Lilly began her farming journey as a UMass student walking by the Franklin Dining Commons one day. At the time, work was underway to start creating what would become the Franklin Permaculture Garden. As she walked by one day, she became curious as to what was to become of the land that had previously been a boring, empty grass lawn.
Soon, after learning what the project was all about, she began volunteering with the project. Having grown up in the urban setting of New York City, the idea of regenerating underutilized spaces into productive, edible gardens was exciting.
In 2012, she became a student garden coordinator with the UMass Permaculture Initiative, housed under the Auxiliary Sustainability department. The novel idea of permaculture, essentially a system of growing food in a way that is regenerative for the land and community, sold her on working in this new role.
Lilly worked with the Sustainability team to maintain the existing permaculture gardens and create new permaculture gardens across campus including the Hillside garden behind the Chancellor’s house. She also began providing tours of the gardens to local school groups, helping set up the on-campus farmers market, and more.
There are now five permaculture gardens on-campus: Franklin, Berkshire, Hillside, Worcester, and most recently Hampshire.
In 2014, after graduating as a double-major in Resource Economics and Sustainable Food & Farming, Lilly joined the Sustainability department full-time. In addition to all of the roles she had as a student, Lilly runs volunteer hours and teaches a practicum in which students work in the gardens and learn about permaculture for credit.
If you haven’t had a chance to meet Lilly or get a tour of the gardens, it’s the best way there is to learn about permaculture and regenerative ecology!
To read more about Lilly’s work with the UMass Permaculture Initiative, click on the Permaculture tab of the website.
"A national event. Real food, just food."
Every October 24th, thousands of Food Day events are held across the nation, but why? What is Food Day, anyway, and why does it bring so many people together?
Just 5 years ago, there was no such thing as a national "Food Day" in America - no food labor conferences, no food justice rallies, no planting days at elementary schools on October 24th. But 5 years ago, a group of innovators in the food movement across America saw a problem that they wanted to solve.
It's no secret that the prevalence of health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes can find their roots in the typical American diet, costing us, as a country, hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Paired with the staple meat centered meal and an industrial system of agriculture, it became increasingly clear that our food systems were - and are - a slow moving disaster.
The good thing about this slow moving disaster is that there are plenty of things that we can do beyond stopping it in its tracks: we have the power to fix it. That's where Food Day comes in. Food Day was created not only with the purpose of motivating Americans to examine and change their eating habits, but also to provide a platform by which action towards a healthy, environmentally viable, and just American food system can be fostered.
The focus of Food Day for 2015 is "Toward a Greener Diet." Even though Food Day falls on a Saturday this year, UMass still has plenty of opportunities for members of our campus community to get involved! Join us for this annual celebration of healthy, sustainable food and analysis of ways in which we can put our broken food system back together for a brighter future. It's time for real food UMass!
Field to Fork: Labor in the MA Food System
Thursday, October 22, 2015
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
10th Floor, Campus Center
"The aim of this one-day conference is to bring together stakeholders including farm owners/employers, farm and retail food workers, farm worker representatives, worker activists, government, and university faculty and students to begin to share what we know about the problems and conditions these workers face, and to take the first step in developing a research and action plan to address how to improve labor conditions as part of the quest for a just and sustainable Massachusetts food system."
Click here for more information and registration.
Film Screening: Fed Up
Thursday, October 22, 2015
6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Berkshire Room, Berkshire Dining Common
"FED UP is the movie that exposes the hidden ingredient in all of our food that is making us sick-sugar-and what we can all do to lead healthier lives, which is simply…Eat Real Food! All students, staff and faculty are welcome to join us for this film showing, followed by a guided discussion. Light snacks and refreshments will be served! "
Garlic Planting & Community Service
Friday, October 23, 2015
9:30 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Franklin Permaculture Garden
"Get your hands dirty and meet other like-minded students at the Franklin Permaculture garden for a morning of garlic bulb planting and community service. What better way to earn volunteer hours and enjoy the fall weather?"
Student Farmers' Market & Apple Cider Pressing Workshop
Friday, October 23, 2015
12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
"As part of Food Day, UMass students will be running the UMass Farmers Market on the Goodell Lawn! There will be a workshop from 1:00PM-3:00PM where participants will be able to learn about UMass' own Cold Spring Orchard and press some apple cider to sample!"
The Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass has been serving students well for a long time. Thanks to Stockbridge, UMass Amherst was recently ranked in the top ten for best agricultural universities in the world. Ag students leave UMass ready to take on the real world having taken courses on pressing issues like Food Justice & Policy as well as on the practical skills of farming.
The UMass Student Farming Enterprise (SFE), a Stockbridge program, is a great example of how students are being prepared to succeed in life after college. Established as a year-long class in 2008, students participate in all aspects of what it takes to run a farm. The student farmers plan their crop production, weed, operate machinery, harvest, and clean; but they also learn how to develop a strong business model and sell their products.
This training in marketing and selling their products has resulted in a fruitful partnership with the local supermarket chain Big Y. They also sell their produce to the on-campus dining commons, Earthfoods Cafe, and to 60 CSA shareholders at the UMass Student Farmers Market in the Fall. If you live in or around Amherst, there are plenty of places where you can find their high-quality produce!
Speaking of high-quality, SFE grows certified organic produce on seven acres of land split between Amherst and South Deerfield. One of the missions of the program is to provide students with the knowledge they need to be stewards of the environment if they decide to run their own farms in the future. Agriculture can be a highly energy intensive process, so it is crucial to teach the next generation of farmers how to do so sustainably and in an ecologically sound way.
If you’re a fan of vegetables, you’ll love what they have to offer! In 2014, they grew “39 different crops, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, swiss chard, sweet corn, carrots, eggplant, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.” Sounds delicious to me!
Find out more about SFE on their website here.
John Kokoski of Mapleline Farm is our Farmer of the Week. John, who is a UMass alumnus, and his team at Mapleline provide their local milk wholesale to large institutions like UMass Dining but also to small markets and cafes around the Pioneer Valley.
Mapleline has been a part of the Hadley community for over a century, having been founded in 1904 by John’s great-great grandfather, Stanley. Over those 111 years, the farm has shifted from producing various crops such as tobacco and vegetables to focusing on dairy production full-time. When John took over the farm from his dad in 1980, he began to expand the dairy herd and business to what it is today.
While their milk isn’t organic due to the fact that they spray herbicides on their crops (albeit as minimally as possible), the farm’s commitment to sustainability is strong. For example, wastewater from the processing plant is mixed with cow manure to produce a natural fertilizer which is used on their cropland. In turn, this fertilizer helps grow the crops that become food for the cows. Not only is this a sustainable system for the environment, it helps the farm maintain its economic sustainability.
Despite having become a bigger operation over the past few decades, the quality of life for Mapleline’s 100-200 cows is high. John and his team make sure that their cows are happy and healthy at all times. The cows receive regular veterinary check-ups, aren’t treated with any synthetic growth hormones (rBST) that are common in the industry, and eat a mostly local diet. It’s a pretty good life!
UMass Dining’s partnership with Mapleline Farm includes providing all of the milk at Berkshire DC, Hampshire DC, as well as individual bottles at retail locations around campus.
Support local farms and keep an eye out for Mapleline Farm products on campus and in nearby communities!
This week we are featuring Misty Knoll Farm, a poultry farm in New Haven, VT, for our first Farmer of the Week for the Fall 2015 semester! Misty Knoll has been a family-owned business and an integral part of its small northern Vermont community since 1984.
Part-owner Rob Litch has taken big strides in expanding his business to an economically feasible scale while maintaining the ethical principles that customers expect from a locally owned and operated business. Misty Knoll is Vermont’s largest producer of chickens by a wide margin with 225,000 raised annually.
Despite its status as a major producer within Vermont, Rob maintains the farm’s integrity in part by feeding grains to his chickens, which are free of antibiotics and hormones. Many large-scale chicken operations use excessive amounts of antibiotics in order to fend off sicknesses that breed quickly given the cramped, inhumane conditions in which the birds are often housed. Misty Knoll has been able to keep its chickens healthy without antibiotics by giving their animals enough space to move (double the industry standard) as well as ample food and water. As of this semester, UMass Dining is now sourcing 100% of its chicken antibiotic free!
Increasing local, New England meat production has proven to be a difficult task because it’s costly and there are so few slaughterhouses in the region. Misty Knoll owes a lot of its success to the fact that it operates its own slaughterhouse directly on the farm. This allows them to cut out the middleman and control their product all the way to dining halls and supermarkets. Keeping production costs as low as possible is crucial to be able to compete with the industry giants, Tyson and Perdue.
Misty Knoll has something that the national producers don’t have – better-tasting chicken. Rob attributes this to the fact that his chickens are happy; happy chickens mean better chicken.
Visit their website for more information.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.