Senior Year Research Project II
A continuation of Senior Year Research Project I, Senior Year Research Project II enables students to continue work on the project. Students in SYRP II typically work on finishing research, data analysis, synthesis of information, and/or production. In addition, students create a tangible product as well as a professional presentation or workshop for the public. The product will vary according to the focus and intention of the research project. The presentation can range from a talk for the community, a workshop for a related class or an outside audience, or a professional conference. Project outcomes can range from business plans to nonfiction narratives to artwork to a proposed curriculum to a scientific research paper. In all cases, the projects are meant to be publically accessible and be consistent with Sterling College’s focus on experiential learning and meaningful, relevant learning outcomes. Students set learning goals and assessment criteria, which will be evaluated over the course of the semester.
Senior Year Research Project I
Senior Year Research Project I is the first in a two-course sequence that gives students the opportunity to pursue a particular question in significant depth and explore an area of interest that complements their major and their personal strengths. Students in SYRP I typically work on data collection, observation, research, analysis, project development and planning, experience, discovery and exploration, and/or creation. The project may have an applied component, but this is not required. Students work one-on-one with an SYRP advisor and the support of a second reader throughout the process. Students set learning goals and assessment criteria, which will be evaluated over the course of the semester.
Whole Farm Planning
This course will expose students to the complexity of whole farm planning by combining business planning and management with policy and ecology in development of farm models that support health of the land and business owners. Students will be expected to draw heavily on the technical and theoretical expertise they have accumulated through course work and internships. A major portion of the course will require completion of a project conducted in partnership with an existing farm or agriculturally based business. Grading will be based on significant class participation, written assignments and completion of major project conducted in support of an existing business.
Small Business Management
Students in this course will gain an understanding of basic economic and management principles necessary to successfully operate a farm business. Students will also develop familiarity with financial tools such as accounting, balance sheets, profit and loss statements and will apply knowledge gained to develop a loan application, business plan and grant application.
Holistic Livestock Husbandry & Grazing
Holistic Livestock Husbandry highlights tried and true management techniques and explores new directions for managing the small diversified livestock farm for healthy, contented livestock. The course looks at how farm infrastructure, feeding regimens, animal handling, and management decisions impact the health of the whole system—livestock, landscape, people, markets, and community. We will study different types of animals and observe how they interact with the landscape and facilities, using the Sterling Farm and livestock systems as a case study. Faculty will walk students through hands-on exercises, observations, and discussions, toward an in-depth understanding of how to build an effective and caring livestock health management system. There will be a special focus in this class on grass-based livestock production, with the goal of simultaneously healing landscapes, sequestering carbon in our soils, creating ecologically sound, humane farming systems, and feeding ourselves quality food. Students learn to farm resiliently and develop efficient on-farm grazing systems by mimicking natural patterns, measuring and maintaining biodiversity, and setting appropriate animal numbers for the landscape and season.
Livestock Systems Management
Livestock Systems Management will provide students with the knowledge and skills to assess housing, and forage production and storage needs, for a wide variety of livestock types. Air quality, special needs handling, manure storage, feed storage, water and fencing systems, construction styles, and environmental regulatory compliance will be covered. Class sessions will be supported by extensive field trips to observe a wide variety of animal housing and feeding systems. Economic implications of various systems will be evaluated. Students will develop a housing and feeding system for a group of animals of their choosing.
Watershed Ecosystems Analysis
The course will provide students with an understanding of the ecological, social, and political aspects of a watershed. Combining a study of stream ecology and land use, we will gain a better understanding of the multifaceted ecosystems within a watershed and our relationship to these ecosystems. Throughout the course, we will read and discuss watershed issues, as well as collect and analyze biological and cultural resources field data. Each student will participate in the Black River Bioassessment, resulting in a comprehensive written report.
U.S. Farm and Food Policy
This course offers a broad introduction to food the policy and food culture of the United States. It surveys the history of food regulation in the US, as well as the overlapping mandates, authority, philosophies, and rules of the two federal agencies with the majority of the food regulatory authority in the United States: the USDA & FDA. The course will investigate policies pertaining to food constituents, labeling, safety, manufacturing, marketing and retail, as well as policies pertaining to nutrition guidance and assistance programs. State and local food policy innovations are explored in context. As we examine the network of policies that shape, players that influence, and laws that govern our food system, students will engage in thoughtful policy critiques and propose new ways of addressing current issues.
Agroforestry embodies the middle road between agriculture and forestry land uses by combining agronomic cropping and livestock systems along with perennial tree crop production. Founded on ancient food production, ecological principles, and agroecological research, the integrative approach of agroforestry intentionally manages for improved biodiversity, water quality, carbon sequestration, and soil health through economically successful and socially conscious land use practices, including: riparian forest buffers, shelterbelts, alley cropping, silvopasture, forest farming, and special topics (e.g. forest gardening). In this course, lectures and course materials serve to define these practices and associated ecological principles, and to elucidate management strategies for developing functional agroecosystems. Practice-specific case studies and field trips provide working examples of agroforestry and interaction with practitioners and agroforesters. Throughout the course, students create an original agroforestry handbook.The course culminates with site implementation of agroforestry practices.
Literature of the Rural Experience
Like their urban counterparts, rural areas have historically been a nexus of cultural intersection-places where migrants and immigrants have come for work, farming the land, mining resources, harvesting timber, and thereby creating new lives, as well as places where urban dwellers seek recreation and refuge from city life. Such intersections have given rise both to tensions (between native and newcomer, tradition and change, different class and cultural values) and to vibrant and diverse communities. This course considers how people from different backgrounds have responded to rural living, as well as how literature has both reflected and shaped rural cultures.How do stories, poems, songs, and films represent both what is unique and what is universal about rural experiences? Looking at images of rural life in literature will enable us to examine the influence that literature has had on the ways we understand and interact with rural communities, as well as the role that literature (particularly story and music) plays in rural lives. This course satisfies three credits of a students writing-intensive requirement.
Draft Animal Power System III: Farming with Draft Horses
Draft Animal Power Systems III allows students the opportunity to explore the challenges associated with farming systems where horses are the primary source of traction power. In small learning groups, students actively use horses to manage the College’s working landscape including gardens, fields and woodlot. Students become familiar with reduced tillage practices associated with Bio-extensive gardening principles, front-end suspension logging arch, mowing machinery and other field implements. Field trips to area horse powered farming operations complement the course.
Draft Animal Power Systems II: Work Applications
In this course, students use horsepower to actively manage the College’s farm and forest. Typical work applications include equipment maintenance, logging, sugaring, soil fertility management, tillage, planting and cultivation. Economic considerations of using horses on the farm will be discussed as we compare and contrast animal-centric versus mechano-centric agriculture power systems.