At Green Mountain College, we are passionate about farming and sustainable food solutions. It permeates much of what we do — from our fields to our greenhouses, from our dorms to our campus dining hall — our conversations and solutions are influenced by food sustainability. Our dedication is highlighted in the GMC Sustainable Food Solutions Project, which is all about reclaiming nature, nurture, and nutrition — by way of learning why it matters.
Here at GMC, we believe that the ways in which we relate to food are good indicators of how we relate to our society, other cultures, and the environment. We understand that the issues surrounding sustainability, the environment, and how our cultures use these resources are difficult and complex topics, but we think those conversations are worth having.
We take our commitment to sustainable food solutions and environmental integrity seriously, and this is demonstrated through our campus-based and student run Cerridwen Farm, our pledge to buying local, our dedicated research in agriculture and sustainability, and our commitment to passing on this knowledge through summer intensive programs and semester-long courses.
Cerridwen Farm - Hands On Learning about Food and Sustainable Foods Systems
Education in sustainability shouldn't stay in the classroom. Cerridwen Farm is a small-scale diversified animal and vegetable farm on the southwestern corner of Green Mountain College’s campus. The certified organic farm is student motivated and operated and operates under the guidance of faculty mentorship and the leadership of the farm manager. Through our farm, we are committed to hands-on learning and applying and exploring what our students are taught in the classroom. All students are welcome to take part in the working farm experience, through farm chores, and our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) engagements.
The farm is positively impacting the environment by actively respecting the land and resources with which we have been entrusted and by raising up a generation of students to carry these practices beyond our campus and into their communities. The farm provides a number of certified organic vegetables and prepared foods to the dining hall, our CSA program, and to the local community.
Animal Husbandry, Composting, and our Farmhouse Commercial Kitchen
We also practice animal husbandry on the farm, producing raw milk, eggs, and pork. Our approach to animal husbandry is sustainable, because we recognize the importance of all the animals that we work with from a systems perspective, as opposed to large-scale farming that treats animals from a production-use perspective.
Composting is another part of our sustainable and environmentally conscious method of farming. We collect food scraps to return to the soil of our farm, enriching the soil and minimizing food waste.
Students also learn in our Farmhouse commercial kitchen, which was renovated in February of 2012. This commercial kitchen is available for students, faculty, staff, and even the public, with a ten-burner, two-oven Garland range, a commercial dishwasher, a three-bay sink, and a commercial-scale refrigerator. Through the Farmhouse, students learn about food safety and preparation, with an emphasis on responsible use of resources and a clean, safe working environment.
Understanding Our Sustainable Food Solutions Program
Another example of our commitment to environmental sustainability is our Sustainable Food Solutions Program. This program is research oriented and engages GMC’s undergraduate and graduate students in developing new methods of food production, processing, and distribution that are less reliant on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources. The program aims to reduce the impact of our food systems on the environment and to ultimately create the foundation for a thriving and healthy agriculture. The program includes research projects such as Sustainable Purchasing Initiatives, flash freezing technologies, and the construction of our high tunnel crop irrigation system.
Throughout all of our endeavors, we see Food Justice as an essential part of our farm’s existence and our educational platform. This means that we believe food should be fresh, nutritious, local, and affordable, and throughout the farming and pasturing process, the well-being of the land, workers, and animals is always kept in mind.
GMC Student Involvement
The farm is completely reliant on student help, so students can be as involved as they wish. Everyone is welcome. If you want to help with chores, process veggies for the dining hall, or even milk a goat — consider yourself invited! This is first and foremost an educational farm, so experience is not required. If you are willing to take the time to learn, we are excited to teach you. Students are encouraged to participate through a variety of opportunities. With summer intensive courses, semester-long classes, weekend intensives, weekly, and even one-time opportunities for involvement, there is something for everyone.
The Summer Farm-to-Table Intensive program is for those who desire a hands-on, in-depth experience of real farming and cultivation techniques. Through this summer learning experience you choose from course selections, building your summer around the skills you wish to learn to better yourself, your community, and the planet. You can earn up to 12 credits in 10 weeks. The courses cover culinary techniques and food system issues, sustainable regional food systems, and advanced issues and skills in sustainable agriculture with the integrated farming systems.
There are several undergraduate programs at GMC that require students to volunteer with the farm or use the farm as a teaching tool. In classes such as “Intro To Cerridwen Farm,” students have an obligation to work a certain number of hours on the farm to apply what they learn in class. The majority of the classes in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems bachelor’s program involve off-campus trips to local farms, where students are able to gain new perspectives and compare them to their experiences on GMC’s farm. Other majors such as the B.A./B.S. in Animal Conservation & Care and the B.S. in Natural Resource Management offer students the opportunity for hands-on learning experiences on the Cerridwen Farm. Students from our Renewable Energy & Ecological Design (REED) program have designed a solar charging station for the electric tractor used on the farm, as well as other projects.
Another opportunity to get involved is through the farm’s work-study program. Students who show intensive interest in the farm sometimes become one of a handful of work-study students who receive pay for seven hours per week of work on the farm. Students are also hired as summer farm hands to keep the farm running during the summer months while learning.
GMC Alum Testimonial
Keeley Titus (‘17) is a perfect example of a GMC student who immersed herself in hands-on learning opportunities through the farm, in an effort to develop her skills for future use. She took the Colleges’ 12-credit, 13-week Summer Intensive program based at Cerridwen Farm after her freshman year. The summer before graduation she did a lot of independent reading on homesteading to develop a blueprint for diversifying her parents’ farm operation.
Keeley is interested in sharing her skills and passion for sustainable food systems:
“I came here because GMC is so well acclaimed across the country.” “I wasn’t interested in the conventional ag program – I wanted to learn about how to replicate sustainable food systems at the mid-scale (instead of large industrial scale or really small-scale). I think that’s the way we’re moving as a country.”
Our love for our environment is clear. From classroom to field, we are taking practical, purposeful steps to safeguard our natural resources and engender sustainable food practices by teaching. There is no better way to witness this environmental integrity at work than to come and visit our campus and see for yourself. We invite you to do just that and consider whether a sustainability-focused education is right for you.
And in the meantime, visit Cerridwen Farm’s very own Facebook page! You’ll be inspired by what you see.
Are you interested in learning more about how to pursue a degree that focuses on the importance of sustainability? Check out our new toolkit - The Benefits of a Sustainability-Focused Education - your trusted resource on how to make a difference through social, economic, and environmental sustainability.