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Duration (approx) 2500 hours
Qualification Advanced Diploma

Home Study Alternative Agricultural Diploma

The looming food crisis has been created by energy-consuming, broad-acre systems that rely heavily on chemical inputs. These systems need to be urgently dismantled and replaced by healthy, environmentally sustainable, alternative farming systems.

  • Learn about permaculture and sustainable farming systems.
  • Study soils, plant culture, animal physiology and health.
  • Learn about environmentally friendly approaches to protecting plants and maintaining their health.
  • Study organic plant culture.
  • An extensive course covering a wide range of subject areas from production and management to marketing. Choose from a selection of Elective Modules to tailor the course to refine and develop your knowledge and skills to meet your needs and career goals.

Study this course - Make changes in your farming practices now!

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Study Alternative Agriculture - be an expert in sustainable farming practices

Alternative agricultural enterprises look outside the corporate-controlled agricultural environment toward creating new markets and new ways of "doing things" - by value adding or by designing market niches not able to be readily filled by mass market competition.

  • Develop your skills and knowledge to explore and apply yourself to creating sustainable farming systems. Be adaptable to meet environmental and consumer needs.

Why you should study this course!

A looming food crisis has been created by energy-consuming, broad-acre systems that rely heavily on chemical inputs. These systems need to be urgently dismantled and replaced by healthy, environmentally sustainable, alternative farming systems. Innovative leaders - who are prepared to meet the challenges of repairing the damage caused by broad-acre, chemical based monocultures - are urgently required.

Agriculture is part of a competitive, global market. Forms of agriculture that rely on the chemical inputs promoted by the global chemical companies, have degraded the environment to unsustainable levels. Environmental concerns and the looming food crisis are confronting all agricultural enterprises. There is an immediate need for agricultural leaders who can respond in an intelligent and environmentally aware manner.

This course is suitable for anyone already working in agriculture and wants to improve their job and career prospects.

You study the Advanced Diploma In Agriculture - Alternative Agriculture by distance learning. You can start at any time to suit you.

The course is made up of a total 25 modules.  The duration is approximately 2,500 hours of study.


The study modules (25) are made up of: Core Modules (8), Stream Modules (8) and Elective Modules (9). These are listed below; follow the links in the module titles to find out further details on each one:

The Core Modules (8)

Permaculture Systems
Sustainable Agriculture
Organic Farming
Farm Management
Workplace Health and Safety
Research Project I
Research Project II
Workshop I

The Stream Modules (8)

Animal Husbandry I (Anatomy and Physiology)
Animal Husbandry II (Animal Health)
Botany I (Plant Physiology and Taxonomy)
Engineering I (Machinery and Equipment)
Soil Management (Agriculture)
Agricultural Marketing
Plant Protection
Organic Plant Culture

The Elective Modules (9)

Nine additional modules are to be selected from the modules listed below:

Animal Husbandry III
Animal Breeding
Horse Care I
Horse Care II
Horse Care III
Poultry Husbandry
Pigs Husbandry
Permaculture Systems
Advanced Permaculture
Sheep Management
Dairy Cattle Management
Beef Cattle Management
Pasture Management
Fruit Production (Temperate) or Fruit Production (Warm climate)
Cut Flower Production
Natural Animal Health Care
Calf Rearing
Alternative Energy
Biochemistry I (Animals)
Biochemistry I (Plants)
Refrigerating Farm Produce

Forage Management BAG226



Core modules must be completed before stream and elective modules. Electives can be chosen from other subjects not already listed. If there are subjects that you would like to study that are not listed please contact the school for approval.

Note: Fees cover all tuition and any essential texts. This does not include fees for exams or any industry conferences/seminars or workshops which are attended.

The looming food crisis has been created by energy-consuming, broad-acre systems that rely heavily on chemical inputs. These systems need to be urgently dismantled and replaced by healthy, environmentally sustainable, alternative farming systems.


Many mainstream farms focus on producing a basic, unimproved product such as eggs, milk, wool or meat; that has  not been processed. They leave it to the buyer or processor to improve the product.

An alternative that can greatly improve the farm's income though, is to process the produce into something that is more valuable: in effect "value adding" .

One example is may be to preserve meat. This produces meat products that are not only more valuable; but which can be sold over a longer period of time.

Traditional Methods for Preserving Meat

For many thousands of years humans have been preserving meat by different techniques. Traditionally drying meat played a role in survival of the human race. Dried meat was non-perishable and light weight which was ideal for being packed and carried for the long journeys we know of in hunting societies. This is only one example. In Europe it is known that Romans lived on a pork rich diet which was mostly salted or smoked as a preservation strategy. Indian cultures preferred a method of curing which involved potassium or sodium nitrate.

Today preserving meat is a carried out either as a culinary tradition or still as a survival strategy. Some remote populations or those which exist in mountainous or drought stricken regions are very accustomed to preserving meats. Today we see a rise in the popularity of meats which have undergone home preservation techniques.

Meat will spoil as microbial activity begins decomposing the tissue. Some microbes can be dangerous to human health, while others are simply going to destroy the meat. All microbes need a certain level of water in the meat to function, therefore the chief way of preserving meat is to reduce the level of water to a point where microbial activity is inconsequential.

Meat can be preserved lots of different ways.

  1. Curing – adding salt, sugar, nitrite and/or nitrate.
  2. Drying – can be done rapidly in low heat ovens, or slow dried.
  3. Smoking – gives the meat a characteristic smoky flavour.
  4. Combinations of the above.

Curing Meats (Salts, Sugars or Nitrates)

Curing meat involves processes to extend the period of storage. Usually this involves lowering moisture in the meat and often using additives or preservatives which inhibit decomposition or microbial growth by plasmolysis. The addition of salt over the surface of the meat draws the moisture out of it evenly through the process of osmosis. It is known that the growth of undesirable organisms can be inhibited at relatively low concentrations.

Dry salting is sometime referred to as "corning".

Many salt cures are not sufficient at allowing the meat to remain at room temperature without Clostridium botulinum spores being a risk, therefore it is suggested that nitrate or nitrite curing can assist in the process to inhibit the growth of this potentially life threatening bacterial infection.

The process of curing can also be used to improving, intensifying or adding flavour in meat. Sugar is often used to reduce the harshness of saltiness in cured meat and enhance sweetness of the product.

If you want to carry out the salt curing process at home you can try the following few simple steps. The process in simple terms is:

  1. Salt is rubbed into the meat and it is left for a week or more in a cold place (e.g. refrigerator).
  2. Meat is then rinsed, briefly air dried, then wrapped in cheesecloth.
  3. It is then hung in a cool place (never above 20oC), for at least 2 weeks before eating.

Drying Meat

People have air dried meats for hundreds of years. They have often used lean meat cut thinly into strips. This product is ready to consume when the texture becomes hard after hanging in the sun.

Making dried strips of meat (e.g. beef sticks) involved firstly salting, then drying in ovens at 70-80oC.


One of the original food preservation methods, probably the main way before refrigeration.

In smoking, hot or cold, it is normal to hang the meat in closed environment such as a homemade or store bought smoker. A great example of a smoker is the Tennessee smoker. A small fire or hot coals are used to generate smoke. This is placed near the hanging or rack held meat. It is important to ensure as little smoke escapes from the smoker as possible as this is considerably wasteful of the product used.

Cold smoking is a technique used when the meat still needs to be refrigerated which allows for smoking to take place over longer time periods. In this technique, the smoke filled chamber itself remains cold during the smoking process, whilst the meat remains uncooked.

The smoking material used will affect the overall flavour of the product. For example, hickory (a hardwood) tends to give a distinct smoky flavour, whereas coconut husk will give a lighter smoked flavour. Eastern Asian cultures will find alternative products just as useful – such as tea leaves or rice grains work well.

The meat itself can be prepared in numerous ways although if you are seeking a quicker smoking time, thinner cuts are desirable. Unlike strips of meat, minced meat can also be smoked when flattened thinly onto a sheet of parchment paper and placed on a rack within the smoker. It is recommended to use curing salts (nitrates) before smoking as minced meat is a high risk product for aerobic microbial action. It is a great idea to sprinkle your favourite herbs and spices blend onto the product.

The difference between nitrates and nitrites

When you add nitrate to table salt (sodium chloride) salt resistant bacteria turn the nitrates into nitrites - nitrites extend the time you can take to cure meats - for example ham may take 2 years to cure. So the nitrites which are converted from nitrates in the presence of salt are essential to keep the meat from spoiling in the long term. That is why you can buy curing salts that contain both nitrates and nitrites.

Nitrates also turn the meat pink.

Which Meats are Good for Curing?

Lean meats are best, but most cured meats such as salami have traditionally included some fat to enhance the flavour. You can use any meats, e.g. pork, lamb, beef, venison, poultry, however pork often proves most popular.

If you are inexperienced, a better quality piece of pork belly or loin may be potentially less of a risk than some other meats.

Health Risks

Contraction of Botulism which is an illness contracted from bacteria - Clostridium botulinum. If spores germinate, the meat can easily become quickly contaminated. Sodium nitrate is often mixed with curing salts to combat the risk of botulism. Salt suppliers often dye salt pink when they add sodium nitrate. This enables chefs and cooks to differentiate salt containing sodium nitrate, from salt that does not. Some people have sensitivity to nitrates though and in large quantity, sodium nitrate can be toxic.

It is also worth remembering the human body produces sodium nitrates naturally and our saliva has large quantities in it, as do many vegetables. Some ‘natural’ curing salts that contain natural nitrates derived from plants, have similar concentrations of nitrates as commercial curing salts.

It is important to note that Botulism can be deadly. It tends to grow in acid, anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions. Nitrates negate the risk of botulism. Wine or vinegar added to the meat mix will reduce the risk of botulism too. Botulism does not produce food that smells or tastes ‘off’ it is usually encouraged during the preparation phase – that is why strict hygiene and cool conditions for the meat is so important.

Once the meat is cured, if it starts to smell off, then it isn’t botulism but invasion of other spoilage bacteria. Always discard any salami that smells or appears green.

Chemical sensitivities/allergies are another risk – some people don’t tolerate some or most preservatives very well.

Pregnant women should avoid cured meats as should those with a lowered immune system due to illness.

Making Salami

Salami varies in taste and texture according to the ingredients: the meat, fat and spices they contain, their proportions in the mix and whether is coarsely or finely ground. In Italy for example salami varies from one region to the next; some are lean and contain little fat, others have large cubes of fat, some are smoked others unsmoked; some are pork others a mix of meats, or made from poultry or lamb rather than the more traditional pork or pork and beef. Some include chilli others not, some are highly spiced or include herbs others are more simple and may just include black pepper. Whatever you include in the way of herbs and spices if you don’t cure your meats correctly it will be inedible or dangerous to your health.

Do not underestimate the significance of the need for alternative agricultural practices

Alternative methods of farming are increasingly important.

  • Knowing more about organics, sustainability, being ecologically friendly is essential for anyone in the agriculture industry.
  • This course will provide you with detailed knowledge of alternative agriculture.
  • The elective modules enable you to choose modules that fit specifically with you and your requirements.
  • Learn about alternative approaches to agriculture - develop your understanding of agriculture, gain knowledge and new skills under the expert guidance of our specialist Agriculture and Environmental tutors.

Improve your job and career prospects. Move into management.

Taking this course shows the discipline and determination you need to gain essential knowledge to improve your knowledge and skills.

If this is the course for you, why delay? You can Enrol today.

If you have any questions or want to know more about this or any of our Agricultural courses, please get in touch with us today - 

Phone us on (UK) 01384 442752, or (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or use our FREE COUNSELLING SERVICE to contact our specialist Agriculture tutors.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

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Meet some of our academics

Alison Pearce (animal)B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Masters Degree in Ecotourism. P.G.Cert. Ed. (Science). Alison's first job was in 1982 as a stockwoman, working with pigs in Yorkshire. Within a few years she of that she was working for the University of Western Australia as a Research Technician and instructor with their school of Agricultural Science.In 1989 she moved to Melbourne University as Unit Manager and Instructor in Animal Husbandry. By the mid 1990's she moved back to England to work in Animal Care and Veterinary Nursing at Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture. Throughout her career, Alison has developed and delivered courses in veterinary nursing and animal sciences for vocational colleges and universities in Australia, New Zealand and Australia. She has built a high level of expertise and an outstanding international reputation as an expert in animal sciences.
Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.
Marius Erasmus Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.

Check out our eBooks

Animal HealthUnderstand animal health issues, diseases and how identify and manage illnesses and injuries. Animals can become sick for many different reasons -diseases caused by infections, injuries, poisoning, genetic disorders, poor nutrition and other things.
Farm ManagementThe Farm Management ebook is a valuable piece of equipment for any farming student or current farmer. Improve your farm management skills or learn new skills and techniques. The topics covered within this Farm Management ebook include 1/ Scope and nature of the farm industry, 2/ The farm site, 3/ Production systems, 4/ Managing livestock, 5/ Managing pasture, 6/ Managing crops, 7/ Managing equipment and materials, 8/ Computer applications, 9/ Farm structures and buildings, 10/ Financial management, 11/ Marketing, 12/ Farm planning, 13/ Staff management, 14/ Water management and 15/ Diversification.
Modern MarketingThis book explores new approaches to marketing, how to adapt to a continually changing world both through online marketing, and more. Some aspects of marketing never change; but many of the well established approaches used in the past simply do not work any more. This book lays a foundation for thinking about marketing in a different way
Profitable FarmingDiscover new ways to make money from your farm and broaden your perspective on the farming industry. A few things in life are certain; change is inevitable and people need to eat. Learn to embrace change as an opportunity and improve your ability to forge a sustainable career in farming.