We last spoke with our partners at PT Farm for Farmer of the Week eighteen months ago. Any farmer will tell you that farms never remain stagnant and are constantly in a state of evolution. So, it was time to check in to find out what’s new on the farm!
Pete and Tara Roy run this New Hampshire farm that primarily produces beef and pork. As expected, they’ve stayed busy.
Here’s the link to the original PT Farm post from October '14 to learn some basics about their farm.
Tara noted that some big changes have happened with the farm. Most notably, they finalized the purchase of new land in late 2014 which has allowed them to build new barns and increase their numbers of cattle, pigs, and sheep.
While they view expansion as a great opportunity for the farm to reach more markets, Tara recognizes that their greatest strength is the quality of the products. Maintaining their humane practices will always be a priority of the highest order.
PT Farm has also been a great asset in helping us source more local meat. UMass dining halls consistently receive about 1300 lb. per week from the New England farm.
Sourcing more local meat each year is a priority for us as we strive to meet our campus commitment of 20% real food by 2020.
Our thanks to Tara Roy for taking the time to speak with us!
Last week, the UMass Earth Day Festival brought together a diverse range of student groups including the UMass Food Recovery Network, New2U Reuse Tag Sale, the Student Farming Enterprise and the UMass Green Building Council for a day of activities, education, and fun!
This year was the 46th annual Earth Day Festival at UMass. It continues to be a demonstration of the strong sustainability culture that has taken shape on campus led by students passionate about protecting the natural environment and the people that depend upon it.
Of course, we were there too!
UMass Permaculture hosted a workshop at the festival to help people make their own free vermi-composting bins! Vermicomposting is a special type of composting which makes use of amazing red wiggler worms that break down food waste into a nutritious soil amendment. Worm bins are great for the winter months because they doesn’t rely on heat to break down the organic matter.
A special thank you to everyone who stopped by the UMass Dining Sustainability table and wrote ideas for how we can become more healthy, sustainable, and fair! We compiled every single comment and have plans to discuss them as a department. Here’s a sampling of some of the suggestions:
Spring is here! Our staff collected the first harvest of the season at the Franklin Permaculture Garden: chives. Get your share of the harvest at the UMass Permaculture table at the last Student Farmers Market of the season at the Earth Day fair on Friday, April 22nd.
Most commonly known for its culinary uses, chives are also a powerful medicinal herb (although not quite as potent as their cousin garlic). Like most alliums, chives are great for improving circulation, soothing an upset stomach, stopping a runny nose, or preventing bad breath. A mild antibacterial, this vitamin B, A, and C rich herb is also used to treat and prevent colds.
Beyond this, chives repel pests in the garden because of their sulfur content.
Recipe for vegan chive pesto
1 C UMass Permaculture grown chives, chopped
1/4 C almonds, soaked
2 TBSP nutritional yeast
1 TSP apple cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine chives, almonds, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper in a food processor until it becomes a thick paste
2. While food processor is on, slowly stream in olive oil until combined; scrape sides if necessary.
3. Season with more salt and pepper to taste and enjoy on fish, rice, meats, pasta, or alone as a dip!
We checked in with Joe Czajkowski, our largest local farm partner to find out what’s been happening on the farm since we last interviewed him in late 2014. He’s been busy!
Joe is always working to expand his product line. In the past year, Joe and his staff have begun making homemade spiralized veggies. They even made their own machinery to do so!
Starting with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or turnips, the veggies are converted into noodles which can be a healthy, delicious alternative to pasta. It’s especially ideal for people who are vegan or have a gluten insensitivity.
Joe’s kids, who are farmers themselves, have also begun raising chickens for sale to UMass. Starting with a small amount of 500 last year, they are ramping up production to 2,000 healthy, humanely-raised chickens this year!
Another important partnership that has developed between UMass Dining and Joe Czajkowski is the freezing of fruit in order to have local berries available throughout the winter. Next winter, Joe plans to freeze strawberries, blueberries, and frozen peach puree for UMass Dining.
Collaborating with Joe Czajkowski has been an incredibly beneficial relationship for both sides. For Joe, the steady stream of demand from UMass has allowed Joe to source from more neighboring farms as well as expand his own farm.
Meanwhile, Joe allows UMass Dining to increase its purchasing each year to meet its Real Food Challenge goal of 20% real food by 2020. Thanks in large part to Joe’s efforts, UMass Dining is right on track to meet that Real Food Challenge target. In fiscal year 2015, 13.5% of food purchased by UMass Dining was classified as “real food”.
Czajkowski Farm is located in Hadley, MA, located just across route 116 from the UMass campus. He aggregates from 20+ local farms to streamline how UMass Dining gets its local produce. Thank you, Joe!
As UMass Dining sources from more local meat farms, our staff has increased its ability to butcher on site. While processing meat on site requires more time and labor, it also allows the chefs to get the cuts they need to be creative with their dishes.
For example, Hampshire Dining Commons grinds its own beef, sourced from PT Farm in Haverhill, NH, which allows the kitchen to create a burger blended with mushrooms. The result of that flexibility is a healthier, more flavorful, and cost-effective burger.
While this is a challenging project to undertake, the results will benefit the region with an improved distribution network, more vibrant agricultural sector, and more secure food supply.
Here is what our Chef de Cuisine of Residential Dining, Bob Bankert has to say about the butchering process!
Q: How is the butchering process different for local sources of meat compared to larger companies we source from?
Sourcing local meat means we know where our product is coming from. When sourcing from larger companies, we know nothing about the meat, the animal, where it was grown, how it was treated, etc.
Overall, the process would be the same whether it’s local or not, however the cooks / butchers respect the meat more when they know that they are dealing with local, higher quality meat.
We also have to deal with supply issues when using local sources. From larger companies, anything is available at any time. With local sources, there can be gaps in supply.
Q: What sort of flexibility does butchering ourselves provide when creating the kind of high quality meals we strive for at UMass?
Doing the butchering ourselves challenges us to use 100% of the product that we receive. For example, when we bring in a whole pig- there’s bones, a head, trotters, trim meat, and much more that needs to be utilized.
Being creative with the cuts and using them in a variety of ways is challenging, but it’s a good challenge. We get to learn along the way, and force ourselves to be creative. This is very different than just ordering pork loin from a larger company; it comes in cleaned and ready to cook, and there’s only so much that we can do with it.
Q: What’s one or two challenges you’ve faced in having a more-labor intensive process with meat?
One of the main challenges is learning as we go. Setting up the meat room, researching the equipment, building relationships with local suppliers, and figuring out what we need to produce on a daily basis. Now that we’ve gotten into a routine, we are more efficient which cuts down on labor and food costs.
Another challenge is keeping up with the supply. Hampshire is a busy dining common, with sporadic spikes in business. Setting up pars on what we need on a daily & weekly basis has been key. Since we only get our order in from PT Farms once a week on Thursdays, we need to make sure we bring in enough to properly grind our meat and form the burgers (this is a full 2 day process to produce enough). Again, now that we’ve set up the standards and pars, we are more efficient and we know what we need to produce.
Thank you to Bob Bankert, Chef de Cuisine at UMass Dining. He oversees all culinary operations at both Hampshire and Berkshire Dining Commons and takes pride in keeping menus fresh and in season.
For questions or more information about this blog post, post a comment below or contact us.
Stop by the Cape Cod Lounge in the Student Union this Wednesday from 12:30 - 4:30 for the first Student Farmers Market of the spring!
UMass Permaculture, the UMass Student Farm, and a number of other campus groups will be there.
12:30-1:30: Industrial Waste (The Stockbridge Faculty bluegrass band)
2:00-4:00: August Joy
After the market, be sure to check out the New Farmer Panel - Expo a few doors down at Earthfoods Cafe:
4:00-4:30: Refreshments and networking
4:30-5:00: Panel of four beginning farmers and Q&A
5:00-6:00: Tabling and networking with local, organic treats served by Earthfoods Cafe and People's Market
Click here for more information on the UMass Student Farmers Market and the Spring 2016 dates.
On the Ground Update: UMASS AUXILIARY ENTERPRISES AWARDED GRANT FOR PERMACULTURE PROJECT AT CHICOPEE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLRead Now
University of Massachusetts Amherst Auxiliary Enterprises has been awarded a $3,500 grant from the Women for UMass Amherst Fund (WFUM) that will be used for a permaculture garden project at Stefanik Elementary School in Chicopee.
The award will fund maintenance for the garden and provide educational programming both at the garden and in classrooms at the school.
The permaculture garden, which is designed to mimic natural systems in order to be self-sustaining, will help Stefanik Elementary School students connect with fresh food, says Lilly Israel, sustainability coordinator of campus gardens for UMass Auxiliary Enterprises. “This year all students will taste the food grown in the garden and a group of third graders will be stewards for the garden. Students, who may not normally have had the opportunity, will get a personal relationship with food; a local sustainable connection.” she says.
The garden is a part of Chicopee public schools local food initiative called ChicopeeFRESH, which was created to teach students about why local food is important.
The permaculture garden project will begin in the 2016 growing season starting with seed ordering, followed by planting and garden maintenance that will coincide with hands-on learning opportunities and classroom activities.
The WFUM Award will have a broad impact, says Xochiquetzal Salazar, a UMass Amherst sustainable food and farming major and student auxiliary sustainability coordinator. She says, “The best thing the grant will do is to connect the program to the rest of the community.” The garden project will bring together teachers, the school’s kitchen staff, 500-plus elementary-aged students and UMass Amherst students. It will give UMass Amherst students an opportunity to interact with the wider Pioneer Valley community, and foster connections between Chicopee students and their food.
UMass Amherst maintains five permaculture gardens, including the Franklin Garden that won the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge in 2012. Both UMass Amherst and Chicopee Public Schools have increased their local food purchasing with the help of grants from the Kendall Foundation, which looks to create a local and sustainable New England Food System. UMass Amherst students have access to more than 300 courses that relate to sustainability including those that cover permaculture.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.