In response to COVID-19, Sterling College mobilized a number of context-specific task forces to assess a way forward for the College amid the public health and economic crises that will likely continue in the wake of the pandemic. The Self-Sufficiency Task Force was assembled specifically to inventory the College’s existing land-based resources as leverage points for increasing both institutional and community self-sufficiency and resilience, an extension of the capacity building work done in recent years. Through several trial phases at the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, multiple initiatives have increased overall production on the farm, including improved cold storage at the gardens, increased processing capacity for grains, diversification of plantings and perennial crop propagation, and a burgeoning CSA and food hub.
This growing season Sterling saw the realization of scaled-up production of the key nutrient dense, low-carbon storage crops. These are crops that can be stored in the mid- to long-term with little-to-no refrigeration or other resource-dependent technologies. In Craftsbury these include heritage grains like Red Fife wheat and Calais flint corn, locally adapted dry beans, and many varieties of winter squash.
We continue to experiment with supplemental legumes and pulses (i.e., soybeans, cowpeas, and fava/broad beans) as well as alternative grains, including amaranth, quinoa, African pearl millet, and upland rice. The College is actively increasing its focus on heritage livestock, focusing especially on heritage poultry (layers and broilers), sheep, and pigs. All of this experimentation is geared toward increasing on-campus food production capacity while serving a simultaneous agrobiodiversity conservation function, and supporting community wide food security and farm business viability in the greater region.