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.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.