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Growing Community & Skills at the School of the New American Farmstead

Pies Photo: School of the New American Farmstead

CRAFTSBURY COMMON, Vt. –– Fermentation, cheesemaking, bread baking and more were on the menu at the School of the New American Farmstead at Sterling College this summer, marking the school’s fourth year of nationally-acclaimed courses focused on cutting-edge topics in food and farming. The program creates opportunities for entrepreneurs, professionals and life-long learners to gain hands-on experience via an intensive week of learning and sharing with the experts in regenerative food, design and agriculture.

Our continuing education students leave here with inspiration and vision,” said Philip Ackerman-Leist, Dean of the School of the New American Farmstead. “They consistently cite the combination of hands-on experience and insight from instructors as helping them get to the next level of their hobby, passion or farm-based business.”

The School of the New American Farmstead works in partnership with Chelsea Green Publishing, featuring the company’s award-winning authors as instructors. As a result, students have unusual access to authors of some of the most relevant and compelling books on creating a sustainable future. In addition, the School of the New American Farmstead works closely with the Cellars at Jasper Hill and the Center for an Agricultural Economy to offer a suite of courses for professional cheesemakers. All courses are open to public enrollment, and students receive continuing education credits upon completion.

Recap of Summer 2019

The Summer 2019 season kicked off in May with an all-day workshop led by Dr. Vandana Shiva, internationally-renowned ecologist, activist and author. The workshop was attended by over 150 people and explored strategies for environmental and social justice.

Later in May, world-renowned cheesemaker David Asher, author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, taught two natural cheesemaking courses. Aspiring cheesemakers and DIY kitchen hobbyists came to Craftsbury Common to learn all aspects of farmhouse cheesemaking in the Raw Milk Cheeses course. Five days of hands-on instruction allowed students to prepare different styles of cheese and observe the stages of their evolution, providing insight into how many cheeses can evolve from the very same milk, with the same culture and the same rennet. Students in the Specialty Goat & Sheep Cheeses course studied the nuances of goat and sheep milk, making a variety of styles, like Roquefort from fresh raw sheep milk and aged ones like valencay and saint maure from goat milk.

Baker Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Bakery taught Empowered Breads, Pies and Pastries in May, a playful look at baking as art, art as nourishment and the role of community in both. Students learned techniques and recipes for three different sourdough breads, a sourdough pie crust and a rustic puff pastry. The class visited Bread & Puppet Theater in the neighboring town of Glover, one of the country’s oldest efforts to connect protest, art and bread.

In June, New York Times bestselling author Sandor Katz returned for his third season to teach his trademark course, The Art of Fermentation. Using the bounty of Sterling’s own vegetable gardens and greenhouses, Students learned the processes for fermenting primarily plant-based materials, like vegetables,  legumes and grains.

Renowned author and baker Richard Miscovich returned to campus in July, along with a portable wood-fired oven and hand-harvested artisan grains, teaching Artisan Breadmaking and Heritage Grains to students from as far away as Brazil and California on how to blend the wisdom of the past with a taste of the artisan bread-baking future. Plans are underway for Richard to teach his fifth class for Sterling in June 2020 at the college’s new study site at Brunnenburg Castle and Agricultural Museum in northern Italy.

Upcoming Courses

Next up on the schedule are two courses in blacksmithing. Hardwick blacksmith Lucian Avery teaches a foundational course in August for the beginner blacksmith, followed by  knife-making. In this class, students will learn how to forge a Scandinavian-style knife blade and make a wooden handle customized for the student’s hand. This class provides a foundation for people who want to go farther into knife making or making other tools and covers the maintenance of tools in general.

In addition to these August classes, the school will continue to offer courses throughout the fall and winter, including a second session of its popular Sustainability Tour for Dietitians at Brunnenburg Castle in the Italian Alps. As part of a partnership with the Cellars at Jasper Hill, the School is offering a unique intensive training in Affinage: The Art of Ripening Cheese with Eric Meredith, in September.


Accessibility to interested learners is a stated goal of the program. Two foundations with Northeast Kingdom connections help to support these continuing education opportunities by funding scholarships for students to take a course through the School of the New American Farmstead. The scholarships are specifically for people who identify as low-income and/or of Abenaki heritage. A third granting entity, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), is generously providing scholarships specific to military veterans. 

To learn more about upcoming courses, or to apply for a scholarship, please visit:  

Cover Photo: Artisan Baking & Heritage Grains at the School for the New American Farmstead



Founded in 1958 in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, Sterling College advances ecological thinking and action through affordable experiential learning, preparing knowledgeable, skilled and responsible leaders to face the ecological crises caused by unlimited growth and consumption that threatens the future of the planet. Enrollment is limited to 125 students, and Sterling is home to the School of the New American Farmstead and the Wendell Berry Farming Program, is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education and is one of only nine colleges and universities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a “Work College.”



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