Farmer of the Week: Anna HankinsRead Now
Anna Hankins is a second year student at UMass Amherst paving her own path through education by combining both classroom learning and organizing work. Anna enjoys being agitated about food injustices, spending hours in meetings trying to change them, and eating copious amounts of chocolate in her spare time.
An Earth Day baby, Anna has honored the title by working tirelessly to spread awareness about the connections between social justice and environmental conservation. Prior to coming to college Anna worked with environmental non-profits including Teens Turning Green and the Earthwatch Institute. Currently Anna is the co-chair of the national Real Food Challenge Calculator-Working Group.
Just last week, Anna traveled to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Portland, OR to present on the Real Food Campus Commitment and student decision-making. She then continued on to Louisville, KY for the Farm2Campus conference where she appeared on a panel about the Real Food Calculator.
Anna is working with UMass Auxiliary Services and the Real Food Challenge to leverage the purchasing power in colleges and universities to create a just food system that supports people and the planet. Anna enjoys running the Real Food Calculator because it promotes and requires transparency and accountability – two things she believes are seriously missing in our global food system.
The Real Food Challenge campaign seeks to shift $1 billion of university food purchasing budgets to food that is community based, ecologically sound, fairly traded, and/or humanely raised. She is one of many students working on this campaign at UMass and throughout the country.
Anna wants to acknowledge that she isn’t a farmer, but that some of the most influential people in her life have been. Anna has had a strong relationship with her local dairy farmers for the past ten years. From them she learned that supporting local agriculture means a lot more than just going to the local farmers market – it means making sure farmers are at the forefront of conversations about sourcing and making sure they are being paid a living wage.
Anna plans to continue working on the Real Food Challenge for the rest of her time at UMass and hopefully continue community based organizing work after college.
Farmer of the Week: Twin Oaks FarmRead Now
Edwin Matuszko, Linda Kingsley, and their son, Josef, are third and fourth generation farmers of Twin Oaks Farm in Hadley, MA.
Since 1979, when Ed and Linda took over the farm, Twin Oaks has grown an increasingly diverse selection of vegetables ranging from cabbage to ornamental pumpkins. Linda says, “We used to have only two crops. If you lose one crop to disease or pests, what do you do then?”
While polyculture growing decreases the threat of losing their crops, pests can still be an issue. With assistance from Ruth Hazzard at UMass Extension, Twin Oaks has implemented Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices to minimize their use of pesticides to the lowest amount possible.
Using IPM is just one way Edwin and Linda have actively sought to protect the health of their land. They have also preserved their farmland forever through the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR). The APR means that nothing can be developed on their land which obstructs its use for agriculture. Farmland preservation is a critical issue in the effort for New England to produce more of its own food.
For Linda, there is no better use of their 55 acres than agriculture. The Pioneer Valley is well-known for its Hadley loam, a type of soil well-suited for growing food. With Josef taking an active role on the farm, the future for Twin Oaks is bright and full of vegetables.
Pete and Tara Roy are the proud owners of PT Farm in North Haverhill, New Hampshire. Operating a beef and hog farm is not easy work, but it’s not their only job. They also have five children: Calvin, Madeleine, Dory, Gabriel, and Rose. Tara admits that this can lead to having a “crazy lifestyle”.
Despite their busy schedules, they have still managed to significantly increase the scale of their operation since the farm was founded in 2004. The demand for locally produced, high quality meat in New Hampshire and across New England has enabled them to build a successful business.
Pete and Tara met at the University of New Hampshire in the ROTC program. After being stationed together in Hawaii, they knew that they wanted to return home to New Hampshire. They came across the idea of starting a slaughterhouse, as Pete had grown up with cattle and had also taken some meat cutting courses at UNH. In 2003, they moved back to New Hampshire and bought a small slaughterhouse the next year.
“We used to have to turn away people all the time,” Tara says about their operation when it was just beginning. Since then, they have built a new plant with huge capacity so that they can meet their demand.
Since the beginning, their commitment to treating their animals with respect has been strong and evident. “From birth to the end of life, we make sure that our animals are as comfortable as possible. Nobody wants to see an animal suffer,” says Tara. She also emphasizes that she relies on the animals to feed her kids, so they certainly want to make sure that they provide the animals with dignity and respect in their life.
UMass Dining partnering with PT Farm is a win-win: PT Farm gets a stable customer that will purchase a significant amount of their meat; and UMass receives premium, local meat that is raised humanely and as naturally as possible.
Over the summer at UMass, while classes were out and the campus was vacant, the university Dining Team was hard at work. As the spring semester came to a close, the team set two goals for themselves to accomplish before September: create a new menu design and increase local sourcing.
Throughout the season, UMass Dining worked with professional chefs to innovate a menu based on seasonal New England produce that included more vegetarian options, local and underutilized fish and primal cuts of meat.
To increase procurement of local food, the team looked into buying produce, grains, dairy and meat from farms and companies within a 250 mile radius. Now that the academic year is in full swing and the dining halls are frequented daily by thousands of hungry students, the team has begun to implement some of these shifts towards local ingredients.
Currently serving at Hampshire Dining Hall:
Coming to Hampshire October 2014:
In addition to increasing the amount of local food it serves, UMass Dining is also dedicated to serving dishes that utilize sustainable ingredients:
Currently serving in all UMass Dining Halls:
Looking forward, UMass Dining has a great deal of changes in store. In collaboration with student from the Real Food Challenge, a national campaign that UMass signed onto in Spring ‘13, UMass Dining will continuously work on sourcing more food that is fairly traded, organically produced and humanely raised in addition to locally grown. Stay tuned!
In 1950, Teddy C. Smiarowski founded Smiarowski Farm on 70 acres of fertile, sandy loam. Since then, the farm has changed in a number of ways.
First, John Smiarowski and his three brothers Bernie, Ron, and Jim, have since taken over the operations of the farm from their father. Each brother plays a different role in the maintenance of the farm such as planting, harvesting, sales, and irrigation. The farm has also expanded from 70 acres to almost 700 acres in the 64 years that it has been in operation.
As early as John can remember, he has been farming. “When I was little, I was always helping my father,” John says. “I probably started helping when I was 5 or 6.”
Another change in the farm over its history has been what it produces. For a dozen years up until three years ago, significant acreage was devoted to tobacco production like many farms in the Pioneer Valley. Now, the farm has gone back to its roots.
“Potatoes are our main crop now,” John says, “But we have about 10 acres devoted to strawberries and we also grow a little asparagus, squash, and pumpkin.”
With technical assistance from UMass Extension, Smiarowski Farm uses a system of pest control called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Rather than spraying pesticides indiscriminately on their crops like many industrial-scale farms, the farm judiciously sprays as little as possible in order to protect the food, soil, environment, and the health of the farmers.
This is not the only practice that proves Smiarowski Farm wants to produce food in a conscientious manner; they also strive to reduce their use of water for agricultural purposes as much as possible. Agriculture is responsible for 80% of the water consumed in the United States.
“Over the past ten years, we have installed a center-pivot irrigation system which is very efficient in conserving water,” John explains.
John and Smiarowski Farm provide a great example of how farmers and universities can support each other. The university provides technical support for the farm in soil testing and pest management; the farm provides healthy, local produce for the university. Furthermore, John graduated from UMass with a degree in Agricultural Economics which has been invaluable in successfully operating his own farm.
This community-based partnership between Smiarowski Farm and UMass is why John Smiarowski is our Farmer of the Week.
This week's Farmer is UMass's very own Amanda Brown. Amanda helps UMass students make their passion for growing food for their peers a reality through the UMass Student Farming Enterprise.
The Student Farm is a unique year-long course that provides students with hands-on experience running an organic farm. The course started in 2007 when two students began growing kale and broccoli for UMass's student-run Earthfoods Cafe. From there, Amanda has continually developed the program, which is now in its eighth season, with 12 students growing 36 different vegetable varieties.
The student farmers sell their produce to the Dining Commons and the local Big Y supermarket as well as UMass student businesses (including Greeno Sub Shop, Earthfoods, Peoples Market and more). They've also created their own fall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share catered to students and faculty. Each year, the CSA sells around 50 shares to the campus community, making it a unique UMass network of farmers and consumers.
The Student Farm continues to gain support both on campus and in the local area while maintaining the close-knit community that makes the program such a success. “As UMass student farmers, we commit to providing our campus community nutritious, organically grown, local produce. We cultivate student empowerment through hands-on agricultural production and by educating our peers about the importance of creating a healthier food system”.
Combining science and hands-on learning, the Student Farming Enterprise provides students with the tools to build a career that they are proud of in the agriculture sector, a crucial step in creating regenerative food systems. Thanks for all your hard work, Amanda Brown!
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.