Wendell Berry Farming Program

Preparing a New Generation of Farmers

Published in 1977, Wendell Berry’s seminal work, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, describes the peril facing rural communities. Among other issues, he discusses how higher learning institutions in this country approach farming through the lens of industrial agriculture rather than teaching nature-based, neighborly farming. Forty years after the publication of Unsettling we see how this miseducation has perpetuated economic, ecological, and social crises across rural America. The Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College was created to respond to these crises and offer hope for the future of farming and rural communities.

Sterling College, a liberal arts college focusing on environmental stewardship, pioneered teaching sustainable agriculture, inspired by Wendell Berry and others.  The Berry Center was founded in 2011 to put Wendell Berry’s writing to work by advocating for farmers, land-conserving communities and healthy regional economies. The mission alignment of these two organizations resulted in a recently formalized partnership, and represents a chance for Sterling to leverage its resources and mission to scale out, without having to scale up.

In August 2018 Sterling will take the first step in launching the Wendell Berry Farming Program by offering the program’s inaugural class, a two-week intensive in the vein of the College’s long-standing Field Studies program, entitled Homecoming I: Good Work is Membership. Ultimately, the College is planning a 2-year program in Kentucky designed for students in their junior and senior years of college, that leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sustainable Agriculture from Sterling College. The program will draw upon the College’s contributions to the agricultural movement in Vermont and, with the expertise and resources of The Berry Center, will establish a new site for undergraduate agricultural education in Henry County, Kentucky that will both prepare a new generation of farmers and will serve as an educational model for rural America.

With classes taught by Sterling faculty, the Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College will serve students who have a strong desire for an education that prepares them to come “home” to farm and build strong rural communities. Recognizing that student loan debt and access to land are barriers to new farmers, the fundraising initiative includes an endowment campaign that will allow students to attend for the cost of room and board only and offer low-interest loans to graduates to assist with the transition to farming.

The Wendell Berry Farming Program will inspire the most comprehensive change in agricultural education since the advent of the land grant universities and one that addresses the failure of higher education to use nature as its measure in preparing the next generation of farmers.

Read the full Case Statement here.



To receive updates on the WBFP, please contact Christina Goodwin:

Christina Goodwin ’02
Dean of Advancement & Alumni Relations
(802) 586-7711 x128


Founded in 1958 in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, Sterling College is the leading voice in higher education for environmental stewardship and rural place-based education. The College was among the first colleges in the United States to focus on sustainability through academic majors in Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, and Outdoor Education. Sterling is home to the School of the New American Farmstead and the Wendell Berry Farming Program, is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and is one of only nine federally recognized Work Colleges in the nation.


The Berry Center puts Wendell Berry’s writings to work by advocating for farmers, land conserving communities, and healthy regional economies. The Berry Center focuses on issues confronting small farming families in Kentucky and  around the country by encouraging study into where we have been, where we are, and where we are going in rural landscapes. By collecting and archiving the papers of the Berry family, the Center provides opportunities to study and work to learn from the past in order to shape the future with a focus on issues of land use, farm policy, local food infrastructure, and farmer education.

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