STOCKSCH 197 F – Backyard Homesteading Online

 Feeding yourself, your family, and your community

Summer Online – July 7 – August 15, 2014



homesteadLink to the Full Color Digital Syllabus Here

GoatHelloOverview: This course explores home-scale food production systems with a focus on permaculture, intensive mini-farming and urban homesteading. The course integrates both research and practical applications to create home-scale food systems that have the resiliency of natural ecosystems. The essential components of diverse garden systems will be discussed in detail, including edible ecosystem gardens, soil fertility, mini orchards, water management, tools and techniques and planting strategies.

Instructor:  Lydia Silva
Instructors Bio

Student Learning Objectives – students will:

  • Describe intensive farming and permaculture techniques suitable to home scale food production systems.
  • Set measurable goals for their own home food production systems, including an assessment of caloric needs, potential crop yields and budget considerations and designing a garden system that closely meets these needs.
  • Describe season extension and food preservation techniques for optimal food production and storage.
  • Expand upon the notion of self-sufficiency by assessing regenerative environmental, economic and social systems.

Credits: 3 (transferable from UMass to other colleges and universities)
Class size:  Limited to 15

Course Components:  The course is presented in an online learning environment through interactive Powerpoint presentations, Prezi’s (, videos and online discussions.


  • Three response papers (33%)
  • Three discussion posts (33%)
  • Final design project (33%)
Required Text: The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country by Peter Bane

Tentative Schedule:

Week 1 Background and Techniques

  • Introduction.
  • Intensive Growing Techniques (Home-Scale Permaculture, Grow Biointensive, Urban Agriculture).
  • Reading the Landscape 
  • Water Management.

Week 2 Designing the Home System

  • Goals Articulation
  • Site Analysis and Assessment
  • Base Mapping
  • Permaculture Design Principles

Week 3 Energy and Appropriate Technology

  • Food Needs and Yields Analysis
  • Soil Fertility and Rehabilitation
  • Animal Husbandry
Week 4 Beyond Self Sufficiency
  •  Plant Propagation
  •  Season Extension
  •  Preserving the Harvest
  •  Forest Gardens
Week 5 Final Design Project
  •  Appropriate Technology
  • Building Resilient Communities and Social Permaculture
  • Cottage Industries on the Backyard Farm
  • Final Design Project


  •  Mini-Farming: Self Sufficiency on ¼ Acre. Markham, Brett. NY 2010
  • Micro Eco-Farming: Prospering from Backyard to Small Acreage In Partnership with the Earth. Adams, Barbara Berst. New World Publishing, CA, 2004
  • Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture. Hemenway, Toby. Chelsea Green, VT. 2000
  • The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self Reliance. Carol Deppe 2010
  • Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition. Gehring, Abigail. Skyhorse, NY. 2008
  • Earth Users Guide to Permaculture. Morrow, Rosemary. Permanent Publications, VT, 2006
  • The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City.  Coyne, Kelly and Knutzen, Eric. Process Media, WA, 2010
  • The Bountiful Container.  McGee and Stuckey. Workman Publishing, NY, 2002
  • Edible Forest Gardens. Jacke, Dave and Toensmeir, Eric, Chelsea Green. 2005
  • The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses. Coleman, Elliot. Chelsea Green, VT, 2009
  • How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Jeavons, John. Ten Speed Press, NY, 1974
  • Permaculture Teachers Guide. Goldring, Andrew. World Wildlife Federation and Permaculture Association, UK, 2000
  • Landscaping with Fruit. Reich, Lee. Storey, MA, 2009

Technology: According to UMass Online, in order to take this course you must:

  • have access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows)
  • be familiar with basic computer skills
  • be connected to the internet
  • have an e-mail program and account
  • have at least a 56 kbps modem
  • have a Java capable browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer)

NOTE: If you have any problems with technology, please contact the UMass Online Tech Support office for help.



This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program.   To register for upcoming classes, see UMass Online.  Most classes cost $371/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.