Ecological Gardener Training Program

Discover how to design and nurture healthy and biodiverse ecosystems in human spaces through this this 16-week immersive training program at the Horn Farm Center.

The Ecological Gardener Training Program (EGTP) guides home and community gardeners, landscape practitioners, and aspiring land stewards in the craft of designing, building, and stewarding biodiverse native habitats that support the well-being of wildlife and humans. Participants will explore native plants, pollinators, lawn conversion methods, scaled designing, and seasonal management techniques that can be applied to commercial, schoolyard, and residential spaces. Completing this course will leave you with both confidence and creativity as you take action in this “buzzing” field.

Entering its fourth year at the Horn Farm, the Ecological Gardener Training Program is facilitated by our educational partner, Elyse Jurgen of Waxwing EcoWorks.

The 2025 EGTP will take place over 16 weeks from February to May. 2025 DATES ARE TBD. Check back for updates

Ecological Core Curriculum

First Four Weeks: Eco Core

The first four weeks cover essential ecological foundations for regenerative land practices. Students are given the opportunity to explore new lenses for seeing and interacting with natural systems.

Hands-On Training

Next 12 Weeks: Practicum & Project Completion

Sessions at the Horn Farm Center and regional ecological gardening destinations covering topics in field observation, planning, design, installation, and ongoing stewardship.

View the packet below for details from the 2024 program

including content coverage, outcomes, calendar, and costs.

Interested in joining our 2025 program?

By filling out the interest form below, you’ll be the first to know when 2025 dates and details are confirmed and the program opens for enrollment:

2024 Payment and Scholarships

$1200/person, $200 non-refundable deposit to enroll.

Broken down, this comes out to $75 per week for 16 weeks of classroom and field education at a 1:12 instructor-to-student ratio.

Payment plans are available and will be communicated with participants after enrollment. Without guarantee, we may be able to provide need-based scholarships to reduce program costs for interested participants. Scholarship-specific questions are included in the application.

Please review the Horn Farm Center’s Cancellation and Refund Policy and Program Waiver before submitting an application.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is a good fit for the EGTP?

The EGTP is designed as an immersive introduction: digging deep into the concepts and practices of gardening for ecological wellbeing while remaining accessible for all experience levels. Some participants arrive with prior knowledge and experience such as teaching, volunteering, advocacy, agriculture, or academic work, while others are entering the world of environmental stewardship for the first time. Past participants in the EGTP have tended toward the following groups:

  • Homeowners exploring lawn conversion.
  • Employees and volunteers eager to bring nature to the workplace or community space.
  • Career beginners, pivoters, and gap year students looking to explore or enter the native landscaping workforce.
  • Parents, environmental educators, and non-traditional students seeking native plant knowledge to share with others.

The EGTP is a good fit for anyone seeking to learn about how they can make a positive impact in the natural environment at home and beyond. No prior knowledge or experience is needed! 

Can I take the EGTP while working full time?

Every employer is different in terms of their flexibility and willingness to accommodate, but many past LSTP trainees have participated successfully while maintaining a full-time job. Past solutions have included flexing or reducing hours, using paid days off, and/or communicating the merits of program participation to an employer. Some have even taken the skills they develop to the workplace by spearheading the installation of biodiversity gardens. For those currently employed in environmental organizations–ecological landscaping companies, land conservancies, public parks/rec, extension services, academics, etc.–there is precedent in our program for trainees being permitted to claim employee development hours.

Of course, we acknowledge that employer accommodation for a commitment like this is not universal. We are happy to provide employers with enrollment verification and program credentials if necessary.

What are the physical expectations of the EGTP?

Hands-on learning in the field, be it through observational walks or installing restoration plantings, plays an important role in the EGTP. As we bring ecological gardening concepts and designs full-circle by taking tangible actions on the land, some level of physical preparedness is expected. We ask that trainees be able to perform natural movements common in gardening: kneeling, bending, digging, pushing, etc. Trainees can also expect to use manual and mechanical tools like a Hori Hori knife, pruners, and a planting auger. Storage, safety, and maintenance will be covered.

To be clear, active participation in project implementation is not required, and no trainee will be asked to exert beyond their limits or capabilities.

What is covered under the program cost?

Instructor hours, program supplies, plants, trainee t-shirts, and take-home tool kits including a Hori Hori knife and loupe are all covered under the program cost. Broken down, the EGTP costs $75 per week for 16 weeks of classroom and field education at a 1:12 instructor-to-student ratio.

How can I pay for the EGTP?

Payment begins when you submit a nonrefundable $200 deposit to enroll in the program. You will receive a link to make this payment and confirm enrollment after completing an informal get-to-know-you meeting with the instructor. We also accept cash or checks if preferred.

After enrolling, there are two options for payment:

  1. Payment in full.
  2. Installment payments through our recommended payment plan, which consists of three installments in February (due 2/26), April (due 4/8), and May (due 5/20). This comes out to ~$333 per installment. We also offer customized payment plans if needed

A link to submit these payments will be shared with participants after their enrollment.

Any checks should be made payable to “Horn Farm Center Training Programs” while listing relevant details (EGTP deposit, first installment, etc.) in the memo.

Are scholarships available?

Limited financial assistance may be available to reduce program costs for eligible trainees. Scholarship-specific questions are included in the program application.

What does the application process entail, and how do I apply?

Apply to join the 2024 Ecological Gardener Training Program by completing this form.

After you complete and submit your application, you will receive an email from the program instructor to schedule an informal get-to-know-you meeting where you’ll discuss your interests, goals, and needs.

Following your meeting with the instructor, you will receive an email from our program coordinator including a welcome message and a link to submit a nonrefundable $200 deposit. The deposit is required in order to officially enroll.

The application window to join the 2024 Ecological Gardener Training Program CLOSES at 5PM EST on Sunday, January 28th, 2024.

I’m new to the Horn Farm Center. Where can I learn more?

Welcome to our landscape! A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the mission of the Horn Farm Center is to foster learning through ecological land stewardship, experiential education, and community partnership. Many EGTP trainees come to us from having prior experience taking a weekend classvolunteering, or joining an annual event like our Plant Sale or Pawpaw Festival. Some are just connecting with the Horn Farm Center for the first time. Wherever you may fall in our ecosystem, the best way to digest the full scope of our mission, history, philosophy, and restorative land impact is by exploring our virtual tour.

About the Instructor:

Elyse Jurgen, owner of Waxwing EcoWorks Co., is a community collaborator
working to rebuild ecological literacy and biodiversity through hands-on ecological gardening experiences in South Central PA.

She is certified as a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional and Ecological/Permaculture Designer, along with earning an Ecological Gardening Certification from Mt. Cuba Center. She has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education, 7-12 Biology Teaching Certification, and participated in Cornell University’s Civic Ecology program. Elyse works alongside homeowners in a participatory approach to their gardening for wildlife needs, infusing educational opportunities during the design, installation, and management process. She invites homeowners to deeply engage with their land to maximize its potential in enhancing human well-being and supporting dwindling wildlife populations.

To explore Elyse’s ecological gardening work and experience in greater depth, visit