The Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: The First Six Months

Last August, Sterling College received a challenge grant from an anonymous foundation, which will match dollar for dollar up to $250,000 in donations for the Center. To date, the amount raised by Sterling and matched by the foundation is over $292,000. Sterling College is grateful to the Fried family, Clean Yield, and to the many donors who knew Rian’s work for their support of this project in his name.


While Sterling College has provided leadership in sustainable agriculture education for over thirty years, the Rian Fried Center is expanding the offerings of continuing-education courses that are open to the public and enrolled Sterling College students. Courses developed for enrollment over the next six months include the following:

        • Artisan Cheese Institute with the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm
        • Working Horses, Working Landscapes: Draft horses in fields and forests
        • From Forest to Forge: Wood-frame farm building construction
        • Writing in Place: Humanities, food systems, rural culture, and the environment
        • Charcuterie: Butchering, processing, fermentation, and curing
        • Fermentation with Sandor Katz

(For more information on these courses, visit


The Rian Fried Center is poised to spend $500,000 on expanded and improved agricultural facilities. These improved spaces and new buildings will support Sterling students and established businesses as they conduct research that addresses hurdles to the expansion of Vermont’s agricultural economy and job creation. The college is working collaboratively to address issues of responsible energy use and the impact of the new construction on the campus as a whole.

Renovations are being proposed within the $500,000 budget for the existing barns to support continued production of poultry, meat rabbits, beef animals, lambs, and goat bucklings.

Central to the new construction is a proposed 2400-square-foot main barn to house draft horses, feed, and even possibly a micro-dairy. The proposed site will be visible from Craftsbury Road and will form the anchor of the “agricultural campus.”

Adjacent to the main barn will be a 20-foot by 24-foot blacksmith/forge shop to support the care of the draft horses and expand iron-working capabilities on campus. The construction of the blacksmith shop will be the center of a continuing-education course, “From Forestry to Forge,” that will be held this summer in collaboration with the Yestermorrow Design/Build School.


Historically, Sterling College has provided facilities, equipment, faculty, and staff to the Governors Institute and Craftsbury Academy to increase high-school students’ interest in, and awareness of, agricultural production. The focus provided by the Rian Fried Center has broadened the scope of these efforts to include higher education.

A memorandum of understanding was written between seven institutions to create the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium. Building on the assets of each institution in a cooperative manner will increase the collective impact on Vermont’s food and farm sector. By working together, the seven schools will support job creation in the food and farm economy and advance efforts beyond Vermont’s borders. With leadership provided by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, Sterling faculty are regularly meeting with all consortium members to define the collaborative nature of the effort.

Sterling College, through the Rian Fried Center, has met with a Vermont consortium member to develop co-branding of continuing-education short courses, consider one-semester exchanges, and explore the opportunity for students to choose between varied approaches to a summer semester experience offered by each school.

Business Support

The Rian Fried Center provides a mechanism to expand applied research and educational offerings through partnership with businesses such as Jasper Hill, High Fields Institute for Composting, and High Mowing Organic Seeds.

In mid-December, Sterling College President Matthew Derr and college faculty met with a number of food and agriculture businesses to explain the vision of the Rian Fried Center and for informal discussion of how Sterling can better support business growth and development. Because of the meeting, discussions are in progress between Sterling College and various businesses to finalize details of shared educational and research projects.


When the Rian Fried Center was first announced, Tom Stearns, Sterling College trustee and president of High Mowing Organic Seeds, said, “My hope for the new center is that innovation and creativity will abound at every level—classroom, community partnerships, entrepreneurship, finance, and more. That would make Rian proud.”

While Sterling College still feels the loss of Rian’s friendship and guidance keenly, his inspiration remains with us and is embodied in the new Center. For more information, including how to donate to the Center, please visit

Louise Calderwood is Special Assistant to the President for the Rian Fied Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems.

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Sterling College Launches the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems