Livestock Systems Management (WBFP)

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 (WBFP)

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 (WBFP)

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 (ST) (WBFP)


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 (WBFP)

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 (WBFP)

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 (WBFP)

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.

Draft Animal Power Systems I: Driving Principles (WBFP)

Draft Animal Power Systems I: Driving Principles

This course introduces students to the systems required to safely manage and work a team of draft horses or oxen. Topics include the natural history of draft animals, functional anatomy, physiology, and care methods including both conventional and alternative medical approaches. Following extensive practice with ground driving maneuvers, draft animals will be hitched to a variety of carts and implements to learn safe hitching and operational procedurals to do farm and forest work.

Agroecology (WBFP)


This course examines the ecological foundations of sustainable agriculture practice to foster an understanding of the management and design of sustainable agroecosystems. Using a whole-system and multi-disciplinary approach students will analyze and design agricultural systems both locally and globally while considering the triple bottom line. It includes an overview of sustainable agriculture practices both historic and modern.

Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems (WBFP)

Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems (WBFP)

Using readings from prominent thinkers, innovators, and scholars in sustainable and alternative agriculture and food systems, as well as through films, field trips and on-farm projects, we will explore the major ideas and practices that have driven the development of agricultural philosophies and practices aligned with long-term ecological health and community resilience. Following a model that alternates deep, subject-specific explorations of primary and secondary literature in sustainable food systems with practical on-farm projects, this class provides students the intellectual and embodied foundation necessary for engaging meaningfully in alternative agricultural systems at Sterling College and beyond. Surveying the history and evolution of major problems in agriculture through time and space, we will direct our attention to alternative models that are more compatible with the ethics of land stewardship and a renewed agrarianism for the twenty-first century. We will develop a working knowledge of sustainable agriculture and food systems, while also exploring the environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions of these systems.

Restorative Forestry (WBFP)

Restorative Forestry

Due to past forest-product harvesting systems the need to restore habitat and rebuild forest ecology structure and function is recognized throughout the southern Appalachian region as a significant component of sustainable forest management. This course allows students the opportunity to survey numerous approaches to forest management that a landowner in consult with an area forester in Henry County, Kentucky has undertaken for the past 20 years while familiarizing themselves with small-scale re-forestation of recently degraded agricultural land. From these baseline concepts students actively engage in aspects of woodland operations designed to regenerate vibrant forest ecology and produce marketable timber by implementing a component of the forest management plan via a small logging job. Working closely with the landowner, students develop a deep understanding of the landowner’s management goals and expected outcomes. Course faculty guide students through a rigorous chainsaw safety and use protocol including directional felling techniques, logger first-aid, tree selection and harvest, draft animal husbandry and use as a log extraction system, and direct marketing timber to a local mill. Students engage in conversation with local proponents for the rejuvenation of a local forest economy in Henry Co., Kentucky by visiting several persons engaged in woodcraft and local small-scale sawmill operations focused on niche markets.

Tools and Their Application

This course teaches safe, efficient use and maintenance of tools important to outdoor natural resource work, primarily: axe, crosscut saw, and chainsaw. Weekly sessions cover skills needed for timber harvesting, firewood processing, trail construction and maintenance, and outdoor building projects and form the foundation for skills developed further in other classes. Woodlot and trail-work skills are applied to the management of Sterling’s land, and the management goals are discussed. Teamwork, personal responsibility, and personal confidence building are also goals of the class. Students are required to provide their own axe and personal protective gear.