Faculty: Rick Thomas, featuring Tim Huppe and John Smolinsky
Developing efficient and affordable power systems to manage any farm or woodlot system requires thoughtful planning and technical skills. The use of draft animals as the centerpoint of farm power is experiencing a surge in popularity; farmers and loggers are using draft animal power to create economically viable and resilient-by-design power systems. During this five-day immersion course, participants collectively experience the daily rhythm of working on a draft animal powered farm. Rising early for morning chores, students attend to the needs of the stable and prepare equipment for the day’s work. Following breakfast, students participate in hands-on instruction designed to learn and practice basic principles and techniques to hone their developing teamster skills. After lunch, students continue skills-based instruction by doing meaningful work in the gardens and woodlot. Following evening chores and supper, skills sessions in blacksmithing, hand tool use and maintenance, hand mowing, screening films, or fireside activities such as spoon carving, complete the day. Following the course, students will have a strong understanding of the opportunities and constraints working cattle and horses bring to a modern farming or logging enterprise.
Prerequisites: This course is designed to introduce basic teamster skills and is appropriate for people with no previous experience working with draft animals. Students must be able to work long days, and be physically fit enough to lift heavy objects and walk several miles per day in all types of weather. Age requirement 18 or with special permission.
Tuition & Fees: $1275 covers the cost of the class, most course materials, and daily meals from our top-ranked Sterling Kitchen. Accommodations are not included in course pricing.
Housing Availability & Fees: On-campus housing is available for an additional fee of $60/night with a private bathroom and $50/night with shared bathrooms. Please note that Sterling College offers rustic/vintage/farmhouse style accommodations that are clean and safe but not luxurious. Availability is limited and room requests are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you prefer to stay off-campus please see our accommodations page for local recommendations.
Rick Thomas is a long term Sterling College faculty member, his role at Sterling College connects him to those things he values most: hard work, living a farmer’s life, continued learning through experiential challenge, and building lasting relationships with students. His courses are designed to introduce and then sequentially build knowledge on the use of a variety of viable sources of power for today’s small scale diversified farming endeavors in the field and in the woods. Interactive lectures coupled with hands-on experience allow students the opportunity to use mixed power system across the College’s working landscape.
John Smolinsky’s Earthbound Forestry Services focuses on low volume, high frequency harvest within the parameters of a silvicultural management plan. They put the ecological integrity of the forest first by using Horses special Draft capability within a harvest. “The goal is to work with landowners so that they can understand how harvests provide long-term health and strength of the forests economic engine within a healthy and strong ecosystem.”
Tim Huppe is Farm Manager and instructor for oxen workshops at Sanborn Mills Farm. Tim attended the Thompson School of Applied Science at the University of New Hampshire and worked in the construction and lumber industries, before joining Sanborn Mills Farm. Tim has taught oxen workshops nationally, is an accomplished ox yoke maker and has been a contributor to Small Farmer’s Journal and Rural Heritage magazines.