Organic land care (OLC) is how we design, install and maintain landscapes to promote and preserve the health of the environment. OLC includes alternatives to the pesticides and fertilizers that endanger our health. The goal is to use just what Nature gave us – no chemicals! OLC creates green spaces that thrive year after ear; resilient to pests, weeds, and drought.

It’s about Healthy SOILS, Healthy PLANTS, Healthy ECOSYSTEMS.

Are you looking:

  • To live and work in a way that is congruent with your personal values?
  • For gardening skills that are relevant in these times of environmental and social change?
  • For a career that satisfies your need to make a meaningful contribution to your community?

Since 2003, Gaia College has been working to transform horticulture education. Our courses integrate essential knowledge of ecology, permaculture and organic gardening to build a solid foundation for employment, self-employment, or simply greater personal enjoyment.

Background

Demand for organic and ecologically sustainable garden and landscape services has grown steadily across Canada over the past two decades, roughly keeping pace with demand for organic foods and products. Organic horticultural services now represent a small but significant portion of the overall horticultural sector in Canada and, increasingly, employers are creating positions for, and seeking, workers with skills specific to organic gardening and landscaping. 

The education field has already begun to respond to demand for organic horticultural workers by developing courses and materials on organic practices, which can differ significantly from conventional horticultural practices. Gaia College in particular has developed curriculum specific to organic gardening practices and has delivered educational programs online and through a variety of partner colleges and industry groups, with close to 5000 student enrolments between 2009 and the summer of 2020.

Unlike organic agriculture and organic producers, organic service providers are not currently required to follow formal standards so there is no agency currently tracking organic service providers. A voluntary Organic Land Care Standard has been developed by the Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL) which service providers can use as a reference guide of best practices. Individuals may also complete a recognized course in organic land care and pass an exam in the SOUL standards to become certified as Organic Land Care Practitioners. To date over 185 organic horticultural professionals have opted to complete this voluntary certification process.  

Education in organic and sustainable land care practices is offered by a variety of institutions across Canada.

  • Nearly 5,000 individuals across Canada have completed organic education courses and programs through Gaia College to date
  • Roughly 4,000 businesses across Canada currently advertise a full range of organic landscape and garden services.
  • Most lawn and turf maintenance companies across Canada offer some organic services, adding to the total number of organic workers in the industry.

Employment Requirements

  • Completion of college or other accredited programs in horticulture, landscaping or landscape design may be required for some positions.
  • Experience and/or training in landscape or garden installation and care.
  • Understanding of the functions of soil microbiology and biology, air, light and water in plant and ecosystem health.
  • Completion of specialized programs and/or courses in organic gardening, organic landscaping, soil health analysis, soil microbiology, rainwater  management, plant health or composting may be required for some positions.
  • Organic service provider certification from an independent or professional body may be required for some positions.  

Current job titles used in the labour market

Organic Gardener, Organic Landscaper, Organic Landscape Maintenance Worker,  Organic Plant Grower, Organic Market Gardener / Farmer, Organic Landscape Designer, Rainwater Harvest Consultant, Organic Gardening Educator, Organic Turf Specialist, Organic Soils Consultant, Living Soils Consultant, Organic Garden Consultant, Organic Garden Designer, Organic Master Gardener, Organic Land Care Practitioner, Organic Land Care Professional, Permaculture Designer, Permaculture Consultant, Edible Garden Designer, Edible Landscape Designer, Ecological landscaper, Ecological landscape designer, among others.

Courses required for a Diploma in Organic Land Care from Gaia College

Online courses run 14 weeks; starting in January, May, and September. All courses offered take into account the weather during a Canadian winter. All practical assignments can be completed throughout the year with the exception of collecting a soil sample for the purpose of performing a soil sedimentation test in the Organic Master Gardener / Organic Horticulture Specialist course. This soil sample can be collected during warmer weather and frozen for later use in the course.

Upon completion of 4 core courses and 1 elective, students earn the Gaia College 

Diploma in Organic Land Care. Each of these courses focuses on a unique aspect of organic land care: 

ONLINE CORE COURSES
  • Organic Master Gardener or Organic Horticulture Specialist
  • Ecological Plant Knowledge 1 (Natives)
  • Landscape Design Basics with SketchUp Pro
  • Ecological Landscape Design

Landscape Design Basics with SketchUp Pro should be taken as a pre-requisite or co-requisite to Ecological Landscape Design.

ONLINE ELECTIVE COURSES
  • Business Skills for Land Care Professionals  
  • Ecological Plant Knowledge 2 (Ornamentals)
  • Growing Food
  • Living Green Infrastructure
  • Rainwater Harvesting and Management

All courses are offered on a part-time access basis to allow students to continue to work while studying.

Courses can be taken individually and in no particular order (with the exception of Landscape Design Basics with SketchUp Pro which is required before or concurrently with Ecological Landscape Design); we strongly suggest that everyone start with the Organic Master Gardener course.

Fees

Fees per course is CDN $795 and includes:

  • Comprehensive on-line educational materials
  • Unlimited access to our on-line course resources, community center, including libraries, discussion forums and much more

Professional Qualifications

The Gaia College Diploma in Organic Land Care fulfills the advanced education requirements for becoming a SOUL (Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care) Certified Organic Land Care Professional. The following are the two types of accreditation/certification that SOUL offers:

  •  SOUL Accredited Organic Land Care Practitioner
  •  SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional

For more information about SOUL please visit their website at organiclandcare.ca

Organizations that Recognize our Courses

  • Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA)
  • National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP - USA)
  • BC Society of Landscape Architects (BCSLA)
  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)
  • Master Gardeners of Ontario Incorporated (MGOI)
  • Integrated Pest Management Canada (IPM Canada)
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)
  • Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL)
  • Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)
  • WorkSafe BC