Straddling a fence is never comfortable, but it can provide a helpful vantage point, as well as the freedom of choice to explore either side at will. Such has been much of my experience straddling the worlds of the liberal arts and farming. Whereas many persons tend to see these worlds as disparate landscapes, I see them as much the same landscape viewed with different lenses, a landscape often demarcated with borders, boundaries, and barriers that warrant removal.
Agriculture, at its ecological best, is a study of a myriad of ecological interactions and an ensuing attempt to work with those interactions to achieve a desired result. The liberal arts tradition, at the core of its soul and history, is a recognition of the interdependence of knowledge gleaned from different realms, timeframes, and cultures. Ultimately, the cultivation of good citizens and the cultivation of good soils are not so different—in both cases, disciplines and discipline are requisite, along with an ample dose of humus-inspired humility.
Teaching at Green Mountain allows me to explore and share with students multiple fields of knowledge and numerous fields of farmers simultaneously—a rare experience in college education. I teach here because I keep learning here, and I farm at home because I keep learning there. I tend to think that teaching and farming are two professions that tend to keep one reasonably honest, since neither allows one to be too right for too long.
KCBX “Ideasphere” with Guy Rathbun (NPR) (March 2013)
KOPN “Food Sleuth” with Melinda Hemmelgarn (July 2013)
Webinar hosted by the Post Carbon Institute and Transition US (June 2013) http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-06-07/webinar-rebuilding-the-foodshed-virtual-book-talk-with-philip-ackerman-leist
Selected Educational Experience
- Full Professor, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems (previously in Environmental Studies) at Green Mountain College (1999-present): Courses taught include Contemporary Food Systems (graduate level), Sustainable Livestock Production (graduate level), Turning Traditions into Markets: Study Tour in the South Tirol (graduate level), History of American Agriculture (graduate level), Fundamentals of Organic Agriculture; Agroecology; Animal Husbandry; Sustainable Farming Systems; Agroecology in the Alps; Food, Agriculture, and Community Development in the Northeast; Biodiversity Issues in Agriculture: Seeds, Trees, & Livestock (now divided into separate courses for Seeds & Trees and Livestock); Farm Skills Intensive: Season Extension; Current Choices: Biography of a River; Images of Nature; Delicate Balance; Dimensions of Nature; Introduction to Environmental Studies, and A Homesteader’s Ecology. Designed “Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production” (SAFP) major; served as SAFP program director.
- Designer & Director of Vermont Food Systems Inaugural Summer Study Tour (May 2014-August 2015): Contracted by the Vermont Food Systems Higher Education Consortium to develop a 21-day summer study tour (graduate and undergraduate credit) examining the Vermont food system through the lenses and faculty expertise of seven member institutions, including curriculum, recruitment materials, admissions management, and budget development and oversight.
- Founder and Director of the GMC Masters in Sustainable Food Systems (MSFS) program (2010-2015): Initiated the collaborative development and accreditation of a nation’s first online masters program in Sustainable Food Systems, a 13 course graduate program that capitalizes upon students researching, comparing, and transforming their diverse regional food systems. Responsibilities include course development and management; program marketing; student recruitment; annual residency program; oversight of student capstone projects; faculty recruitment and oversight; curricular evaluation and revision.
- Director of the GMC Farm & Food Project (2001-present): Responsibilities include development of integrated initiatives related to Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems major, MSFS graduate program, college farm, dining hall, and associated outreach and education; oversight of GMC college farm; support for college dining hall’s Sustainable Purchasing Initiative; oversight of related budgets; grant writing and administration; fundraising for and development of infrastructure for college farm and Solar Harvest Center (offices, teaching space, commercial kitchen, edible lawn project); research and development for masters program in Sustainable Food Systems; and outreach and education programs at regional, national, and international levels.
- Founder & Director of the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production Program (2001-2013): Responsibilities included development and oversight of undergraduate coursework and major in Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production, including the full development, teaching, and oversight of ten undergraduate courses in sustainable agriculture.
- Coordinator for GMC Brunnenburg Castle & Agricultural Museum Programs & Internships (2005-present): Established and oversee semester-long programs and internships at Brunnenburg International Study Center in the autonomous province of South Tirol in Italy. Responsibilities include budgeting, curricular oversight, student and faculty recruitment, and contractual agreements, as well as recruitment of interns for fall, spring, and summer positions.
- Director of Environmental Initiatives at Green Mountain College (1997-2002): Developed and managed several key sustainability initiatives during seminal stages of college’s transition to an environmental liberal arts college, including recycling, composting, DEEP Scholars program, field-based coursework for Images of Nature, and creation of First-Year Programming with sustainability theme.
- Founder of Green Mountain College’s Cerridwen Farm (1997): Established on-campus college farm, beginning with a ½ acre garden area and currently a 23 acre working farm currently featuring diversified vegetable & livestock farming, multiple season-extension structures, CSA, real-time & online farmers markets, dining hall sales and education, a Community Commercial Kitchen, a front-yard Kitchen Garden, cob oven, and community outreach and education.
Co-owner of UpTunket Farm in Pawlet, VT (1997-present): Management and daily labor for grass-based herd of approximately 30-60 rare breed cattle, American Milking Devons. Products include breeding stock, beef, and dairy items, as well as forestry products.
Founder and Farm Manager of GMC College Farm (1997-2001): Development and oversight of college’s new farm enterprise, including management of student labor, budgets, and curricular development and integration.
Farm Manager at Clayton’s Orchard and Nursery in Candor, NC (1995-96 and various summers): Labor and oversight of 192 acre farm specializing in peaches, grapes, melons, and fruit tree nursery stock.
Farm Manager at Brunnenburg Castle & Agricultural Museum in the South Tirol region of Italy (1991-94): Management of five-acre commercial vineyard, fruit and nut orchards, gardens, diversified livestock, construction projects, museum infrastructure, and student labor.
Summer Farm Worker at Clayton’s Orchard and Nursery in Candor, NC (various years)
- A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement: The story of how a group of unwitting activists in the small town of Mals, high in the Italian Alps, came together to confront the pesticide-intensive apple industry that sought to take over their valley, only to become the world’s first pesticide-free township. The book is part of Toppling Goliath, a collaborative multimedia project with Douglas Gayeton of the Lexicon of Sustainability and Michael de Rachewiltz of Brunnenburg Agricultural Museum. Chelsea Green Publishing: November 2017.
- “Agroecology & Diversity: Toward Poison-Free Farming & Earth Democracy in Action”: A recounting of how the particularities of a mountain ecosystem made the choice for a poison-free future a rational political and ecological choice in the township of Mals in the South Tirol province in Italy. Appeared in Bhoomi: Listening to the Mountains, published by Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, & Ecology: October 2017.
- “Organic Uprising: How a Town in the Italian Alps Said “Yes” to a Pesticide-Free Future”: An overview of the story of how the town of Mals set a global precedent through a public referendum that led to the banning of all synthetic pesticides and a reclaiming of the town’s organic future.
- “Ur-ganic: An Alpine Township Considers Banning Pesticides”: First article to appear in U.S. media on the global precedent of a town that voted to eliminate all pesticides in a municipality. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26227-ur-ganic-an-alpine-township-considers-banning-pesticides
- Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems: An in-depth examination of transforming local food interests into community-based food systems through the lenses of food justice, food security, energy, ecological concerns, and market innovations. A joint-project between the Post-Carbon Institute and Chelsea Green Publishing. January 2013.
- Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader: Poised as a back-to-the-land narrative, this book examines the role of the modern homesteader – whether rural, suburban, or urban in the context of contemporary ecological and cultural issues of the early 21st century. 2010, Chelsea Green.
- “Mountain Farmers: Lives Etched in Landscapes”/“Bergbauern: Leben in die Landschaft gezeichnet” in Bergwelt im Wandel: Festschrift Erika Hubatschek zum 90. Geburtstag, Verlag des Kaertner Landesarchivs, Klagenfurt, 2007
- Vom Leben am Steilhang/This Field On My Back (Verlag Dr. Erika Hubatschek, Innsbruck, 1995): Translations and introduction for bilingual catalog to accompany ethnographic photography exhibition of farm life in the German-speaking Alps
- “Schalensteine auf den Langseeplatte” (Der Schlern 69/1995 Heft 5): Article in South Tirolean archaeological magazine on my discovery of a Stone/Bronze Age cultic site at 2300 meters in the autonomous province of South Tirol, Italy
- Die Frucht Ihrer Arbeit/Into Their Labors (Verlag Brunnenburg Agricultural Museum, Dorf Tirol, Italy, 1994): Introduction, design, and editing for bilingual catalog to accompany ethnographic photography exhibition of Southern Appalachian farm life
Selected Community Service
- Rutland Area Farm & Food Link (RAFFL) (2002-2011)
- Poultney-Mettowee Natural Resource Conservation District Board Member (1998-2016)
- UVM Food Systems Steering Committee (2014-present)
- Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council Member (2006-present)
- Pawlet Planning Commission Member (2002-2010)
- Steward for The Nature Conservancy’s North Pawlet Hills Preserve (2000-present)
- M.S. in Environmental Biology from Antioch New England Graduate School in Keene, NH
- Additional graduate study: George Mason University (creative writing), San Francisco Theological Seminary (theology), Northeastern University (teaching composition)
- B.A. in Philosophy from St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, NC
- CET Chinese Language Training Center in Beijing, China (Jan-May 1998)
- Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France (Jan-May 1984)
- St. Andrews in Greece Program (Jan 1984)
- St. Andrews at Brunnenburg Castle in Italy (Aug-Dec 1983)
- German: High Intermediate (incl. Tirolean dialect)
- French: Intermediate
- Italian: Beginning
- Chinese: Beginning
- Presidential Scholarship to San Francisco Theological Seminary
- Scholarship to Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France
- Distinguished Scholarship to St. Andrews College
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