Farming is already an extremely difficult profession to be successful without 100% turnover each year and many first-time farmers running the operation. However, the Student Farm always manages to persevere and come out on top of whatever challenges they face. Kyle Zegel speaks to this, explaining, "This year was a really tough year. We had several intense heat waves, an incredibly wet late summer and fall, and several periods of labor shortage. We were hit hard with diseases ... and a lot of plants never made it into the ground, which made us short for our markets.
The UMass Student Farm is a student-run farm on campus that manages 14 acres of land and grows 35 different crops using ecologically sound practices. They supplied UMass Dining with over 10,000 lbs of local, fresh, organic vegetables in the past year. Produce from the Student Farm is featured in all four Dining Commons, at the weekly Student Farmers’ Market on Goodell Lawn, and at four Big Y locations. The Student Farm also offers Fall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares to the campus community every year, enabling students, faculty, and staff to purchase a share in the farm and pick up over 25 pounds of fresh organic produce every week for ten weeks (September through November).
decisions about how to run the farm and spend their time. "We have a lot of trust put in us and carry a lot of responsibility, which may be intimidating, but it feels very refreshing when in most of our classes our biggest responsibility is turning in a paper," says Kyle Zegel, a Sustainable Food and Farming major from UMass in the 2018 Student Farm Crew.
This decision making power allows students to shape the program to their own learning objectives. For example, the 2018 crew made a lot of efforts on the farm to increase its environmental and social sustainability. This year the crew piloted inter-row cover cropping to reduce the amount of tillage, bare soil, and weeding that they had to do. Additionally, in 2019 the Student Farm provided 25 free CSA shares to campus community members that would not have otherwise been able to afford them using grant money from the Sustainability Initiative and Engagement Fund. In partnership with the Food For All Program, they also worked to donate all of the excess produce, flowers, and fresh herbs from the farm to Not Bread Alone in Amherst and the Amherst Survival Center.
Throughout the season they donated over 5 tons of produce to these community partners. Carly Brand, a BDIC major and a member of the 2018 crew remarked, "I'm proud of the donations we were able to give to Not Bread Alone and the Amherst Survival Center on top of all the markets we have; the volunteers always received our deliveries with such gratitude. I don't think many people have full clarity on the issue of local food insecurity or the impact that we can have with a small redistribution." The farmers made small deliveries every week and often biweekly to Not Bread Alone for over six months this season.
Sometimes we work in torrential downpours or near 100 degree heat. People get burnt out, sick and injured. We also have to constantly deal with the stress of crop failure and anxiety about finances, but what keeps me going on the toughest days is knowing that this work that we do is providing fresh, nutritious food to our community." Carly Brand add, "Even when it was painfully early or too cold to feel our toes, it felt worth it to be part of a strong, supportive community and to interact with our 'consumers' directly after. Working on the farm constantly reminds us to recognize the full value of the food we grow, and to do everything we can to prevent it from going to waste."
Kyle's advice to readers that care about where your food comes from is to "learn about agriculture and see if you can help farmers make their systems more sustainable. Go volunteer for food waste recovery and food equity organizations in your area and understand the extent of food insecurity in your area. The more involved you get with the growing, processing, and distribution of food, the more you'll be able to understand about what work needs to be done in our food system."
Thanks so much to Carly Brand, Kyle Zegel, and the rest of the Student Farm program at UMass for all of the hard work you do to provide our campus community with affordable organic produce every year! For more information about the Student Farm, visit their website. Sign ups for the 2020 CSA program will begin in March- be sure to catch their Early Bird discount! Consider making a donation to the Student Farm to fund free CSA shares for our campus community in 2019.
On November 27th 2018, UMass Dining hosted an event called Diet For A Cooler Planet that served a meal of delicious regenerative foods featuring contributions from local farms practicing alternative farming methods. The meal was served in all four dining commons on campus to highlight our local partners and encourage students to practice more mindful eating. Hampshire Dining Commons served additional appetizers and displayed of educational materials with student ambassadors available to engage with about how our food choices impact our climate. Below is a piece written by Meghan Sawtelle, a member of the 2018 UMass Permaculture summer garden crew and an undergraduate at UMass Amherst studying Sustainable Food and Farming. She shares her reflections on the Diet For A Cooler Planet Dinner and her experiences with some of the food featured at the event before it was served.
Upon entering the Hampshire dining hall, I was greeted by members of the UMass Permaculture Initiative, who served as a wealth of knowledge regarding everything being offered and its origin. Inside the Hampshire dining room, I was engulfed by an in depth look at the driving forces of permaculture and combating climate change through food, using informative panels and a screening of the Permaculture documentary ‘Inhabit’, starring one of our very own faculty, Lisa Depiano. There was one dish that I felt especially moved by; that was the lamb that had been raised right on campus.
However, it’s important to recognize how revolutionary their existence was; they were part of a silvopasture system, which is a regenerative farming method that combines tree crops and animal crops. The trees provide shade and forage while the animals control weeds and fertilize the soil. Establishing perennial tree crops helps to fight climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon into biomass each year it grows, storing a large amount of carbon in the wood itself. Investing more of our agricultural land into establishing silvopasture systems could ease the stress on our nation's forests as fossil fuel use continues lurching us towards a less dependable future.
Along with lentil pate, butternut pakoras, and chestnut onion goat cheese tarts, by the end of the evening my stomach was just as full as my heart.
Thanks so much to Meghan Sawtelle for writing this blog and to Sustainable Food and Farming for co-sponsoring the event. And of course a huge thanks to our farm partners for this event: UMass Student Farm, PT Farms, Fungi Ally, Joe Czajkowski Farm, UMass Permcaulture Gardens, and Maine Family Farms.
On November 9th, the Student Farmers’ Market held a Food For All Market with an attempt to address the stigma on hunger around campus. UMass Permaculture, the Food For All Program, and the Student Farm teamed up to organize this exciting Market, which featured a fresh and canned food drive, opportunities to engage in conversation with knowledgeable students about local food security, and information about resources available on campus and in the area for people experiencing food insecurity.
to donate produce that they could spare from their share that week to the food drive. Most of fresh food donated was provided by Student Farm CSA members. Canned food donations were brought to the Student Food Pantry on campus.
Throughout the market, community members talked about food recovery and food access over free soup and cider. UMass Permaculture provided free sweet potato soup using gleaned sweet potatoes from Czajkowski Farm in Hadley and fresh pressed apple cider with Student Farm and Cold Spring Orchard apples. The Food For All Program handed out the rest of the sweet potatoes their practicum class had gleaned together a few weeks before for free along with free butternut squash donated by the Student Farm.
Food For All also set up a booth with a detailed map of the food system displayed next to a poster listing all of the resources available for students and community members to access free food on campus and in the area. Student Farmer Jordan Lake created a zine that compiled all of the resources available on campus that were handed out for free throughout the market as well. Food For All students conversed with market-goers and invited them to ask themselves what they could do to support their food insecure peers.
Most people are surprised by the high rates of food insecurity on this campus but up to 23% of undergraduate students and 26% of graduate students cut or skipped a meal because they didn’t have enough money to buy food (Clark & Harris, 2015). It is vitally important that we keep talking about food access, work to reduce the stigma around hunger, stand up for each others' right to food, and keep everybody fed!
-- Sign up to help the Food Recovery Network donate food from the Dining Commons to local relief organization Craig's Doors.
-- Volunteer or donate shelf-stable food items to the Student Food Pantry on campus and spread the word to people you know about their new location and hours.
For a list of available food resources on and off campus, or to download the Food For All Zine, click here!
Endless gratitude to Food For All students Kayleigh Boucher, Melissa Bonaccorso, Braeden Leinhart, Courtney Spera, Jackie Williams, Alex Androsko, and Liam Davis, as well as Student Farmers Avi Flynn, Jordan Lake, Lee Mcloughlin, Carly Brand, and Jackie Montminy, who made this event happen.
The UMass Permaculture Initiative (UMPI) is looking for a new part-time Student Garden Coordinator! You can find details about the position here.
This is a wonderful opportunity for those who want to cultivate an eco-conscious community on campus. An ideal candidate would be someone with some practical experience in sustainable agriculture and permaculture design along with the ability to skillfully work with diverse groups of people in an educational setting.
To apply, please fill out this form. For more information please contact Dan Bensonoff at info@umasspermaculture.
Photo credit: Keith Toffling Photography
Joe Czajkowski Farm, located in Hadley, MA, has been supplying food to UMass Dining since 2015 and is owned by Joe Czajkowski, a third generation farmer. Joe's 400 acre farm grows a wide variety of crops including corn, winter squash, summer squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, strawberries and many more. UMass Dining purchases from Joe year round and in the last fiscal year they purchased over 2 million lbs of produce from him which is over $500,000 of food.
UMass Dining especially values their partnership with Joe Czajkowski because of his relationships with many other farmers in the Valley. Joe acts as a central point or aggregate for many of the farms in the area that need a buyer for their produce but cannot afford the insurance required to be able to work with some buyers like UMass Dining. Joe's involvement enables UMass Dining to purchase more local food than they would otherwise. Farmers who work with Joe will drop their products off at his farm and Joe will drive them to UMass each week with his own produce deliveries. Some farms Joe works with include Jekanowski Farms, Pine Hill Orchard, Szawlowski Potato Farms, and Smiarowski Farm.
Joe also shares land with other farms. After spending over a hundred years in the Valley, farmers know each other's operations well. Neighboring farms will rotate their crops on each others' land to avoid disease and pest pressure that is unavoidable when you grow large amounts of anything in the same fields year after year. This year nearly a third of the squash crop in the valley was lost to disease. Partnerships like these allow farmers to share resources, knowledge, and connections and support each other in our local food community.
"Being able to supply UMass and the Chickopee and Amherst schools with healthier, fresher, locally grown produce keeps money, jobs, open space, and a diverse local economy in the Valley." - Joe Czajkowski
A huge thanks to Joe for supplying our campus with local food! For more information about his operation or to visit the farm, check out their website.
Fall Foraging Workshops
Join us for a foray around campus on October 10th from 3:00-5:00 PM to identify, gather, and eat wild edible foods.
Registration Required. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to save a spot.
Led by our Coordinator of Campus Gardens Dan Bensonoff, our Fall Foraging Walks will help you to identify the abundance around you right on campus. We'll learn about the ethics and sustainability of wild harvesting as well as some of the nutritional profiles of the foods we find. Possible wild edibles for this walk may include: black walnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, wild apples, primrose root, daylily tubers and more. Don't forget to register to participate!
UMass Student Farmers' market
The Student Farmers' Market runs every Friday at the Goodell Lawn from 12:00pm - 4:00pm until November 16th!
A collaboration between the UMass Permaculture Initiative and the UMass Student Farm, the UMass Student Farmers' Market is a weekly event featuring live music, fresh local veggies, medicinal herbs, handmade crafts, student art, and an opportunity to get to know the amazing agricultural community on the UMass campus. The Farmers' Market is also the location of the Student Farm's CSA pickups.
Students or student organizations within the Five College Consortium are encouraged to perform, vend, or table at the market. If you would like to become a vendor or performer at the market, sign up here!
Volunteer in the Campus Permaculture GardenS
Our Fall Volunteer Hours are every Thursday and Friday from 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM in the Franklin Permaculture Garden.
Join us to plant, harvest, cultivate, and learn fundamental gardening skills for a greener future. All are welcome! No need to RSVP.
For more information or questions about these events, please email email@example.com.
Cold Spring Orchard is a research and education facility of UMass Amherst located in Belchertown, MA. The Cold Spring Orchard farm store has different varieties of apples to choose from every couple of weeks and also sells honey, maple products, jams, jellies, apple cider, and more. At Cold Spring, they offer pick your own apples, school tours, and resources for apple growers in New England from their research. They grows over 100 varieties of apples on over 50 acres of land. UMass Dining serves Cold Spring Orchard Apples from September until December each year and has been working with Cold Spring for years now.
If you have the money to spend, it is worthwhile to invest in local farms that you know care for the earth, their community, and their workers. For small farmers to survive when they have to compete with industrial agriculture, they need support.
Thanks so much to Shawn and the rest of the Cold Spring team for working with UMass Dining and providing local apples to our campus community. To visit Cold Spring Orchard, check out their Pick Your Own and retail store hours on their website. To learn more about them, visit our 2017 blog and our 2016 blog about the Orchard!
UMass Dining's award winning food truck BabyBerk is offering free meals to people ages 18 & under from June 25th, 2018 until August 10th, 2018. The truck will be serving meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:30am - 3:30pm with stops at multiple locations around Amherst each day. They are hoping to feed 560 people each day that they are in operation! No ID is necessary and no registration is required.
The date/time/location for each stop is below:
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 10:30am-3:00pm from June 25th - August 10th (excluding Wednesday, July 4th)
10:30 – 10:45 a.m., Rolling Green Apartments, 1 Rolling Green Drive
11:00 – 11:20 a.m., Colonial Village Apartments, 81 Belchertown Road
11:40 – 11:50 p.m., Butternut Farms Apartments, 12 Longmeadow Drive
12:10-12:30 p.m., South Point Apartments, 266 E. Hadley Street
1:00 – 1:30 p.m., Village Park Apartments, 497 E. Pleasant Street
1:55 – 2:05 p.m., Olympia Oaks, 85 Olympia Drive
2:20 – 2:45 p.m., North Village Apartments, 990 N. Pleasant Street
3:10 – 3:30 p.m., Mill River Recreation Area, 95 Montague Road
Download a copy of the scheduled routes here:
It’s hard to believe that the 2017-2018 academic year is almost over! Let’s take a moment to look back on what UMass Dining Sustainability did over the past two semesters.
UMass Student Farmers Markets
The UMass Student Farmers Markets took place from September to November and during the month of April, providing an opportunity to support local artists, farmers, musicians, and vendors. The UMass Student Farm will continue to sell their CSA shares at the fall market starting again in September 2018.
Farm to Campus Summit
In February over 35 individuals from 25 colleges and universities throughout New England came together for the Farm to Campus Summit hosted by UMass Dining to discuss food service sustainability. Attendees participated in collective and small group discussions to exchange strategies to measure, report, and increase utilization of local food and reduce waste. Andy Kendall of the Henry P. Kendall Foundation emphasized how collective efforts such as those reached during the Farm to Campus Summit are integral to facilitate systematic change that will have positive impacts on regional farmers and overall food production in New England.
New Addition to our Gardens: Bees!
Earth Day Festivities
On this year's Earth Day, students representing UMass Permaculture offered seed bomb making at the Amherst Sustainability Festival and sold zines made by students in the permaculture practicum course at Easthampton's Pioneer Valley Zine Fest. On campus, the Earth Day Farmers' Market showcased the incredible variety of sustainability initiatives going on at UMass, ranging from Food Recovery Network to Rack City Thrift.
A huge thank you to all of the growers, distributors, educators, and innovators who make it possible to foster a campus community that is conscious of its impact and constantly striving to be a leader in food system sustainability. We couldn't do it without you!
Photo credit: Keith Toffling
The UMass Student Farming Enterprise has recently finished building an off-grid greenhouse at the Agricultural Learning Center in Amherst, MA. The National Science Foundation grant funded the project with the objective of educating students about renewable energy in agricultural settings. Throughout the past four years, interns and students have been involved with the development of the greenhouse, steering the project and learning the ins and outs of implementing an off-grid greenhouse.
This project was started in 2013 as an initiative for the Student Farm to produce food year-round in New England without using any fossil fuels. "We wanted to try to build something that could be replicated by farmers and ended up having to build something that had never been done before," Amanda Brown, the Student Farm Program Manager, explained. She added that it ended up being much more complicated than they anticipated.
The limiting factor in designing the greenhouse was being able to run it without electricity or fossil fuels in the middle of agricultural fields. The Student Farm hired Spartan Solar to help create a system to heat each raised bed and maintain a soil temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Solar collectors located right outside the greenhouse use the sun to heat up tubes filled with glycol and water, which is then pumped underground to storage tanks inside the greenhouse. There is a temperature sensor in the beds that indicates when the system needs to move the heated glycol from the storage tanks and into tubes inside the beds to heat up the soil. Amanda explained that "it is much more energy efficient to heat the soil rather than to heat the air. Most greenhouses burn through propane in the winter to keep them warm enough." However, air easily escapes through the plastic lining of a greenhouse, which is not only expensive but unsustainable as well.
In addition to the solar collectors heating the soil, solar panels will power the sensors, pumps, and vents in the greenhouse to maintain a temperature conducive to what the plants growing inside need to thrive as well. This temperature control and increased protection from frost, wind, and precipitation is essential to grow certain species of plants in New England. This summer, the Student Farm will be planting heirloom tomatoes from Laughing Dog Farm in Gill, MA and basil in the greenhouse. These crops will do well in this environment because they appreciate the additional heat in the summer and the protection from weather, disease, and insects. In the fall, they will be using the greenhouse for season extension and plan to direct seed cold-hardy greens and transplant kale into the bed space. Amanda is excited to see how the Student Farm will be able to use the space and to discover how it will affect their operation.
The Student Farming Enterprise would like to thank the following people for their time and assistance with this project: John Gerber (Stockbridge School of Agriculture), Ben Weil (UMass Amherst), Nancy Hanson (Hampshire College), Kate Maiolatesi (Holyoke Community College), Sarah Berquist (UMass Amherst), Zack Zenk (UMass Amherst), and all of the students and student farmers who have been involved over the years.
To learn more about the Student Farm or to sign up for one of their farm shares in the fall, visit their website. Thanks so much to Amanda Brown and Jackie Montminy for your help with this post and for all of the hard work you do to educate students and feed the UMass community.
Photo Credit: Keith Toffling Photography
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.