In the midst of the wettest spring on record in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Sterling College has purchased a water buffalo, along with other farm animals well suited to a monsoon climate.
As a small college with a cutting edge program in sustainable agriculture, Sterling has a long history of agricultural innovation. The Sterling curriculum, which is focused on environmental studies, includes one of the most comprehensive draft horse management programs in the country. The College emphasizes practical experience as an integral part of a liberal arts education, and sustainable agriculture students work frequently with a variety of livestock to supplement their classroom lectures and reading.
“Sterling students are creative innovators,” commented Tim Patterson, the College’s director of advancement. “Primed to grapple with climate change, the next step may be to add some rice paddies to Craftsbury Common.”
Instead of living on the Sterling Farm, however, the water buffalo purchased by the College will contribute to the well-being of a rural village in the Philippines. The connection between a small Vermont college and a small Filipino village is made possible through Heifer International, an organization devoted to improving food security throughout the world.
Other colleges may give out T-shirts to visiting students and their guardians, but for every prospective student who visits Sterling, the College donates $3 to Heifer International, whose mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. Since 2009, Sterling has donated four flocks of chicks, two trios of rabbits, three flocks of ducks, two hives of honeybees, seven sheep, and the water buffalo, along with assorted trees.
“By supporting an organization that offers communities in need the opportunity to generate their own food and income, we are helping others to help themselves,” said Lynne Birdsall, director of admissions.
Sterling’s donations to Heifer International are hardly the only unique attribute of the tiny Vermont school, one of seven federally designated Work-Learning-Service Colleges in the nation. Sterling values hands-on work to the point of asking all incoming students to arrive on campus with their own axe. The College does not outsource its food service, and during the growing season, students produce about 25 percent of food consumed in the dining hall.
Visitors who make the journey to Craftsbury Common have been appreciative of the Heifer donations, and have remarked on the uniqueness of Sterling College.”It is a wonderful feeling to find a college who knows who they are,” wrote a guidance counselor who toured campus during a research trip in April.
Sterling College is located in the small town of Craftsbury Common, Vermont, in the heart of a rural region known as the Northeast Kingdom. As a year-round college, Sterling offers a summer semester in addition to spring and fall terms. Visitors are welcome, and for every prospective student or guidance counselor who visits, the College makes a donation to Heifer International.
For more information about visiting Sterling, please contact the Sterling College admissions office or go to http://www.sterlingcollege.edu/visit.html.
Water buffalo photo by Cathy, Sam, Max and Mai, via Flickr