Cultivate your best self
Shape a more resilient food and farming future
The study of sustainable agriculture and food systems encompasses the range of interrelated processes, practices, institutions, and knowledge systems by which human societies feed themselves. Production, processing, distribution, access, consumption, and disposal are each critical nodes in this larger cycle. So too are larger scale interactions at the inter-species, landscape, and socio-cultural levels.
The Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems (SAFS) major at Sterling College provides students opportunities to examine these dimensions of food and farming with an eye toward creating environmentally and economically healthy, and socially just systems that serve the needs of human and non-human communities, for this and future generations. Through a combination of academic and farm-based work experience, this major at Sterling College is committed to teaching students about the production of nutritionally dense, accessible, and culturally appropriate food using practices that enhance the health of local as well as the global ecosystems, while enabling sustainable livelihood options.
Examining food and farming systems through a transdisciplinary lens that integrates the College’s strengths in social, natural, and applied sciences, and environmental humanities, the SAFS major provides students with both critical- holistic and hands-on-experiential perspectives on the complexities that shape food systems and farming practices through time and space.
This academic pursuit is enriched immeasurably by immersion in Sterling College’s own food system operations through both courses and practical work on the campus’s working landscapes, kitchens, and satellite farms.
Through field trips and intensive coursework, students enrolled in the Vermont-based program will have the opportunity to connect with some of the state’s renowned farmers, food producers, processors, and culinary culture to learn what it takes to farm ecologically, to craft sustainable value-added food products, and to build socio-ecologically responsible food businesses and community-based agricultural economies. Internship opportunities likewise abound in the rich agriculture and food system networks of our state and region. The Wendell Berry Farming Program offers parallel opportunities in northern Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley.
The College’s minor in Draft Animal Power Systems intersects with and compliments all of these focal areas, offering practical training in teamster skills as well as associated considerations of appropriate technology, scale, and post-carbon power systems.
The Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems curriculum provides the tools for shaping a more resilient food and farming future. Our graduates are prepared to work as small to mid-scale farmers, farm managers, and food system innovators, as sustainable agriculture & food systems advocates, educators, and consultants, or for advanced study in graduate school.
What will I do as a Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems major?
- Study diversified, ecologically sound, socially just agricultural practices and food systems that restore and regenerate local landscapes and community economies in the context of a fully functioning, ever-evolving, farm-to-college food system.
- Ground-truth the lessons you learn in class with hands-on experience working with a variety of plants and livestock on the Sterling Farm and in the Sterling Kitchen.
- Get hands-on experience working with a variety of livestock in the Alfond Draft Horse Barn and the McCarthy Barns.
- Become attuned to the biophysical, historical, political, socio-cultural, economic, and environmental implications of food and farming systems, both locally and globally.
- Visit the Vermont State House and participate in international forums advocating for environmentally sustainable food and farm policy and food justice reforms with groups such as Rural Vermont, Migrant Justice, La Via Campesina, and others.
- Visit and/or intern the myriad farm and local and regional food-based businesses and organizations such as the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, Northeast Grainshed Alliance, Migrant Justice, Butterworks Farm, Vermont Soy, Jasper Hill Farm and Cellars, High Mowing Organic Seed Company, and Salvation Farms, among others.
- Get paid to work at Sterling College as a farm resource specialist, greenhouse/hoop house manager, maple sugaring team member, or kitchen/garden liaison.
- Take part in special summer intensive classes about sustainable farming food-crafts such as organic orcharding, grazing systems, fermentation, bread making, cheesemaking, harvest preservation, and wildcrafting.
- Study agricultural adaptations to climate change in Chiapas, Mexico, or food sovereignty efforts in Guatemala, through Sterling College’s Global Field Studies program (included as part of your tuition).
- Deepen your mastery of a subject or practice that intrigues you by completing a Senior Year Research Project (SYRP) under the mentorship of skilled practitioners and academic faculty.
for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems
As Sustainable Agriculture major, you will be studying under the auspices of the Sterling College Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems. The center not only oversees key academic programs at Sterling College, it also brings in visiting scholars, conducts Sterling’s food production energy audit, sponsors farm-related programs for veterans, conducts seed trials, and furthers the national dialogue about sustainable agriculture. Read more.
The Sterling College Farm
Sterling’s farm was one of the first college farms in the country. At 130 acres, the Sterling College Farm represents a vital part of Sterling life, offering opportunities to care for crops, conduct research, eat, manage livestock, and experience the joy of growing organic food for the people you care about at Sterling.
“The study of Sustainable Food Systems, a radical and deeply dynamic subject, is extremely important for the survival of our land, people, and planet. I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore and address food system concerns in ways that support all people to lead grounded, sustainable, equitable, and dignified lives. It is fulfilling to build upon my lifelong interest in all things related to food — how it is produced, processed, chosen, cooked, and consumed — and learn ways to be an effective liaison between farmers, policy makers and eaters.” —Emma Enoch ’17