On the Ground: Upcoming EventsRead Now
SPRING FARMERS' MARKETS
Join us for fresh, organic, student grown food, yummy herbs, handmade crafts, live music, and much more! Our last two markets of the Spring Semester will be on Fridays from 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm.
The next two markets will be on Friday, April 21st and Friday, April 28th on the Student Union North Lawn. See you there!
Join us for an Earth Day inspired pollinator planting! We'll be adding lots of beautiful, fragrant, and beneficial plants to our pollinator sections and herb spiral. Find us in the Franklin Permaculture Garden on Friday, April 21st from 9:30 am - 11:00 am!
EARTH DAY FESTIVAL
Stop by the Earth Day Festival by the Student Union on Friday, April 21st for tie dye, DIYs, live music, and more!
Check out the UMass Dining table to enjoy a human-powered smoothie for Earth Day! We have partnered with Sustainable UMass to make free, delicious smoothies with a bike-powered blender from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm, or until supplies run out.
Visit the UMass Permaculture booth between 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm to make your own seed bombs or take home some calming herbal tea!
Dive deeper into mushroom exploration with UMass Permaculture and mushroom expert John Michelotti of Catskill Fungi! Join us on a guided forest walk in search of mushrooms. Explore the identification, uses, and ecological functions of different fungi.
This event will have two sessions from 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm on Wednesday, April 26th from and Thursday, April 27th in the Franklin Permaculture Garden. Check out the Facebook event here!
High Lawn Farm is a family-owned dairy farm located in Lee, MA in their 97th year of operation that produces all natural milk free of artificial hormones. High Lawn Farm is owned by the Wilde family, who have lived on the farm and owned it for three generations. Roberto Laurens, pictured below, is the General Manager at High Lawn Farm and has been in this role for 15 years. Roberto has over 30 years of experience managing farm operations and working with dairy herds, not only in the United States, but Colombia as well. Speaking to Roberto, it was clear that he is an expert at what he does.
The farm owns 3,800 acres of land, 900 of which are protected woodland forest to support local wildlife. High Lawn Farm also has 1,600 acres of open pasture and cropland and grows nearly all the grass, corn, and alfalfa they need to sustain their herd during the winter. For the summer months, this local dairy farm has 200 acres of grass for their cows to graze on. "It is a spectacular environment in which to raise our herd and produce our milk products," Robert shared.
Most dairy farms raise Holstein cows because they produce higher quantities of milk than other breeds. However, High Lawn Farm raises Jersey cows for the quality and taste of milk they produce. Jersey cows are small, friendly, and brown colored, compared to the black and white Holstein cows. Roberto explained that, "compared to other major dairy breeds, Jersey milk contains 20% more Calcium, 17% more protein ... and contains more Vitamins A, B1, and B2." This makes Jersey milk healthier and more flavorful than traditional milk. Humans are also able to digest the proteins in Jersey milk much easier than Holstein milk.
Raising Jersey cows is less resource intensive than Holsteins, making it more environmentally sustainable. Jersey cows produce 30% less milk than Holstein cows, but only weigh about half as much. Therefore, Jerseys eat less food, drink less water, and produce less waste, but produce milk more efficiently. Raising Jersey cows instead of Holstein cows can reduce water and land usage, fuel consumption, waste production, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising cattle. Roberto emphasized that High Lawn Farm is proud to “use less resources to produce a higher quality product.”
Most dairy farms in the United States, including High Lawn Farm, are finding it increasingly difficult to find workers to milk their cows. “It is very hard to find people who want to work in farms and want to be here every day at three or four in the morning including Saturday, Sunday, and holidays,” Roberto shared.
In response to this lack of labor, High Lawn Farm installed a robotic milking system that milks two cows at a time with no human labor required at all. “It is a very effective system, and extremely friendly to the cows,” Roberto explained. The cows have been trained to use the robots, and therefore can enter the milking system whenever they please. Additionally, the system monitors the cows health, recording her weight, levels of activity, and food intake. Roberto is notified if any of the cows need special attention.
High Lawn Farm is a beautiful, impressive, and unique operation. Roberto and the rest of the crew at High Lawn take great care to provide the highest quality product possible in a sustainable and ethical way. High Lawn Farm milk is served in Berkshire Dining Commons.
Thank you so much to Roberto Laurens and High Lawn Farm for speaking and working with us. For more information about High Lawn Farm, their history, or their Jersey cows, visit their website.
Warm Colors Apiary, owned by Dan and Bonita Conlon, is located on eighty acres of woodland, open fields and wetlands, in South Deerfield, MA. Dan and Bonita manage about 1,200 colonies of bees, which can provide up to 30,000 pounds of honey a year. UMass Dining purchases about 25% of the honey Warm Colors Apiary produces for use in the UMass Bakeshop and in all the Dining Commons as well.
Dan Conlon has kept bees since he was 14, and at the age of 50, Dan and Bonita quit their jobs, bought 1,000 beehives, and became full time beekeepers. “Now I am 66 and I am really happy with my lifestyle. It fits a philosophy that you are building rather than destroying something,” Dan shared.
There are about 90 commercial crops that require pollination and most of them are fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Honey bees are the only pollinator that can be moved around in large enough numbers to pollinate these crops. For crops like apples and peaches, the window for pollination is very short, and only lasts for a day or two. Dan explained that “in the valley, one beehive on one acre of cucumbers increases production by 40-60%.” Warm Colors Apiary transports bees to different farms all over Western Massachusetts, many of them operations that UMass Dining sources vegetables from to help them increase their yields.
Honey bees also pollinate wildflowers, which provide food for wildlife and birds, purify water, and clean the air. Bees also increase the resilience and biodiversity of the plants they pollinate. “This whole idea of bees and pollination is fundamental to our existence,” said Dan.
Dan and Bonita are part of the Russian Honey Breeders Association and have been working with the USDA to develop disease and mite resistant bees for the last 20 years. “Beekeeping is a lot harder than it used to be. When I started there was only one disease beekeepers worried about- now we have about a dozen.” Additionally, climate change and drought have a huge effect on bee populations. The drought this summer caused the flowers to run out of moisture and stop producing nectar. “This fall was the first time we hadn’t taken honey in 15 or 20 years,” Dan said. Bonita and Dan are worried that they will lose more bees to the persisting cold weather because of the drought and due to a lack of food.
Bee populations are declining rapidly, and one of the main causes is the loss of forage and food sources in the landscape. "I think there is an urgency to all of [these issues] and we have to quit denying that it's true. It is happening as we speak," Dan remarked. Dan suggests that “the best thing we can do is encourage everyone to get out there and plant something.” There are hundreds of plants that benefit bees. Just a few include sunflowers, bulbs, thyme, lavender, maple trees, fruit trees, raspberry and blackberry bushes. Additionally, Dan recommends to allow the dandelions and other flowering weeds to grow in lawns. “It is also important to support bee research, which has given us a whole lot of options that we did not have 20 years ago,” Dan added.
A huge thanks to Warm Colors Apiary for working with us and for all that they do for our community and environment. Also, a special thanks to Dan for interviewing with us. For more information about visit the Warm Colors Apiary website.
Images provided by Keith Toffling.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.