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.

Introduction to Sustainable Living

The flow of the course is defined by the three writing assignments. The writing process is focused on through multiple drafts and peer review.

The semester starts with students creating a statement of personal philosophy and goals. Defining terms like sustainability, resilience, and stewardship gives a foundation to the discussion of how our views are shaped by our social identities and experiences. Influences such as religion and schooling are reflected on.

The course progresses from personal beliefs to more concrete concepts through the Ideal Society Project/Paper. Looking from a solutions perspective, many ways of meeting modern human needs including food, clean water, housing, transportation, recreation, community, and earning money are examined. Practices ranging from simple living to high-tech ways of reducing detrimental social and environmental impacts are examined. Tools like Ecological Footprinting, life-cycle analysis, and spreadsheets are used to compare options. Community cooperation and social empowerment theories are explored as well as specific technologies. Successful policies, practices and inspiring people from around the world are highlighted as good examples. Acknowledging barriers to the adoption of these ideas and practices is unfortunately necessary. Meanwhile, class generated action projects, campus maintenance, a building project, and a couple field trips provide experiential involvement. Finally, an issue letter to government representatives focuses on solutions at the national policy level. Fundamental scientific principles from ecology and chemistry are used to understand world and regional environmental problems. Topics could come from students’ previous knowledge or from those covered in this class: acid deposition, mercury bioaccumulation, and air quality.

Anthropology of Food

Being necessary to our basic biological survival, food is a human universal. Indeed, the paired technological revolutions of fire and cooking are central features of a common human experience reaching deep into our species’ evolutionary past. But food is much more than just an instrumental caloric requirement. In both modern and historic times, when it comes to the manner of its acquisition/production, preparation, and consumption food is among the most highly differentiated and symbolically laden of all socio-cultural domains. Scholars have long noted that in processes of assimilation, negotiation, and exchange characteristic of the colonial forces that have shaped our contemporary world, food traditions are the most persistent and resistant to change. Food is sacred and profane, food nourishes and malnourishes, food comforts and disgusts, food is shared and withheld, food can foster peace and it can kindle conflict. This class will examine this most complex and multifaceted of human necessities from an anthropological perspective that accounts for a range of possibilities along the continuum from local to global.