campus news and events

Colby-Sawyer College Hosts Tom Stearns for Discussion of Food Systems that Sustain our Health, Environment and Economy

NEW LONDON, N.H., April 8, 2011 – Colby-Sawyer College will host Tom Stearns, president of High Mowing Organic Seed Company and the Center for Agricultural Economy in Vermont, for a discussion of bold solutions for building healthy food systems to sustain our health, environment and economy.

Tom Stearns's discussion will take place on Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. in Clements Hall at the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center. The public is welcome to attend and admission is free.

This event is part of an on-going series at Colby-Sawyer College to promote and highlight sustainable living. The college is engaged in a long-term, campus-wide initiative to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, integrate sustainability into the curriculum and overall educational experience, and achieve a shared vision of personal well-being, social justice, financial security and environmental stability for ourselves and our larger global community. To learn more visit . Sustainability at Colby-Sawyer College.

Stearns is the founder of High Mowing Seeds, an independently owned farm-based seed operation that produces hybrid and open-pollinated organic seeds that thousands of commercial growers and home gardeners rely on each season. He is also a leader in what he calls an “agricultural renaissance” among the farming communities around Hardwick, Vt., which has been cited recently as a model of sustainable agriculture. It's an area where food-based businesses share resources such as farm equipment and collaborate on branding and marketing, which has led to new jobs, a healthy local food networks and a stronger local economy.

The efforts of Stearns and other farmers and agribusiness owners to revive Hardwick are the subject of a recent book by Ben Hewitt, The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food. The book discusses how one small hard-luck town with an unemployment rate 40% above the state average and an average income 25 percent below the state average embarked on a quest to create a comprehensive, functional and vibrant local food system. Their efforts have met with some impressive successes: a plethora of new food-based businesses such as Vermont Soy Company, Jasper Hill Cheese and Pete's Greens, and nearly a 150 new jobs.

Stearns began gardening at an early age at his family home in Connecticut. Prior to completing a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from Prescott College in Arizona, he began saving seeds. A hobby was born in 1996 in Vermont, when Stearns began sharing these seeds with others through a small seed flyer. Since then, High Mowing Seeds has expanded into one of the leading organic seed companies in the United States, supplying both home gardeners and commercial growers. Stearns's vision is to create a company that would help support the rebuilding of healthy food systems, first in Vermont, followed by the rest of the country. He has taught workshops in more than 30 states since 1996 on many topics such as agriculture education, economics, community-supported agriculture, genetic engineering, plant breeding, local food systems, sustainable business and investing and more.

Stearns has served on the boards of numerous agricultural organizations, most notably as president of The Center for an Agricultural Economy since 2008 and co-president of NOFA-VT since 2004. He lives on 50 acres in Vermont with his wife Heather and their two girls, Ruby and Cora.

The event is sponsored by the Departments of Environment Studies and Natural Sciences at Colby-Sawyer College.

-Kimberly Swick Slover

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire.