When classes reconvene next week in Craftsbury Common, Vt., Sterling College will be #1 – the first college in the nation to offer a 15-credit undergraduate minor in draft horse management. Yes, you read that right.
It's a sustainable agriculture thing, explains Rick Thomas, draft horse manager and faculty member in Sustainable Agriculture. "Sterling College lives and breathes sustainability. We have a well-respected and long-standing draft horse program," he explains. "Our students are building an ecologically balanced future with horse-powered farms."
The Draft Horse Management minor offers students a unique experience to learn the craft of using draft horses as a viable power system for today's agricultural landscape. It's about learning about handling real "live" power – not PTO power. The minor combines classroom experiences with extensive hands-on teamster training.
"We work with our draft horses in so many ways at Sterling College," adds David Martorana, a student at the college. "We work with them to manage our woodlot and to plow our farm and gardens. The horses are critical to our sugaring.
They're a big part of the community," he says. And, they really pull their own weight." (No pun intended.)
The minor was designed to deepen and enrich the four academic majors at Sterling College: Sustainable Agriculture, Ecology, Outdoor Education, and Environmental Humanities. Students are also able to self-design a major.
"Sterling College looks very closely at the complex nature of power on a farm," says the college's President Matthew Derr. "Our students learn to use both a tractor and a horse, and will bring that knowledge to the sustainable farming community."
The program is a mixture of on-farm experience as well as classroom coursework in organic vegetable production, livestock management systems, agriculture power, farmstead arts, and permaculture.