Frank Szawlowski, the current owner of Swaz Potato Farm, has taken over the family business and has been running it for years. He shared that potato farming is all he has ever known since he was a little boy. He grew up "eating dirt" and using the farm as his playground. He has worked on the farm his whole life and believes that the independence and freedom that comes with the job makes all of the hard work well worth it.
As active members in the community, Swaz Potato Farms donates over 100,000 pounds of potatoes to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts every year. They also offer seconds, or imperfect produce, to the Food Bank and other organizations at a discounted price. This allow their business to make money off of products that they would otherwise be throwing away and helps them decrease the amount of food waste they are producing.
Swaz Potato Farms was founded in 1910 by John Rupert Szawlowski and grows 5,000 acres of White, Red, Yukon Gold, and Russet potatoes in the Connecticut River Valley. The Szawlowski family business is based in Hatfield, MA and has been in operation for over 100 years. They are now one of the largest potato farms in New England. The provide potatoes to UMass Dining and many other businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants across the region.
At Swaz Potato Farms, they harvest their crops until late November but operate throughout the winter by storing, packing, and distributing potatoes from growers across the country. This enables them to run a full-time farm in New England and to provide a variety of products for their customers 365 days a year. During their peak season in August, they harvest 500,000 pounds of potatoes every day and package 80 bags a minute at their facility.
Additionally, the Food Bank of Western MA works hard to increase food security in the Pioneer Valley by supplying local community meal programs with fresh, nutritious food.
Chris Young is currently the Sustainable Food Systems Purchasing Coordinator for UMass Dining. In this role, he is responsible for handling the data and metrics reports for all of the local food purchases that are made. UMass currently sources products and ingredients from over 100 small farms and businesses, many of which are located under 20 miles from campus.
Due to its immense purchasing power and the size of its student body, the University of Massachusetts has an incredible opportunity to continue to set the bar higher in terms of environmental sustainability. When asked why he is passionate about food in particular, Chris explains, “I believe a crucial step towards a sustainable economy is through our food system, the impact alone speaks for itself.”
Phoebe is particularly interested in social justice, alternative economic systems, and environmental sustainability – and how we can bridge the gaps that exist between these three concepts. After all, as writer, farmer, and activist Wendell Berry reminds us, “The Earth is what we all have in common.” In the future, Phoebe hopes to work internationally as an environmental policy advocate and community-based food sustainability educator.
In Phoebe’s spare time, she loves to cook, spend time outdoors, and play the guitar, ukulele, and piano. On campus, she is a leader for both the UMass Outing Club and Food Recovery Network, and as part of her involvement in the International Scholars Program, Phoebe will be studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand, next fall.
UMass Hydroponics Farm is a student-run hydroponics business located on campus that grows leafy greens, culinary herbs, tomatoes, bok choy, leeks, and strawberries for Franklin Dining Commons and the UMass community as a whole. UMass Hydro was founded about a year ago by Evan Chakrin, studying Horticulture, and Sustainable Food and Farming student Dana Lucas. "We wanted to have a chance while in school at Stockbridge to have hands on hydroponic experience using common production systems and growing actual food," says Evan Chakrin.
Right now, UMass Hydro is supplying greens to on-campus student-run business Greeno Sub Shop and will begin regular deliveries to Franklin Dining Commons and the Belly of the Beast in Northampton this semester. They will also be launching a small Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share around March 1st and will be selling their produce at the returning UMass Student Farmers' Market this Spring. Because of their small scale, UMass Hydro cannot provide all of the calories that people need, "but we can supplement what they are eating with the highest quality produce that is possible to be grown," says Evan.
Hydroponics is a very important innovation for farming because it is extremely portable, resource efficient, and customizable for any location. UMass Hydro has eliminated pest pressure, the need to weed their crops, and the need to attend to soil fertility and health. The adaptability of the technology also allows hydroponics to potentially increase food security. "You can set it up in a desert, in a city, on a rooftop, or in a shipping container without the need to deal with tons of soil. It is a very portable and efficient way to grow food," Evan shares. Hydroponics uses only 10% of the water that traditional farming requires to grow the same types of crops. Evan explains that, "hydroponics will never replace field agriculture for root or grain crops, but for delicate crops and small fruit crops it is perfect." Dana Lucas shares that "Massachusetts grows only 4% of their food and 80% of the cost of produce is transportation." Dana explains that to run one freight container of hydroponics for one year takes the same amount of energy to drive one truck load of produce from California to Massachusetts. Hydroponics may become an essential part of the solution to food insecurity and the increasing pressures of climate change on food production.
Another unique and sustainable benefit of UMass Hydro and other indoor farms is their capability to grow food year-round. "We have been growing lettuce, basil, and tomatoes all winter," says Evan. Even in the middle of January, students can look out the windows of Franklin Dining Commons to see the food they are eating being grown in the purple-lit greenhouses of UMass Hydro. Evan shares that he loves "being with the plants in the winter under the light and in the heat of the greenhouse. When it's cold and the ground is frozen and nothing is growing outside we can come in here with lights that have the orange glow of the sun."
This spring, UMass Hydro is expanding using a grant that they received from the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund (SIEF). They are building four new lettuce raft tables to double their growing space and will also begin experimenting with aquaponics. This is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, and they will be raising koi fish and growing plants together in an integrated system. The only inputs to the system will be fish food and water. The UMass Hydro project was started using a grant from the University as well, and Evan shares that "if you’re really ambitious, do a lot of work, and write decent grant proposals, there are a lot of opportunities at UMass that are not advertised."
Arguably the most impactful and important aspect of UMass Hydro is the educational opportunity that it provides UMass students. In fact, UMass Hydro is the only year-round indoor food production system that they can be a part of on campus. Mia Cogliano, a Sustainable Food and Farming senior at UMass, works in the UMass Hydro greenhouse. She shared that she has learned about growing and identifying vegetables, cloning plants, managing pests, and building hydroponic equipment. Mia explains, "I didn’t even know what hydroponics was when I started. I was with Evan all of the time and that is one of the reasons I stayed. He taught me so much and any question I could ask he would answer it.” Mia describes the UMass Hydro greenhouse as her "happy place" and points out that "you can get really cheap lettuce here and it is really fresh. You can literally come by any time and choose which one you want. I don’t think it gets fresher than that.” UMass Hydro takes pride in its unique and exceptional ability to provide an unparalleled opportunity for students to gain access to fresh produce and hands-on experience with hydroponic growing systems.
A huge thanks to Evan, Mia and Dana for speaking with us for this interview, and to the entire UMass Hydro team for all of their hard work to provide fresh food and unique educational opportunities to the students of UMass Amherst. Follow their Facebook Page for information and updates or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in purchasing a CSA share, getting credit for working in the greenhouse, or buying their produce!
Photo credit: Keith Toffling Photography
Sidehill Farm is a small, family run dairy farm that produces delicious, organic yogurt in Hawley, MA. Sidehill farm is owned by Amy Klippenstein and Paul Lacinski. They decided to start making yogurt because it is a healthy food “that your average person could afford to eat every day.” They started the farm nearly 20 years ago in Ashfield with only one cow and a small garden. They moved to their land in Hawley in 2012, which was previously an organic potato farm. Today, Sidehil Farm is the highest elevation operating farm in the state, and has a gorgeous view of rolling hills in every direction. They produce nearly 1,000 gallons of yogurt each day and have 225 acres of pasture and hay fields in the Berkshire Hills.
Their great care extends to their customers as well. Sidehill Farm raises Normandes and Jersey cows because their milk has a much higher protein content than traditional Holstein cow’s milk. This high protein content and natural cultures of their milk is essential for making firm yogurt naturally. Many companies use Holstein milk because the cows are a lot larger and produce much more milk per day, but have to add artificial ingredients to make their yogurt firm. Amy and Paul sell their raw milk at their small farm shop. They also sell their sour cream, yogurt, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and cheddar cheese. Additionally, they carry many products from other nearby farms including cheese, eggs, ice cream, and even pickles.
Paul and Amy both love the “moments in farming of breathtaking beauty” and the ability to spend so much time with nature and animals. They love contributing good, healthy food to their community and love when customers stop through to visit the farm. Sidehill Farm's yogurt is available at Harvest Market in the Campus center and other retail dining locations on campus. Be sure to check out their farm stand in Hawley if you are ever in the area!
Thank you so much, Amy and Paul, for all of the hard work you do to care that you have for the earth and to provide such delicious, healthy, unique yogurt to our community.
Photo credits: Keith Toffling
Brrrr… winter is here, and so are all of the holidays that go along with it! If you haven’t started thinking about the food you’ll be eating during your celebrations, UMass Fresh has you covered. Just like the Thanksgiving meal from November, this month’s holiday meal will be starring a delicious assortment of local foods from the Pioneer Valley and greater New England region. All menu items come pre-cooked and are filled with festive, sustainable ingredients.
December’s UMass Fresh Holiday Dinner will include an all-natural, humanely-raised ham from California’s Niman Ranch. For the non-meat eaters at the table, the menu also features a vegetarian “Wellington” topped with mushroom jus and stuffed with vegetables from Hadley’s Czajkowski Farm. Each meal is intended to feed 6-8 people.
For just $99.95 (plus tax), the full meal includes:
• Niman Ranch All Natural Ham with Cold Spring Orchard Cider Glaze
• Czajkowski Farm Vegetable “Wellington” with Mushroom Jus
• Little Leaf Farms Mixed Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette with Warm Colors Apiary Honey Roasted Beets, Shaved Fennel, and Red Onions
• Szawlowski Farm Slow-Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
• Hadley-Grown Roasted Butternut Puree with Spiced Walnuts
• Pioneer Valley Sweet Potato Gratin with North Hadley Sugar Shack Maple Syrup
• Pioneer Valley Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon Lardons
• Cranberry Grain Bread Loaf
• Gingerbread Roulade & Almond Cookies
Support local farms and businesses while enjoying a delicious holiday meal cooked by the award-winning chefs of UMass Dining. Place your order online at http://umassdining.com/holiday by Tuesday, December 19th at 8:00 PM and let the festivities begin!
Orders will be available for pickup at the Campus Center’s Harvest Market on:
• Friday 12/22 from 12pm – 5pm
• Saturday 12/23 from 12pm – 5pm
• Sunday 12/24 from 12pm – 5pm
Warm Colors Apiary is located on eighty acres of woodlands, open fields, and wetlands in South Deerfield, MA. They produce over seven different kinds of delicious regional honeys from Western MA. Right now at Warm Colors Apiary, owners Dan and Bonita Conlon are working to prepare their bees for the coming winter. They are insulating the hives, checking them for disease, and making sure there is enough honey in the hives for their bees to survive through the long stretch of cold weather approaching. UMass Dining is the largest single buyer of Warm Colors Apiary honey. Their honey is used in the Dining Commons and the UMass Bakeshop.
Honeybees and other pollinators are crucial to the health of ecosystems and the survival of humans. More than 75% of all flowering plants on earth need pollinators to reproduce, including a majority of the food that we eat. Dan Conlon explained that bees have been around for 80 million years and have overcome all kinds of natural phenomenon, but many species of pollinators, including bumble bees, are endangered. The decline of pollinator species is attributed to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats, and Warm Colors works to provide both of those for their bees and other pollinators.
Since we last spoke with Warm Colors in April 2017, they have been working with UMass Amherst to incorporate more bees into the UMass landscape, and will hopefully be installing new beehives in different gardens around campus in the coming year. This project hopes to connect students to bees and other pollinators and educate them about beekeeping and honey harvesting. Installing beehives on campus would also provide ultra local honey for students to enjoy. Additionally, Warm Colors Apiary is working with Graduate students in the School of Engineering to develop sensors that diagnose disease within beehives to help beekeepers like Dan and Bonita catch and treat them early before they spread out of control.
Dan urges readers to be aware that “the biggest threat to all of these creatures is human activity. Everyone should be conscious of their activities, actions, and how they affect the environment.” Dan has many suggestions for how everyone can help bees to survive and thrive:
"Everything in nature has a purpose and contributes in some way to the cycle of life. Insects are actually very important to humans. I admire these little creatures."
Mapleline Farm is a family owned and operated Jersey farm established in 1904 in Hadley, MA. They have 300 Jersey cows, who are brown instead of black and white, and produce rich, creamy milk that is higher in calcium, protein, and nonfat solids than traditional cow's milk. As of September 2017, Franklin Dining Commons now serves 100% local milk from Mapleline Farm! This increase in purchasing allowed Mapleline to scale up their operations. Jennifer Zina, the farm owner's daughter, shared that Mapleline started processing milk “three days a week instead of two to be able to provide UMass with what they needed and what is the best for the students.”
When Jennifer and her family moved back to the farm about five years ago, she “fell in love with the farm all over again because I was seeing it in my kids’ eyes. They are 14 and 10 and love being in Hadley and being able to walk across the street and be with the cows. I love that the farm is a piece of our family and our family’s history. My kids are the fifth generation to grow up on the farm and I think that is really special.”
Mapleline Farm milk can be found at Harvest Market in the Campus Center, many other retail dining locations, and Franklin and Hampshire Dining Commons. Mapleline milk is also available through many local businesses and featured in delicious treats all around the Valley. Be sure to try their chocolate milk- it is the best around!
Thanks so much to Jennifer Zina for speaking with us, and thank you to Mapleline Farm for your admirable dedication to the local community.
Photo credit: Keith Toffling Photography
In March, UMass Dining attended the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge, which is a competition between five regions held in Nashville, Tennessee. Our very own Chef Robert Bankert competed at the annual competition and won first place and a gold medal!
According to Chef Bob, “building relationships with farmers is the most important part of sourcing local foods.” Because of the tremendous buying power of an institution like UMass, large changes can be made to the food system through local sourcing initiatives over time. “However, tremendous amounts of purchasing, if handled poorly, can really affect farmers if there is not an open line of communication and relationship there,” Chef Bob clarified.
UMass Dining has a goal for all of the Dining Commons to feature all local lettuce and greens on the salad bar all year long, and has already committed to sourcing local arugula, romaine, and mesclun. Queen's Greens is playing an integral part in reaching this goal by supplying local greens to UMass Dining in colder months using greenhouses to extend their growing season.
“I just love food and flavors and I like to teach people how to cook. Food is satisfying in a lot of different ways and brings people together.”
- Chef Bob, UMass Dining
Thanks so much Chef Bob for taking the time for this interview and for all of your hard work to make UMass Dining more sustainable!
Cold Spring Orchard is an education and research facility of UMass Amherst and grows over 100 varieties of apples on 50 acres of land. They offer “pick-your-own” apples and also sell a variety of goods including peaches, honey, apple cider, jams, jellies, grapes, blueberries, pears, squash, and pumpkins. They always have between 15 and 20 different varieties of apples available to choose from. They even offer bags of “seconds” to decrease their waste at a discounted price. Cold Spring Orchard also sells some of the best apple cider around. They decrease the amount apples they throw away by using their imperfect fruit to make their cider. Additionally, it is always made with at least 6 different varieties of apples, giving it a unique, rich flavor. They are located only 14 miles from campus in Belchertown, MA with a beautiful view of the Mt. Holyoke Range.
Many fruit growing operations will spray their entire orchard with pesticides even if only a portion of them are being impacted by pests. Shawn and his workers also take care of about 15 beehives every year. Because pesticides are particularly harmful to bee populations, and the Cold Spring Orchard team closely monitor the health of the bees and are sure to avoid pesticides and practices that will harm their hives.
Shawn is very passionate and takes pride in the work that he does. He shared, “It is really rewarding to grow something and sell it to someone. It feels like I am doing something with my life, like I have a purpose.” It is clear from interacting with Shawn that he cares deeply about the Amherst community, all of his customers and employees, and about the orchard’s impact on the earth. Kristen and Jim are two of the people Shawn works the most closely with. He explained the Cold Spring team are all like a big family. He added that, “I'm just one person and I do a lot, but there are a lot of people behind me that might not get the credit and those people deserve it as much as me.”
Shawn urges everyone who wants to make a difference in their local community to support their local businesses. He explains that, “sometimes things might cost a little more around here, and it's just because there are more challenges to grow those things, but you are getting something a lot fresher, something that is more valuable.” Most fruits and vegetables in the United States travel more miles to reach the grocery store than the average american does in a year. Buying locally not only supports local farmers like Shawn and their sustainable practices, but it also decreases the fossil fuel emissions burned to get them to you.
Cold Spring Orchard apples are served in all four dining commons until at least December each year. To learn more about Cold Spring Orchard and meet Shawn McIntire, come to UMass Dining’s apple week! The event is from 6:00-9:00pm in Hampshire on November 8th and Franklin on November 9th.
Thanks so much, Shawn for working with us, and for your time!
It’s almost that time of year again! For those of you who have not yet begun thinking about Thanksgiving, fear not – UMass Fresh is here to save turkey day! For the second year, UMass Fresh will be selling full holiday meals available for pickup on or before Thanksgiving. Each meal is intended to feed 6-8 people and is filled with a variety of locally-sourced ingredients.
The full menu includes:
• Misty Knoll Vermont Roast Turkey With Old Fashioned Turkey Gravy
• Pioneer Valley Grown Vegetarian Butternut Squash Lasagna With Sage Cream
• Happy Valley Organic Herbed Bread Dressing
• Local Chive Mashed Potatoes
• North Hadley Sugar Shack Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Spiced Walnuts
• Joe Czajkowski Shredded Brussel Sprout Tops
• Homemade Cinnamon Orange Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce
• UMass Bakery Local Cranberry Grain Bread
• UMass Bakery Local Apple Pie
Other items, including Cold Spring Orchard apple cider and Mapleline Farm eggnog, will be available for purchase at the pickup location.
Make sure to place your order at http://umassdining.com/thanksgiving by Friday, November 17th at 4:00 PM to take advantage of this opportunity to eat a delicious holiday meal while supporting local farms and businesses.
Orders will be available for pickup at the Campus Center’s Harvest Market on:
• Wednesday, November 22nd from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
• Thursday, November 23rd from 8:00 AM until 7:00 PM
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