Much of the World’s food system needs rethinking.
Food Systems encompass the range of inter-related institutions, processes, practices, and knowledge systems through which human societies feed themselves. Production, processing, distribution, access, consumption, and disposal are each critical nodes in this larger system. So too are the cultural practices that transform a collection of ingredients into a cuisine, or the cultural knowledge that perpetuates locally adapted seed varieties and the stories that accompany them. Sustainable food systems integrate these elements in such a way as to create an environmentally, economically, socially, and nutritionally healthy system that serves the needs of human and non-human communities for this and future generations.
The major in Sustainable Food Systems serves students interested in creating more just and sustainable food systems in their own communities and around the world. Examining food systems through an interdisciplinary lens that integrates the College’s strengths in social, natural, and applied sciences, and environmental humanities, the major provides students with a critical, holistic perspective on the complexities that shape food systems 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 duties on the campus’s working landscapes and kitchens. Internship opportunities abound in the rich food system networks of our state and region. Further hands-on skills acquisition through classes offered through the School for the New American Farmstead provides students yet another opportunity for enrichment. Graduates will be prepared to work as sustainable food system advocates, educators, consultants, and food production professionals, or for advanced study in graduate school.
“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, Sustainable Food Systems major
Through field trips and intensive coursework, you will have the opportunity to connect with some of Vermont’s renowned food producers and learn what it takes to craft fine value-added food products, build successful food businesses, and breathe new life into time-honored foodways of artisanal cheesemaking, charcuterie, and lacto fermentation. You will also interact with inspiring leaders of mission-driven food justice organizations in the increasingly vibrant social enterprise and not-for-profit sectors of Vermont’s food system. You will get an unvarnished look at the policy-making process through dialog with food system advocates and lawmakers.
The Sustainable Food Systems curriculum provides the tools for shaping a more resilient food future, preparing you to advocate for better food policy, improve food access and security, enhance public health, innovate as a food entrepreneur, and nourish self and community.
Examples of Sustainable Food Systems Senior Projects
- Conducting a Community Foodshed Assessment of Lopez Island, Washington
- Cultivating Community: Exploring the Role of Food, Agriculture, and Community in the Lives of Chenango County Youth
- Politics and Culture of Raw Milk in Vermont
- Salvation Farms: a Community Gleaning Project Based in Craftsbury, VT
- Craftsbury Project Seasons: Food & Agriculture Education in the Classroom
What will I do as a Sustainable Food Systems major?
- Study food systems in the context of a fully functioning, ever-evolving, farm-to-college food system
- Ground-truth the lessons you learn in class by working with the plants and livestock on the Sterling College Farm, which ultimately become farm products in the Sterling College Kitchen
- Understand the chemical properties of food and biochemical interactions within the body.
- Prepare nourishing, whole food meals for yourself, your community, and people in need
- Distinguish between community-based and community-placed food programs and support the former to foster food justice
- Become attuned to the personal, political, social, economic, and environmental implications of your food choices
- Take part in special summer intensive classes about sustainable food-crafts such as fermentation, charcuterie, bread making, cheesemaking, brewing, harvest preservation, and wildcrafting
- Learn about the political, ecological, and historical issues affecting sustainable agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico and the fisheries in the Bahamas through Sterling College’s Global Field Studies program (included as part of your tuition)
- Visit the Vermont State House and advocate for sustainable food policy reforms with groups such as Rural Vermont
- Intern at places like Lucky Bunch Farms, Mandala Farm, Vermont Soy, Jasper Hill Farm and Cellars, High Mowing Organic Seeds Company, and Salvation Farms other artisans, growers, and purveyors
- Deepen your mastery of a subject that intrigues you by completing a Senior Year Research Project (SYRP) under the mentorship of skilled practitioner and academic faculty
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.
for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
As a Sustainable Food Systems major, you will be studying under the auspices of the Sterling College Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture and 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.