While 2018 may feel like an eternity ago, we would like to take a moment to reflect on some successes we braved within the Permaculture Initiative. Last year our ½ acre of combined gardens was able to produce over 1,700 pounds of produce! This includes 85 different herbs, fruits and vegetables that were harvested for the Student Farmer’s Markets and UMass dining. With our working hands we were able to install 2 new beehives, 4 new raised beds as well as a drying rack for our Franklin Garden!
UMPI hosted 14 different events and 10 fall farmers’ markets throughout 2018 including a Food Justice market, a Handmade Holiday Gift Making workshop and our first annual Diet for a Cooler Planet event.
At our Handmade Holiday Gift-making event, students were welcome to create sugar scrubs, heating packs, fire cider and wreaths. The wreaths were made out of wild grapevines as well as other natural materials foraged around campus such as spruce, pinecones and fir. We also made fire cider which is a great immunity booster that can fight off flu or colds. For the fire cider we used horseradish, chili and garlic from our garden, as well as onions, oranges, ginger, cinnamon and apple cider vinegar to create an infused tonic. This was a fun and educational gift for friends and family.
For 2019 we are currently working on creating a three tier aerobic composting system as well as a vermicompost system. These systems will allow us to process our organic waste on site at the Franklin garden as opposed to off-sourcing our compost which we have been doing through the university.
We are looking to coordinate a robust gleaning initiative by partnering with local farms to gather food that would have been left to decompose otherwise. We are hoping to bring the food harvested to the local Western Massachusetts Food Processing Center in Greenfield. This will allow us to wash, chop and freeze food that can later be consumed here on campus.
Keep your eyes peeled for our 3 Spring Farmer’s Markets! We will be co-hosting markets starting in April where we will be offering some new products such as our elderberry syrup and currant jams.
Looking for one more credit before the end of Add/Drop? We are offering a one credit Permaculture Practicum course where we will explore permaculture through hands on activities as well as dialogues, readings, outdoor classes, field trip and more! Limited spots are available.
All of our work, past and future could not be done without the help of our volunteers, practicum students, summer crew and garden coordinators! Thank you for all your support!
The UMass Student Farm is a student-run farm on campus that manages 14 acres of land and grows 35 different crops using ecologically sound practices. They supplied UMass Dining with over 10,000 lbs of local, fresh, organic vegetables in the past year. Produce from the Student Farm is featured in all four Dining Commons, at the weekly Student Farmers’ Market on Goodell Lawn, and at four Big Y locations. The Student Farm also offers Fall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares to the campus community every year, enabling students, faculty, and staff to purchase a share in the farm and pick up over 25 pounds of fresh organic produce every week for ten weeks (September through November).
decisions about how to run the farm and spend their time. "We have a lot of trust put in us and carry a lot of responsibility, which may be intimidating, but it feels very refreshing when in most of our classes our biggest responsibility is turning in a paper," says Kyle Zegel, a Sustainable Food and Farming major from UMass in the 2018 Student Farm Crew.
This decision making power allows students to shape the program to their own learning objectives. For example, the 2018 crew made a lot of efforts on the farm to increase its environmental and social sustainability. This year the crew piloted inter-row cover cropping to reduce the amount of tillage, bare soil, and weeding that they had to do. Additionally, in 2019 the Student Farm provided 25 free CSA shares to campus community members that would not have otherwise been able to afford them using grant money from the Sustainability Initiative and Engagement Fund. In partnership with the Food For All Program, they also worked to donate all of the excess produce, flowers, and fresh herbs from the farm to Not Bread Alone in Amherst and the Amherst Survival Center.
Throughout the season they donated over 5 tons of produce to these community partners. Carly Brand, a BDIC major and a member of the 2018 crew remarked, "I'm proud of the donations we were able to give to Not Bread Alone and the Amherst Survival Center on top of all the markets we have; the volunteers always received our deliveries with such gratitude. I don't think many people have full clarity on the issue of local food insecurity or the impact that we can have with a small redistribution." The farmers made small deliveries every week and often biweekly to Not Bread Alone for over six months this season.
Sometimes we work in torrential downpours or near 100 degree heat. People get burnt out, sick and injured. We also have to constantly deal with the stress of crop failure and anxiety about finances, but what keeps me going on the toughest days is knowing that this work that we do is providing fresh, nutritious food to our community." Carly Brand add, "Even when it was painfully early or too cold to feel our toes, it felt worth it to be part of a strong, supportive community and to interact with our 'consumers' directly after. Working on the farm constantly reminds us to recognize the full value of the food we grow, and to do everything we can to prevent it from going to waste."
Kyle's advice to readers that care about where your food comes from is to "learn about agriculture and see if you can help farmers make their systems more sustainable. Go volunteer for food waste recovery and food equity organizations in your area and understand the extent of food insecurity in your area. The more involved you get with the growing, processing, and distribution of food, the more you'll be able to understand about what work needs to be done in our food system."
Thanks so much to Carly Brand, Kyle Zegel, and the rest of the Student Farm program at UMass for all of the hard work you do to provide our campus community with affordable organic produce every year! For more information about the Student Farm, visit their website. Sign ups for the 2020 CSA program will begin in March- be sure to catch their Early Bird discount! Consider making a donation to the Student Farm to fund free CSA shares for our campus community in 2019.
On November 27th 2018, UMass Dining hosted an event called Diet For A Cooler Planet that served a meal of delicious regenerative foods featuring contributions from local farms practicing alternative farming methods. The meal was served in all four dining commons on campus to highlight our local partners and encourage students to practice more mindful eating. Hampshire Dining Commons served additional appetizers and displayed of educational materials with student ambassadors available to engage with about how our food choices impact our climate. Below is a piece written by Meghan Sawtelle, a member of the 2018 UMass Permaculture summer garden crew and an undergraduate at UMass Amherst studying Sustainable Food and Farming. She shares her reflections on the Diet For A Cooler Planet Dinner and her experiences with some of the food featured at the event before it was served.
Upon entering the Hampshire dining hall, I was greeted by members of the UMass Permaculture Initiative, who served as a wealth of knowledge regarding everything being offered and its origin. Inside the Hampshire dining room, I was engulfed by an in depth look at the driving forces of permaculture and combating climate change through food, using informative panels and a screening of the Permaculture documentary ‘Inhabit’, starring one of our very own faculty, Lisa Depiano. There was one dish that I felt especially moved by; that was the lamb that had been raised right on campus.
However, it’s important to recognize how revolutionary their existence was; they were part of a silvopasture system, which is a regenerative farming method that combines tree crops and animal crops. The trees provide shade and forage while the animals control weeds and fertilize the soil. Establishing perennial tree crops helps to fight climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon into biomass each year it grows, storing a large amount of carbon in the wood itself. Investing more of our agricultural land into establishing silvopasture systems could ease the stress on our nation's forests as fossil fuel use continues lurching us towards a less dependable future.
Along with lentil pate, butternut pakoras, and chestnut onion goat cheese tarts, by the end of the evening my stomach was just as full as my heart.
Thanks so much to Meghan Sawtelle for writing this blog and to Sustainable Food and Farming for co-sponsoring the event. And of course a huge thanks to our farm partners for this event: UMass Student Farm, PT Farms, Fungi Ally, Joe Czajkowski Farm, UMass Permcaulture Gardens, and Maine Family Farms.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.