Regenerative Agriculture Management Systems

Professional Course Series from Chico State

California is the nation’s leading agricultural producer by total receipts, generating over $50 billion in 2019, far exceeding the number two leading state of Iowa ($27.5 billion). By sheer size and productivity, California has significant potential to contribute to working lands conservation efforts.

However, climate change, diminishing soil health, low implementation of conservation efforts, and lack of knowledge and/or access to information, training, and assistance with systems-based agricultural management have left us less resilient and more vulnerable to economic and environmental threats.

Photo of cows and grain silo at the Chico State FarmThe Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems at Chico State has developed this four-course professional series to support the expansion of systems-based farm, ranch, and forest management practices on California working lands, and foster conversation and innovative, collaborative strategies to address current and future threats and opportunities for California agricultural production.


  • Systems Theory and Practice [Read more]
  • Soil Health Systems [Read more]
  • Science & Practice of Ecological Forest and Range Management [Read more]
  • Farm/Ranch Planning & Design [Read more]

Course Structure

  • Fully online for flexibility and convenience
  • Lectures and coursework (5-6 hours per week) completed at your own time and pace
  • Weekly, one-hour live-online discussions with participants and faculty
  • Pass/No Pass quizzes to gauge your mastery of the content
  • Certificate of completion given at the end of each course 


  • $650 per course

Dates & Registration

If you'd like to be notified about courses, dates, and registration for the 2023-2024 program, please let us know using the form on this page.


Participants can take any number of individual courses, or take all four to complete the series. Though the courses are not sequential, we do recommend beginning with course #1 as a foundation for future learning. Course #1 is also important if you plan to take course #4, Farm/Ranching Planning and Design.

Systems Theory and PracticePhoto of tractor in a field at sunset.

Faculty: Dr. Cynthia Daley [Bio]

This course provides an introduction to regenerative agriculture management practices, with a focus on the interactions and synergies with ecosystem processes (energy flow, water, nutrient cycles, and community dynamics) to leverage the power of photosynthesis to improve water use efficiency and soil health across a variety of agro-ecosystems. 

Topics Include:

  • Introduction to systems management: challenging paradigms.
  • Processes and principles: Introduction to agroecosystems and soil health.
  • Minimizing soil disturbance: no-till, strip-till and more.
  • The benefits of biomass: cover crops and crop rotation.
  • Biological applications: the link between soil, plants, and animals.
  • Annual cropping systems (row crop; pasture).
  • Perennial cropping systems (rangelands; orchards; vineyards).
  • Incorporating and managing livestock through adaptive planned grazing.
  • Agroforestry systems (timber and grazing).
  • Economic view of systems management: short- and long-term ROI
  • Conservation through partnerships: opportunities and engaging effectively 

Soil Health SystemsPhoto of grass sprout being watered in the soil.

Faculty: Dr. Garrett Liles [Bio]

Understand the connection between soil health and primary productivity and, ultimately, food and fiber quality. This course will cover soil properties, metrics of soil health, and influences of production practices and soil management systems (integrated practices) on these components. Soil sampling, analysis and interpretation are presented, along with monitoring strategies to ensure on-farm success. 

Topics Include:

  • Basics of soil health: degradation and restoration.
  • Organic matter: the living, the dead, and the very dead part of soil.
  • Physical nature of soils: the what, where, and how of soil formation and loss.
  • Soils and plants: biological, chemical, and physical property influences on plant health.
  • Nutrient management: considering source, rate, time, and place when using livestock and plant waste to build soil health.
  • Irrigation technology and management strategies.
  • Soil testing and monitoring: what and when.

Science & Practice of Ecological Forest and Range ManagementUp-close photo of cows looking into the camera.

Faculty: Dr. Don Hankins [Bio]

Explore innovative and practical approaches to sustainable and resilient stewardship of working lands and ecosystems with an emphasis on fire. Specific emphasis will highlight cultural considerations in grasslands, woodlands, and mixed conifer forests. 

Topics Include:

  • History, science, and policy of forest and rangeland management in the West.
  • High functioning ecological processes in well-managed forests: case studies from public and private lands.
  • Sustainable rangeland management: case studies from public and private lands.
  • Fire resiliency measures, methods & controlled burns in forest and rangeland ecosystems.
  • Fire recovery methods for land restoration, incl. soil stabilization & improved water quality.
  • Grazing systems for working lands: processes, principles and practices.
  • Pollinators and wildlife habitat management.
  • Applied agroforestry and watershed management planning and design.
  • Applied management: sustainable rangeland and ecosystems planning and design.

Farm/Ranch Planning and DesignPhoto of harvester in a grain field.

Faculty: Dr. Cynthia Daley [Bio]

This course supports the transitional process to a plan, implement, monitor, replan management framework that encourages producers and ag professionals to work through a systems lens that addresses economic success and improved land health. Participants will develop a vision that incorporates management goals, establish a land management plan, and identify metrics to quantify outcomes and reassess their plan annually.

Topics Include:

  • Managing complex systems: establishing context to set goals with a vision.
  • Farm/ranch assessment: resources and inventories from the ground up.
  • Tools for enhancing resources within agroecosystems: a review of conservation practices and conservation effects.
  • Whole farm/ranch planning: enhancing resources and meeting goals.
  • The decision-making process: putting a conservation plan into action.
  • The carbon lens: evaluating a farm/ranch plan for GHG reduction and co-benefits.
  • Economic evaluation of farm/ranch plan.
  • Monitoring for adaptive management.

Program Faculty

Cindy DaleyDr. Cynthia Daley

Director and Co-founder of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture & Resilient Systems; Rawlins Endowed Professor for Environmental Literacy; Organic Dairy Program Supervisor; Professor College of Agriculture

Dr. Cynthia Daley is a professor within the College of Agriculture at California State University, Chico, and currently serves as the Rawlin's Endowed Professor for Environmental Literacy, and the Director for the Center for Regenerative Agriculture & Resilient Systems.

Cindy is originally from Illinois, where her family has been actively engaged in the farming profession for more than four generations. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois, her doctorate at University of California Davis.

She joined the Chico State College of Agriculture faculty in 1997 and founded the Organic Dairy Education & Research Program in 2006. Seeing the need to grow the ecological farming movement, Daley went on to co-create the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative in 2016 and guided the program to Center status in May of 2019.

Garrett LilesPhoto of professor Garrett Liles

Associate Professor of Agriculture at California State University, Chico.  

Experiences at Chico State and in summer seasonal jobs were a springboard for Garrett Liles to seek a master’s in soil and watershed sciences from University of Washington, Seattle studying headwater streams and the effects of forest management on stream and soil properties, and a PhD from UC Davis studying soil organic matter and the effects of disturbance and management on the terrestrial Carbon Cycle. Dr. Liles has a diverse professional work history including mapping the soils of Lassen Park for NRCS, analysis and planning of regional biomass to energy projects, and quantifying the effects of riparian restoration at the Cosumnes River Preserve, along with years of running chainsaws, building trails, and managing natural resources.

Garrett joined the faculty of the Chico State College of Agriculture in 2015 as an assistant professor of soil and plant science where he teaches across the spectrum of soil and ecosystem science while mentoring students to be critical thinkers and educated citizens.

Don HankinsPhoto of professor Don Hankins

Professor of Geography and Planning at California State University, Chico. 

Dr. Don Hankins has expertise is in the following areas: pyrogeography, ecohydrology, landscape ecology, intervention ecology, conservation, environmental policy and Indigenous stewardship. This expertise is applied to his courses in pyrogeography, water resources policy and planning, and nature and restoration. He has been involved in various aspects of environmental planning, stewardship, conservation, and regulation for a variety of organizations and agencies including federal and tribal governments. 

Amongst other projects his current research includes longitudinal studies of fire effects on biodiversity, cultural resources and hydrology and overall environmental resiliency in riparian forests, oak woodlands, and meadows in California and Eucalypt and tea tree woodlands in the Cape York Peninsula, Australia. These projects involve working with local Indigenous communities in the respective areas in order to achieve a broader framework of collaborative stewardship and learning. Don has also been active in policy related to Indigenous stewardship particularly as related to fire and water management. He has a B.S. in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California, Davis.

Mollie AschenbrenerPhoto of Mollie Aschenbrener

Professor and Lead Teacher Educator & Graduate Coordinator for the College of Agriculture, California State University, Chico

After teaching agricultural science at Paso Robles High School for eleven years, Mollie left to attend the University of Missouri. She completed her doctorate in agricultural education and my research interests include teacher education, creativity and effective teaching, and leadership. Mollie grew up in Oregon where she was very involved in the FFA program. After spending one year in the rain at Oregon State, she transferred to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where she earned her bachelor's degree in agricultural business and my master's degree in agricultural education.