they had insights that may not necessarily be in the literature yet.” Postgraduate student, 2013

“Excellent range of teaching methods. From spending time in the forest to more conventional classroom lectures – all were outstanding.” Postgraduate student, 2013


The Campaign for Real Farming





The Campaign for Real Farming was set up by advocate, journalist and biologist Colin Tudge to promote Enlightened Agriculture – “Farming that is expressly designed to feed people without wrecking the rest of the world”.

The Organic Research Centre






The Organic Research Centre is leading a European-wide project to support the development of plant breeding focused on the needs of organic producers. Funded through the CORE Organic II Eranet, with Defra providing the financial support for ORC and other UK work, the project aims to improve seed quality and health, promote genetic and crop diversity, and encourage the adoption of suitable materials by organic producers



Click here for details of our Earth Talks programme >>


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Schumacher College is part of the Dartington Hall Trust, a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and as a charity (company no. 1485560, charity no. 279756). Registered office: The Elmhirst Centre, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL, United Kingdom