From Guyana to Vermont: Sterling Student Tofowa Pyle ’17
Tofowa Pyle ’17 has just returned from a two-week “very intense intensive,” he laughingly explained, as part of the Fall 2016 semester. The Permaculture class, led by faculty member Brandon Bless, camped out at Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne, VT and studied and worked on-site to learn about ethical and ecological support systems.
Pyle stayed in Craftsbury Common the entire summer, working in both the Kitchen and also with Buildings & Grounds. “The summer here is beautiful,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that gets done during the summer, because it’s warm. There’s rotational grazing going on, animals are out on pasture, crops are put into the ground starting in the late spring.” He helped faculty members Gwyneth Harris and Rick Thomas put in potatoes, carrots, sunflowers, and helped clear rows of garlic, using a hoe.
“I told Rick I’d have done a better job [clearing the rows] if I had a machete,” Pyle laughed. “But he said ‘no!’”
The main reason for him staying for the summer, though, was to sit in on classes offered through the School of the New American Farmstead. “I sat in on most of the [Integrated Farming] practicum, taking classes from Gwyneth and [faculty member] Louise [Calderwood,” he said. But it was the Regenerative Agriculture class that was the paradigm shift for him.
The Regenerative Agriculture class was led by educator, consultant, and author Darren J. Doherty. Students learned how to effectively and profitably restore and enhance local water, carbon, and mineral cycles. “I had five years agriculture work before I came to Sterling, and I raised animals when I was a kid, so I thought I knew so much more,” Pyle said.
He continued, “The Regenerative Agriculture course was really mind-blowing; it really highlight[ed] some of the stuff I thought I knew, that I actually didn’t. Having someone who was in research more than I’ve been, able to shine some light on the subjects that I thought I knew…it was really eye-opening. It was a new outlook.”
The upshot to this transformational summer is that Pyle is now considering getting a master’s degree in Natural Resources from the University of Missouri. Bless told Pyle that he “could do it in a year,” and that would fit in the time his student visa would allow him to stay in the U.S.