The North Hadley Sugar Shack, owned by Joe and Shelly Boisvert, is located less than four miles from campus and supplies UMass Dining with high quality, pure maple syrup. The North Hadley Sugar Shack is a family-owned business that was started about twenty years ago in Hadley, Massachusetts. Last year in 2017, the sugar shack produced 2,300 gallons of maple syrup. Each year they collect sap from over 80 acres of trees and have 4,000 taps in use. They sell their finished products to Big Y, local co-ops, and UMass Dining. Their maple syrup provides a local, sustainably-made, natural sweetener for their local community that is a healthier alternative to bleached sugar.
It takes 40 gallons of sap from a maple tree to make one gallon of maple syrup. The sap is boiled down so the water can evaporate out creating the thick, rich syrup we all love. Reverse osmosis is used because it reduces energy use and halves the amount of wood needed to heat their equipment during the boiling and evaporation process. Additionally, North Hadley Sugar Shack collects all of the excess water that the reverse osmosis machine produces as a by-product and uses it to clean their machine.
The final step is to put the sap through an evaporator to boil off the remainder of the excess water. The maple syrup is ready once the temperature of the liquid reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit. If the syrup was to be boiled to a higher temperature, more water would be removed, creating maple candy or granulated sugar. Throughout the entire season, about ½ gallon of maple syrup is produced from each tap.
The sugar shack has a wide variety of fun events coming up ranging from local food samplings and maple soft serve to a pancake breakfast and a tractor pull. Check out their events page for more information. Be sure to stop by for some fresh maple syrup, beautiful mums, exciting activities, and delicious foods from other local businesses! For more information about North Hadley Sugar Shack, visit their website.
Thanks so much to the North Hadley Sugar Shack for working with UMass Dining and to Mark, Tucker, and Kevin for helping to create this blog post. UMass Dining appreciates our partnership and all of the hard work you do for our community.
Photo and video credit: Keith Toffling Photography.
CSA, short for Community Supported Agriculture, is a model used by many farmers to form a partnership between themselves and members of their community. This partnership is created when a customer buys a CSA membership, which then allows them to receive a certain amount of food from that farm each week in the form of a farm share. CSAs benefit both parties involved, as the membership provides up-front financial assistance to the farmer and guarantees the customer food from that farm.
While many people often think of farm shares as consisting solely of fruits and vegetables, they can take all different forms, with products like dairy, meat, grains and flowers. CSAs are often seasonal, as the items available each week are those that are ready to be harvested at that time of year. In New England, summer and fall farm shares are common, but winter shares – often featuring root vegetables, apples, cheese, honey, bread, and other products – are available as well.
According to Just Roots, a non-profit organization devoted to advocating for food justice and sustainable agriculture, the general framework of a CSA was first established in the early 1900s by a group of Japanese women who were concerned about the use of pesticides on imported and processed foods. Their system, called a “teikei,” translates literally to “partnership” or “cooperation.” More philosophically, and perhaps more appropriately, however, “teikei” translates to “food with the farmer’s face,” as CSAs provide members with the opportunity to get to know where – and whom – their food is coming from.
At a similar time as this Japanese model was being developed, various European countries were implementing similar cooperative systems inspired by a more holistic approach to growing food. It was only in 1984 that Jan Vander Tuin, a Swiss farmer who co-founded a CSA project named Topanimbur, located near Zurich, brought the concept to North America. Tuin presented the idea to Robyn Van En at Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, Massachusetts, marking the first CSA in the USA. Within just four years of its inception, Indian Line Farm’s CSA membership expanded from 30 to 150 members. Today, there are over 1,000 different CSAs located all across the country feeding roughly 150,000 individuals.
Unlike conventional food systems where food is transported from producer to processor to distributor to retailer, and finally to the consumer, CSAs take out all of these “middle-men” and establish a face-to-face connection between the farmer and the customer. At this point in time, many of us have become so far removed from where our food is coming from that we often forget just how much time, energy, and care goes into it. By returning to a system in which we directly support the farmers that grow our food, we can support the individuals whose operations form the backbone of our local economy while developing a deeper appreciation for the food that nourishes us.
There are countless farms that offer CSA shares in the Valley. For help choosing the CSA that would work best for you, check out CISA's (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) Guide to Choosing a CSA.
If you are part of the UMass campus community, consider signing up for the UMass Student Farming Enterprise's CSA program. Commit to a farm share by May 1st and receive a $25 discount! Student Farm CSA pick up is each Friday from 12-4 in the Fall semester at the UMass Student Farmers' Market, hosted by UMass Permaculture and the Student Farm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
Martin's Farm has been a leader in the composting industry since they were established in 1987. The farm grew vegetables and had a food waste collection program to feed their farm animals. Martin's Farm decided to start processing compost because they became overwhelmed by the vast amount of food waste that was being produced in their local community. Today, Martin's Farm converts all of the food waste UMass Amherst collects into rich, dark compost that is then sold to local farmers and gardeners in the Connecticut River Valley. Adam Martin and his family own Martin's Farm, which was passed down from his father. Martin's Farm diverted 8,000 tons of waste last year.
To make their final product, Martin's Farm first mixes together all of the ingredients they need for nutrient rich compost: food waste, cardboard, hay, and manure. They grind it all up through a piece of equipment Adam calls "The Beast." The mixture is laid into long rows to aerobically break down and is turned every couple of weeks by another piece of equipment to aerate and water the soil. In 3-4 months the compost is ready and is then dried, screened, and sorted again for any contaminants.
Until recently, Martin's Farm sold certified organic compost to local farmers and gardeners in the Connecticut River Valley. However, because of the contamination of plastics in the food waste they receive from UMass, that organic certification has been revoked. Contamination is a huge problem for Adam's operation, and when materials are not composted correctly by the UMass community, it has a big impact on the integrity of his business and his compost.
Last year Martin's Farm spent $4,000 repairing trucks on their equipment after they had been ruined by metal forks that are incorrectly composted at UMass. Other main contamination problems come from plastic bottles, bags, and containers, and when these contaminants are shredded by "The Beast," they are broken down into pieces that are so small that they slip through all of Adam's methods of screening. "When you look at the rows of compost on the farm you can see the plastics peppered throughout the piles," Adam explained. Adam and his team spend about 10 hours a week sorting the loads they receive of compost from UMass by hand, but it is impossible to open every bag and remove every contaminant. "No one understands the extent I am going through to get as clean of a product as possible," Adam explained. "I'm just trying to make a difference. I am a million and a half dollars in debt. I don't just care about waste diversion; I care about the final product. I want to make the best compost around."
The UMass community has the power to improve this situation by composting and recycling correctly and educating and encouraging others to do the same. Not only would it make a huge difference for Martin's Farm, it would improve the environmental benefit of composting if the final product was free of contaminants. When we asked what students can do, Adam said, "If you want to make a difference, sort your compost." It's really quite simple! Below is a list of composting guidelines:
Adam points out that we only have 7 years before all of the landfills in Massachusetts will be at full capacity. However, 20-40% of the food that reaches consumers is thrown away. When it comes to compost, Adam remarks that it is really the folks at UMass that are "on the front lines for making a difference."
Thank you so much, Adam, for working with UMass Dining and for taking the time to speak with us. We are so impressed and inspired by your passion and hard work to make our community more sustainable. To learn more about Martin's Farm, please visit their website.
For over 400 years, New England has been a key contributor to the regional, national, and global seafood market. Advances in technology, continued population growth, and rapid globalization, however, have made it increasingly challenging to balance demand with ecological sustainability.
As a consumer, sometimes the options presented to us are overwhelming and laced with misinformation. Amanda Davis, the founder and director of Our Wicked Fish, Inc., is here to change the way that we think about seafood. With the goal of educating the public on where the fish that we buy and eat come from, the Deerfield, MA-based nonprofit “encourages consumers and restaurants to reconnect with New England's local seafood through research, outreach, and social media,” as Davis explains.
While working at 30 Boltwood, Davis was introduced to new varieties of locally-caught fish, including redfish, tautog, and striped bass. “These fish were beautiful, delicious, and completely unknown to me!” Davis says. “I quickly became fascinated by local fish as well as customers' reaction to local fish on the menu. Most people, including myself, have never been properly introduced to most of New England's fish. I wanted to know why.”
Davis’s goal is to get more people to experience the same “scrumptious, locally-caught fish” that led her to start Our Wicked Fish in 2015. According to Davis, one of the biggest factors preventing the widespread consumption of sustainable seafood is a lack of familiarity with available products. Species such as monkfish, hake, cusk, skate, and dogfish are found in abundance in New England waters, but these are not commonly-recognized names; as a result, they are rarely found in grocery stores or on restaurant menus.
“It seems like most of New England, especially we younger generations, have never been properly introduced to their local fish, therefore we do not know how to demand it,” says Davis, explaining that “weak demand leads to weak prices for fishermen,” and “fishermen just can't afford to sell lesser known fish species, even if they make up most of their catch.” Low prices could drive fishermen to seek out varieties that are in high demand and yield higher market prices, which are recovering from historical periods of overfishing. “If you want to support New England's fishery,” Davis suggests, “then eat local and in-season fish, especially the underloved species.”
Just like fruits and vegetables, fish are defined by their seasonality and locality. A wide range of species can be caught off the coast of New England at different times of the year, ensuring tasty local options during every season. By supporting the region’s fisheries, we as consumers are supporting sustainable practices as well as a local economy – and getting to eat a delicious array of seafood at the same time.
“Our seafood system will be more economically sustainable and environmentally sustainable when we diversify our consumption and create a stronger and more stable demand for lesser known species,” says Davis. “I know we can do it. I know we can sustain fishermen, fish populations, and our love for seafood all at the same time.”
Thank you so much to Amanda Davis for being a leader in the movement to support local,
seasonal, and sustainable seafood from New England's fisheries!
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.