Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time

Surviving the Future:

Conversations for Our Time


April 6 – May 31, 2020

An eight-week online gathering for curated conversations. On your own time, in your own home, with a new international community.

Facilitators: Shaun Chamberlin & Philip Ackerman-Leist

Featuring interactive webinars with internationally-renowned guests each week!


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Most of human history was bred, fed, and watered by another sort of economy. But the market has replaced, as far as possible, the social capital of reciprocal obligation, loyalties, culture and traditions with exchange, price, and the impersonal principles of economics.

—David Fleming, Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It

These are frightening and confusing days. As we rearrange our daily lives in response to the coronavirus pandemic, other interlocking crises continue to quietly worsen, from biodiversity collapse to food security to climate catastrophe.

In these tumultuous times, we will take a long moment to pull back and think together — to share conversation — curated by experts and in the company of some of the most compelling people who have been thinking about these issues for a long time.

The late David Fleming called this convergence of crises “the Climacteric,” and he held out a tantalizing cultural vision of how we might respond.  Now is our opportunity to reforge Fleming’s principles in the context of the diverse realities we are facing today in each of our own home communities.

This timely online, interactive course is designed to create and foster an online community of citizens around the world who are committed to helping their localities seek out new insights that offer the promise of Surviving the Future. Some may choose to pursue the possibilities unveiled in Fleming’s works, while others might use these as a springboard for finding their own unique pathways to confronting the Climacteric.

As we open up conversations for and about people and communities facing profound change, we increase our capacity to share and discover solutions, making our own localities more resilient in their diverse circumstances while also supporting global understanding and shared priorities. 


As I’m catching up with the material since I engaged slowly at the start, it has become abundantly clear how much careful thought and care Phil and Shaun have put into the course design and content. The videos are highly-relevant, thought-provoking and interesting. Your communication style with course participants is friendly, inviting and engaging. I’m looking forward to continuing to the readings, more videos and the high-quality presentations. Thank you so much!

-Jennifer Wilkins

I am deeply appreciating the effort and love that Philip and Shaun, along with everyone else at Sterling College, and the class participants, are bringing to this course. The twice-weekly live webinars are crucial for my sense of belonging. My hard copies of Lean Logic and Surviving the Future arrived last week, and I’m getting a great deal out of reading and re-reading, related to the group discussions.

-Carolyn Schmidt

We hope it will be repeated, not just for myself and my wife but so that this dialogue may spread and engage others in envisioning, learning and preparing for the uncertainties ahead.

-Gary Piazzon

Very thoughtful, full of important ideas and information.

-Catherine Lowther

The Program Includes

  • Week 1- Communities in the Climacteric: What is a Citizen to do?
  • Weeks 2 & 3- Framework for Community
  • Weeks 4 & 5- Rediscovering a Life of Place & Play
  • Weeks 6 & 7- The Path from Here to There
  • Week 8- A Conclusion That Isn’t Guaranteed


Why Online?

Low-carbon education that allows course participants to remain rooted in their home communities makes perfect sense for individuals and communities looking for strategies that offer the promise of “Surviving the Future.” Of course, none of us can go it alone, as individuals or communities, so the international online dialog offered by this course offers a unique opportunity to engage in solutions-oriented discussions, led by a diverse array of leading-edge thinkers from across the globe.

The online format includes:

  • A complimetary e-book copy of Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival, and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy
  • Select readings from Surviving the Future & Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It
  • Selected videos from our Surviving the Future symposium and the Fleming archives
  • Facilitated Discussion Forums
  • Discussion Forum Reflection & Response Webinars
  • Roundtable Discussion Webinars with special guests
  • Final Projects
  • Concluding with a convivial Carnival Webinar!


How does this course work?

This course is designed to offer a balance of flexibility and interactive opportunities for participants. Broken down into weekly content, with weeks running from Monday-Sunday, each week will contain a mix of readings, videos, audio recordings, discussion forums, and live webinars.

How often will there be live webinars?

The course features two webinars per week–one with Shaun and Philip and another with different internationally-recognized experts each week.

Who are the internationally recognized experts?

We are thrilled to be joined by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Rob Hopkins, Kate Raworth, Martin Kirk, Lucy Neal, Nate Hagens, Richard Heinberg, and Vandana Shiva as special guests in our live webinars.

When will the live webinars be scheduled?

In an effort to accommodate participants from as many time zones as possible and to work within reason for the instructors (Philip/Eastern US and Shaun/Western Europe) most live webinars are scheduled for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays beginning at 12PM Eastern US/5PM Western Europe. There are some exceptions to those times, and all webinars will be recorded and available to course participants.

About your Facilitators

Shaun Chamberlin has been involved with the Transition Network since its inception, co-founding Transition Town Kingston and authoring the movement’s second book, The Transition Timeline. He was also one of Extinction Rebellion’s first arrestees, chair of the Ecological Land Co-operative, and has spoken at venues from Occupy camps to parliaments. In exploring the cultural narratives charting society’s course, he has written and edited diverse publications, including drawing together Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival, and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy from the work of his late mentor David Fleming. He is also executive producer of the new film The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation? His website is

Philip Ackerman-Leist is the Dean of Professional Education and The School of the New American Farmstead at Sterling College, featuring onsite and online courses that inspire artisan skills and lifelong environmental stewardship for adult students of all ages. Philip is also the author of A Precautionary Tale, Rebuilding the Foodshed, and Up Tunket Road, all published by Chelsea Green Publishing. He farmed and taught at Brunnenburg Castle & Agricultural Museum in the Italian Alps before going to Green Mountain College in Vermont, where he was Professor of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems at Green Mountain College and established the first online graduate program in Sustainable Food Systems in the U.S. He manages a grass-based herd of rare breed cattle, American Milking Devons, on his home farm in Pawlet, Vermont.

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Disclaimer: Course descriptions on this webpage are for informational purposes only. Content may be updated or change as planning evolves.  Sterling College reserves the right to alter the program specifics, including details about course content, instructors, collaborations, field trips and facilities at any time without notice.

Professional Cheesemaking 101

Professional Cheesemaking 101

with Ivan Larcher


Registration opening soon!


Professional Cheesemaking 101 is a course for current or aspiring professional cheesemakers who wish to understand the principles and best practices for the cheese make room and milk barn. ​ This course offers a whole-system perspective on cheesemaking, which begins on the farm and requires careful attention to animal husbandry and welfare, forage and feed, dairy production, and milk quality. After covering the production of premium quality milk, the course dives deep into both the science and art of cheesemaking by exploring raw and pasteurized milk theory, cheese microbiology, coagulants, curdling mechanisms, and starters.

The course covers several different styles of cheese making techniques. Students work with milk from local farms and learn aspects of animal husbandry and milk production. Students have ample time to work one-on-one with the instructor to perfect new cheese make recipes, troubleshoot problems, and improve make room design and sanitation practices.

This course is produced and instructed by the experts at Academie MonS and made possible with the support of The Cellars at Jasper Hill.

black and white logo of Mons Anglophone cheese

Logo of Cellars at Jasper Hill



Cheesemakers interested in:

  • Developing new recipes
  • Perfecting existing recipes
  • Improving their craft
  • Expanding their product line

  • Troubleshooting problems in milk production
  • Establishing their own herd of dairy animals

Dairy farmers interested in:

  • Creating value-added product lines to their liquid milk production

  • Converting to a pasture-based grazing system

Affineurs interested in:

  • Understanding the challenges facing cheesemakers
  • Gaining a full understanding of cheese before it arrives for aging

  • Better identifying quality issues in affinage that stem from production issues
  • Working with cheesemakers to improve quality



  • Animal husbandry
  • Pasture management & fencing
  • Milking & milk quality
  • Cheese microbiology
  • Cheese recipe development
  • Fresh dairy products, including yogurts, butter, and cream
  • Production of lactic cheeses, soft washed rind, semi-hard, and hard cooked cheeses
  • Production management & make room design
  • Traceability and maintaining HACCP records
  • Working with retailers and distributors


  • Classroom theory and discussion
  • Hands-on work in all aspects of farming and dairy production
  • One-on-one work on individual objectives
  • Daily review of questions and issues encountered in hands-on work
  • Students train directly with practicing professionals


Course Details



Intermediate to Advanced.  This course is suitable for confident home cheesemakers and those who have experience in commercial cheesemaking. This course is often considered a professional development opportunity to those who work in the cheese industry.


There are no formal prerequisites for this class. In order to gain the full value of the class, students should come with cheese-making experience and a general understanding of the biology and chemistry associated with milk, proteins, carbohydrates, enzymes, and microbes along with basic algebra. Metric units and degrees Celsius are commonly used in cheesemaking; please be comfortable with these units of measure before class begins.

Registration Details 

  • Tuition for this course is $3100.00. This includes classroom lectures, hands-on workshops, lodging during the course and all meals.
  • Class size is limited to 6. A minimum of 3 enrollments are required for the course to be held.
  • A non-refundable deposit of 20% of the tuition may be made in order to reserve your seat in a course at any time until the full tuition due date, at which time full tuition will be due to reserve a seat in the course.
  • Tuition is due to be paid in full 30 days before the course start date. A late fee of $50 will be applied in the case of payments made past the full tuition due date.
  • In the case of course cancellation by the institution, deposits will be returned. Course fees beyond the non-refundable minimum deposit are refundable for cancellations up to 30 days before the course start date. Please contact your course coordinator for cancellations after that date.

Registration opening soon!


Disclaimer: Course descriptions on this webpage are for informational purposes only. Content may be updated or change as planning evolves.  Sterling College reserves the right to alter the program specifics, including details about course content, instructors, collaborations, field trips and facilities at any time without notice.

Course Assistant for A Sense of Place

Students in this course will help to support faculty and students enrolled in A Sense of Place as they develop skills and group dynamics throughout the intensive. Students will work with a faculty member to develop a proposal that outlines specific goals and outcomes.

Dimensions of Ethnobotany

This course bridges the fields of ecology, food systems, cultural studies and humanities, and provides students with an investigation into the diverse relationships between humans and plants.  The course will explore how different cultures have classified and understood ecological concepts,  the ways social dynamics established particular landscape practices and cultural identities, the usage of plants in artistic and culinary pursuits, and ethical considerations of contemporary wildcrafting practices. The class will examine the theories and methods associated with ethnobotany through lectures and experiential activities that take advantage of a distance-learning format.


Artisan Breadmaking & Heritage Grains

Artisan Breadmaking & Heritage Grains

June 22-26, 2020

Faculty:  Richard Miscovich

Connecting to the origins of sustenance, students in Sterling College’s Artisan Bread-making course will practice the art of breadmaking using both domestic and wild yeasts. This journey starts with bread baking fundamentals but also explores diverse concepts such as long-fermented naturally leavened breads and sprouted grains and sprouted grain flours. Students will start their own starters from scratch, allowing flour and water to culture with wild yeasts. We’ll study the history, significance, and community-building power of bread around the world and throughout the ages. Students will complete the course from a distance utilizing their home kitchen and learn through a series of pre-recorded lectures and live question and answer sessions with Richard Miscovich.


Course Details

Level:  Beginner

Prerequisites:   This course is suitable for students with a range of experience levels. No prior culinary or baking experience required. Home cooks with more passion than experience will learn the fundamentals. Aspiring and professional chefs/bakers who want to make bread with natural leaven and bake in a woodfired oven will walk away with new knowledge and skills. Small class size and individual attention make this possible.

Tuition & Fees:  $1300 covers the cost of the class, most course materials, and three meals daily from our top-ranked Sterling Kitchen. Not included are airport transfers or housing accommodations.



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Disclaimer: Course descriptions on this webpage are for informational purposes only. Content may be updated or change as planning evolves. Sterling College reserves the right to alter the program specifics, including details about course content, instructors, collaborations, field trips, and facilities at any time without notice. Some aspects of course content may be weather-dependent.

Integrated Farming Practicum

This course prepares students to tackle the challenges of sustainable farming in a world changed by a pandemic. Students will engage for 12 weeks, rooted by a weekly Whole Farm Thinking seminar that engages participants in a discussion of current events both on the Sterling Farm and in the regional and global food systems. Students begin their focused studies by choosing between a selection of short courses focused on grazing, horse care, perennial agriculture, or food preservation OR by studying independently through a farm internship. Students move into an intensive summer prep school that dives deep into readings by prominent thinkers and practitioners, while also building skills and knowledge to prepare for the Sterling Farm Residency. The semester concludes with students returning to Sterling for four weeks of intensive skill building, group dynamics, and farm management experience. Completion of this course fulfills the requirements of the Integrated Farming Practicum on the Sustainable Agriculture checklist. 

The Art of Fermentation

The Art of Fermentation

July 20-24, 2020

Faculty: Sandor Katz


Have a question about this course? Email Us

World-renowned fermentation educator and author Sandor Katz leads this effervescent exploration of the production of fermented vegetable, fruit, grain, and bean food products. Students will learn processes for fermenting primarily plant-based materials: from the basic techniques of vegetable fermentation to tonic beverages, mold cultures, and fermenting legumes and grains. We will also work with dairy ferments such as yogurt and kefir. Students will connect with traditional foodways across a range of cultures and learn of the transformative, health-giving power of beneficial microbes. Students will complete the course from a distance utilizing their home kitchen and learn through a series of pre-recorded lectures and live question and answer sessions with Sandor Katz.


Course Details

Level:  Beginner

Prerequisites:  This course is designed be enriching for both newcomers to fermentation and those who want to refine their skills, deepen their understanding, and widen the array of products they feel confident fermenting. No prior fermentation or culinary education is required.

Certificate: This course can be applied to the Sustainable Food Craft Professional Certificate.

Tuition & Fees:  $1500 covers the cost of the instruction, field trips, most course materials, three meals per day from our top-ranked Sterling Kitchen, and ground transportation between class locations. Not included are airport transfers or accommodations; please let us know if we can assist you with finding or providing these. Scholarships are available, learn more and apply here.


Subscribe for updates on courses like this:

Disclaimer: Course descriptions on this webpage are for informational purposes only. Content may be updated or change as planning evolves.  Sterling College reserves the right to alter the program specifics, including details about course content, instructors, collaborations, field trips and facilities at any time without notice.

Self-Designed Major Workshop

The Self-Designed Major Workshop serves to guide and support students who are planning to complete a self-designed major proposal. Students should be prepared to meet weekly, to share drafts of their proposals, and to provide feedback to their peers as they work to complete a proposal by the seventh week of the semester. This course is required for anyone planning to complete a self-designed major proposal.

For the Fall 2020 semester this course will be offered online.

Field Ornithology

The course is a field-based exploration of birds with a dual emphasis on developing and refining field identification and classification skills and gaining an understanding of the evolution and ecology of Aves. Topics include visual and auditory identification, a survey of the primary orders and families, evolutionary history, physiology of flight, migration ecology, nesting ecology, life cycles of North American birds, and an introduction to avian field research. Because the course is held after leaf-out, much of the bird identification skills will be auditory. The course will be divided into a distance-learning section and on campus section.  

Field Botany of Flowering Plants

This course is a field-based botanical study of flowering plants with a focus on spring and summer wildflowers.  Students learn plant systematics and advanced field identification skills through intensive field exercises and exploration of a variety of habitats.  Emphasis is on learning botanical terms and concepts through exploring the field-observable characteristics of flowering plants.  The program includes extensive use of botanical keys and field guides, as well as daily hands-on experience with the flora.  Accompanying lecture topics include the evolution of plants, plant taxonomy, flower morphology, pollination ecology and a survey of the angiosperm families. The course will be divided into a distance-learning section and on campus section.

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.

College Teaching Experience

Entails serving as a teaching assistant in a course previously completed with a satisfactory grade. Introduces strategies for the planning, preparation, presentation, and evaluation required for teaching at the college level. Students work with the faculty member teaching the class to develop a detailed plan for participation in the teaching of the class prior to the beginning of the semester in which the course is offered. This course may be repeated if serving as a teaching assistant in a different course.