Sterling College President Matthew Derr has announced that Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of A Precautionary Tale and Rebuilding the Foodshed, published by Chelsea Green Publishing, has been appointed Dean of the School of the New American Farmstead and will take up the role January 1, 2019, in time for the start of the spring semester.

Ackerman-Leist has decades of experience and expertise in founding and in leading sustainable agriculture and food systems programs for undergraduate and graduate students. Most recently, he has served as Professor of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems and Sustainable Food Solutions Initiative Director at Green Mountain College, where he was instrumental to that college’s sustainability initiatives.

Ackerman-Leist will teach in and lead Sterling’s continuing education program, The School of the New American Farmstead, with its leading-edge short courses that inspire lifelong environmental stewardship for residential and non-residential adult students of all ages. “I’m deeply honored to join the Sterling College community and my fellow Chelsea Green authors in extending the reach and vision of the School of the New American Farmstead and the Wendell Berry Farming Program,” said Ackerman-Leist. “It excites me to think about the innovative potential of integrating Sterling’s world-class experiential opportunities in Vermont and Kentucky with engaging digital interfaces. The result? A School of the New American Farmstead education that will soon be both rooted and mobile—and available to anyone who wants it. At this critical point in time in our relationship to the natural world, everyone needs at least a taste of what the School of the New American Farmstead has to offer.”

The School’s programs are underwritten by Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont Creamery, The Cellars at Jasper Hill and others. “As a proud underwriter of the School of the New American Farmstead, we could not be more pleased to see Philip assume leadership of this innovative program,” said Margo Baldwin, president and co-founder of Chelsea Green Publishing and Sterling College trustee. “Having worked with him on three books, I know that Philip brings just the right vision, expertise and technological know-how to help Sterling navigate the challenges and opportunities for environmental education in the 21st century, both place-based and online.”

Sterling, which recently announced the successful completion of a five-year, $11.6 million fundraising campaign and the launch of the Wendell Berry Farming Program in New Castle, Kentucky, will engage in a community-wide strategic planning effort next year, co-chaired by trustees Margo Baldwin and Allison Hooper, that will, among other environmental stewardship initiatives, investigate the development of graduate studies at Sterling. “These are challenging times for small Vermont colleges; to be successful requires inspired and passionate leadership. As a practical and visionary leader for food systems in Vermont and internationally, Philip will bring energy and organization to Sterling College as it advances its agrarian vision and already creative programs in ways that will attract students and provide compelling intellectual and hands-on experiences,” said Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, who also serves on the Board of Advisors at Sterling.

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