Thursday, July 2, 2009

Our Brush with Richard Branson: Sustainable Agriculture Rises to a New Level

Earlier this year, Sterling College placed two recent grads, Angie Revallo and Ben Mackie (giving tractor driving pointers to Sir Richard in the photo) at Natirar’s Culinary Center, Ninety Acres, in a collaborative effort with Rutgers University, to achieve agricultural authenticity and develop the Farm to Fork model for sustainable agriculture.

Take the international influence of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin trademark, a 100-year old estate in central New Jersey, newly minted organic farmers from northern Vermont, and a culinary school and you get the exciting beginnings of a farm-to-cooking school-to-table resort enterprise—The Farm at Natirar.

Named for the number of acres of land leased from Somerset County, Ninety Acres Culinary Center consists of a restaurant, cooking school, and a working farm complete with livestock and herb gardens.

It is no surprise that recent graduates of Sterling are very proficient at using the tools and skills they learned on campus in today’s “real world." Natirar discovered this first hand when Angela Revallo and Benjamin Mackie joined the development team. Both graduates of Sterling’s class of 2009, Angie and Ben were hired as Natirar’s full–time farmers and have begun strategically planning and implementing the farms, gardens, and livestock programs on the property. They are supported in this massive undertaking, not only by the professors and administrators that taught them during their years as undergraduates in Vermont, but also by the faculty at Rutgers NJAES and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences who are right in the “backyard” of their new home in New Jersey.

Natirar is collaborating with both Sterling College, Vermont, and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, NJAES, both units of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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