Sterling Farm

Among the nation’s first college farms, our farm is a big part of our 130 acre campus, and farm work is well integrated with academic study, the work program, and everyday community life. Students conduct research experiments on the farm, and gain hands-on experience growing crops, managing livestock, using the woodlot, and working with draft horses.

Vegetable Production

(Hand-managed gardens, tractor/horse cultivated crops, Edible Forest Garden, compost)
We work towards becoming a self-sufficient institution largely feeding itself.  The Sterling Gardens are currently about 1 ½ acres of hand-managed garden beds and cultivated fields.  In season, the Gardens provide most of the fresh produce consumed in the Dining Hall.

Livestock Management

(Intensive, rotational grazing, hand milking, animal husbandry, compost) We are one of the few educational farms set up to teach and practice intensive, rotational grazing.

Woodlot Management

The forested lands owned by Sterling College comprise roughly 393 acres across two locations: 87 acres contiguous with the Colleges’ campus in Craftsbury and 306 acres seven miles away in Bear Swamp all of which is enrolled in the use value appraisal program.  All work in the forest is guided by a forest management plan, influenced strongly by the principles of Silviculture, written by a forester, and implemented as part of multiple courses—in fact, during their Sterling experience, every student will utilize the forest as a classroom.

From our management plan, three primary goals guide our forest planning and fieldwork:

  • To provide an aesthetically pleasing forest setting, where the College lands can be a land-based laboratory.
  •  To maintain and enhance habitat for a variety of game and non-game animals
  • To grow and harvest forest products to make an income.

Wood resources extracted from the forest during monitored cutting is often utilized by the College for building projects.  Within several inter-related courses, the curriculum includes cutting logs, extracting them with draft horses and milling them into useable lumber for building projects on the farm.

Not all the work in the forest involves manipulation; courses in Natural History, Ecology, Soil Science, Wildlife Management and Restoration Agriculture, to name a few, utilize the forest as an active laboratory to observe the forest as a natural system.

A small stand of sugar maples contiguous with Sterling’s land is managed for maple sap production where about 200 trees are tapped annually, the sap is drawn out of the woods by a team of horses and boiled in the Colleges’ sugar house to provide syrup for the kitchen.

Draft Horse Management

(Live Power, care, driving)

Our horse team is trained to work with beginners and can handle multiple drivers.  The horses are a common sight around campus and in the town of Craftsbury Common. There are many videos of the Sterling draft horses on our YouTube channel, including the short film Working With Horses.

Overall, the Sterling Farm is focused on:

  • Educational Programming – To support courses in the Sustainable Agriculture major (Organic Vegetable Production, Agriculture Techniques, Exploring Alternative Agriculture, Soil Science, Whole Farm Planning, Farm Practicum, Permaculture Techniques).
  • Food Production – As an educational farm, we want to model what true farms must focus on – productivity. Our dining hall is our primary customer and students learn to work with the kitchen staff to fill orders in a timely manner and supply high quality produce.  The model of an educational farm with clear production goals provides hands-on experience and a reliable supply of delicious local food.
  • Work Program and General Farm Experience – The farm serves as a job site for many students in the work program.  All students work in the farm and gardens at some point during their Sterling College experience.