Emma Enoch ’17 is a little tired. She’s been on lamb watch on the Sterling Farm. She was one of several students who volunteered to go down to the barns in the middle of the night and check in on the newborn lambs. She sees this sort of experience as central to a Sterling College education.

“Here at Sterling, because the Rian Fried Center exists, we get to really understand, on a foundational level, the work that farmers do,” she says. “At another college, you’d be reading on the importance of monitoring your animals after they’re born, and what signs to look for, and you get that at a certain level; but here, you can actually go down and do it.

Enoch knows all about understanding work on a foundational level. Her independent study in the Fall of 2016 tackled Sterling’s submission to the Real Food Challenge, and her work helped secure the College’s place as the #1 campus for real food for the third consecutive year.

She is thrilled with the College’s ranking, especially the statistic that Sterling went from 20% of its food sourced from its own farm to 35%. “It’s so exciting!” she says. “It had a lot to do with our meat production and sourcing our meat more on campus. That gave me a lot of hope.”

Her work on the Real Food Challenge was a source of both joy and frustration. “The great things about the Challenge were getting the mini profiles of all of our local vendors, because that isn’t incorporated into the academic curriculum,” she says. “For the Real Food Challenge, you have to really research the organizations and vendors from the inside out, it’s really intense.”

She continues, “I was frustrated by the way we’ve prioritized our local vendors in our food system in contrast to the way the Real Food Challenge prioritizes them. It’s a learning objective that I didn’t originally include for my independent study, but I’ll be adding that for my senior project in mapping Vermont’s food system.”

Enoch will be graduating in December of 2017. Her senior project will be a critical examination of the Vermont foodshed. “I’m finding the successes of sustainable food systems stakeholders, but in trying to understand systems thinking, we have to look at what’s not working,” she says. “I’m making a short book. I’m interviewing and highlighting 15 farms and people that embody Vermont’s food system.”

Enoch entered Sterling College in the fall of 2014, and she was originally thinking of being a Sustainable Agriculture major. She had an initial conversation with her first academic advisor, Anne Obelnicki, that changed her entire Sterling career.

She described to Obelnicki the sort of things she actually wanted to study, such as farm-to-school curricula and mapping food sheds, and Obelnicki told her about the recently-debuted Sustainable Food Systems major.

Enoch became a Sustainable Food Systems major “the second week I was at Sterling.”

She reflects on the things she’s learned as a pioneer Sustainable Food Systems major. “I’ve been able to see the way an institution has tried to birth a program while I’ve been a part of it, which is fascinating,” she says.

Enoch continues, “I was part of the search committee that hired Nicole [Civita, faculty member in Sustainable Food Systems and assistant director of the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems]. Just having a say in the instructors and the voices that we want to inform our students is really unique to Sterling.”

She has advice for the students who will come after her and work on the Real Food Challenge. “Don’t get disheartened by the tedium of the [record keeping] or research. Bring it back home, focus on how we can improve,” she says. “I genuinely believe that we can get the kitchen to source close to 50% from the Sterling Farm in the next five years. Focus on that!”

After graduation, Enoch will be heading back home to Maine. But her work in Sustainable Food Systems will be with her as she shapes her post-Sterling career. She wants to go to graduate school in the next few years. “I want to be a serial farm to school educator/curriculum implementer,” she says. “I want to make space for farm-to-school curriculum in schools.”

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