Looking at a map of New England, Sterling College might seem as if it’s in the middle of nowhere. In recent years, however, this rural corner of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom has become the center of an energetic movement focused on the nexus of sustainable agriculture and strong local community.
Local businesses are thriving, new non-profit organizations are opening their doors and the national media is paying attention to Craftsbury and surrounding towns. In the midst of national economic malaise, the new shoots of green growth in northern Vermont are big news – and Sterling College is right in the middle of the story.
You might have seen the New York Times article - published at the height of the financial crisis - which highlighted agricultural entrepreneurs in this part of northern Vermont. Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens, whose farm is just down the hill from the College, was photographed holding a basket of fresh vegetables in front of his farm-stand.
Another local farmer and business owner, Andrew Meyer of Vermont Soy, voiced a sentiment familiar to all members of the Sterling community:
“We have something unique here: a strong sense of community, connections to the working landscape and a great work ethic.”
There’s even a book – published last year – that describes “how one community found vitality in local food.” Although the book is titled “The Town That Food Saved,” the author’s parting thought is that the agricultural renaissance happening here in Vermont could be a model not just for saving one town, but for saving the whole country.
What does this sudden hum of activity and attention mean for Sterling?
Well, for starters, the College has always emphasized involvement in our local community as a pillar of the Sterling Experience. Our campus buildings may be painted white, but Sterling is not an isolated ivory tower. Sterling students, faculty and staff are intimately involved in off-campus happenings, and the wave of innovation and excitement sweeping through Vermont is one that our students are encouraged to ride.
Additionally, the attention directed at sustainable agriculture as a path of economic and community renewal underscores the practical value of the Sterling curriculum. There’s a growing sense in the American consciousness that our current path is unsustainable, and we need to return to our roots, cultivating a sense of place, a commitment to community, and plain hard work.
Sterling students have the practical skills and personal experience necessary to lead the way on the path to renewal. They carry a profound responsibility to apply their knowledge to the great challenges of our time.
This little college in the hills might have been isolated once upon a time, but it isn’t anymore.
What’s new at Sterling? Visit our website: www.sterlingcollege.edu.