- Be careful not to let metal forks, knives, and spoons slip into the compost bin when you are cleaning off your plate. They ruin tractor tires and jam the equipment at Martin's Farm.
- Plastic gloves and pink sanitation towels are not compostable.
- Metal cans, tinfoil, plastic water bottles, yogurt cups, and other recyclable matierals are not compostable.
- If there is not a compost bin available, do not throw compostable to-go containers in the recycling bin. Throw them in the landfill bin. In the same way that recyclables contaminate the compost, compostables contaminate the recycling.
- Cardboard is compostable unless it is glossy or coated in other materials.
- Carry reusable silverware, containers, and cups with you to avoid using compostable containers all together! Bioplastics can only be partially broken down through Martin's Farm composting process and the remaining bioplastic bits are sent to a landfill. Additionally, have offer no nutritional benefits to the soil once broken down.
- Coordinate for your class, co-workers, or organization to visit and tour Martin's Farm to learn more about their operation and the importance of their work.
- Do your research so you know you are composting and recycling your waste correctly and share your knowledge with the people around you.
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.
Sean Dimin is the founder and CEO of Sea to Table and explains that the company "started with a love of fishing." Sean says that it was clear to him that there was a need for fishermen and commercial docks to get a better market as well as a need for chefs to have access to high-quality, sustainable seafood. Sean founded Sea to Table to "deliver a high-quality product and tell the story behind it.” The company works hard to make their operation as transparent as possible to allow traceability, accountability, and honesty between fishermen, sellers, and consumers.
In addition to restaurants, universities, colleges, and businesses, Sea to Table provides fresh seafood to Americans through their new home delivery service. "To be able to reach right into people's homes and connect with them at the dinner table and give them a better option of fish is key to what we do," Sean shared. In February of 2017, Sea to Table provided about 1 million portions of seafood for their customers and diners. Sean explained that "over 90% of the seafood that is consumed in this country is imported," making it the company’s goal to improve the value and quality behind the fish that we eat by providing customers with sustainable, traceable, and local options.
While there is a growing awareness and shared sentiment among consumers that we want to know where our food comes from, we often overestimate the ability of the earth’s ecosystems to keep up with our demand. Fisheries involve complex interactions between species and their environment, and just like any resource, there are limits to how much we can take. In order to become more conscientious as consumers, it is essential to develop an awareness of seasonality and locality for everything we eat, including seafood.
Sea to Table incorporates this consumer education into its practices in order to help people understand what fishermen are catching (which are often not the same species of fish that Americans are used to eating). Tuna, shrimp, cod, and salmon are the most popular fish in the U.S., yet these are also some of the most unsustainable species due to the vast quantities in which they are harvested. "We are doing a lot of education to bring the diner right to the dock to see what it is like... and to see how the fish were caught, who caught them, and what fish they were catching," Sean explains.
Sean shares that his favorite part of the job is when he gets to be on the water. "It is where I have a connection and it is not every day that we get to connect with nature. I think it brings us back to an elemental root of where our food comes from." Sean believes that something anyone can do to protect fish stocks and contribute to ocean health is just to care. "If you care about the fish that you eat and buy, you want to know where it came from," he explains. By demanding transparency about where our food is coming from, we as consumers have the power to change the way that food is produced and sold on the market.
Thank you so much Sean for all of your hard work to make our food system more sustainable. UMass Dining appreciates all of the knowledge and resources you are able to share with our customers and we look forward to continuing to collaborate in the future to educate and empower!
For more information about Sea to Table, or to get high quality seafood delivered right to your door, visit their website.
Fort River Farm, located less than four miles from campus in Hadley, MA provides UMass Dining with high quality, pasture-raised Black Angus beef. All of the beef produced from Fort River Farm is processed in Vermont and is both certified prime and certified humane. Beef cattle can be found grazing on Fort River Farm’s 60 acres of land, 365 days a year. Bruce says that the cows prefer to be outside in the fields all year round even through snowy New England winters.
Fort River Farm is also home to upwards of 25 Swiss cows of all ages that are raised for their raw milk. This is such a small, select group that, unlike on most dairy farms, Bruce knows all of them by name. They bottle fresh raw milk every day and any milk that is too old to be sold is fed to their pigs to minimize their food waste. The beef cattle are tended to by other farmers on their team, but Bruce takes sole responsibility for caring for his five Swiss cows.
Aside from raising cows for beef and raw milk, Bruce also owns and operates Maple Valley Creamery and the Mill Valley Milk Store. Maple Valley Creamery has been making ice cream for nine years, and source Jersey milk from other farms to make their product. Every year, Maple Valley Creamery collaborates with the UMass Amherst Food Science department to hold a competition where students compete in groups to make the best flavor to add to Maple Valley Creamery's wide selection. Their newest flavor – root beer float – won this year’s competition.
Thank you so much to Bruce Jenks for the hard work that you do to care for your animals while supplying conscientiously-raised beef and dairy products to the local community!
To purchase Fort River Farm’s grass-fed meat, raw milk, and Maple Valley Creamery ice cream,
check out their farm store located in Hadley. Here, you can also find an abundance of other local products from farmers and vendors in the area. For more information about their farm visit their website!
Photo Credit: Keith Toffling
Swaz Potato Farms was founded in 1910 by John Rupert Szawlowski and grows 3,000 acres of White, Red, Yukon Gold, and Russet potatoes in the Connecticut River Valley. The Szawlowski family business is based in Hatfield, MA and has been in operation for over 100 years. They are now one of the largest potato farms in New England. The provide potatoes to UMass Dining and many other businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants across the region.
At Swaz Potato Farms, they harvest their crops until late November but operate throughout the winter by storing, packing, and distributing potatoes grown on 2,000 acres by farmers across the country. This enables them to run a full-time farm in New England and to provide a variety of products for their customers 365 days a year. During their peak season in August, they harvest 500,000 pounds of potatoes every day and package 80 bags a minute at their facility.
Additionally, the Food Bank of Western MA works hard to increase food security in the Pioneer Valley by supplying local community meal programs with fresh, nutritious food.
UMass Hydroponics Farm is a student-run hydroponics business located on campus that grows leafy greens, culinary herbs, tomatoes, bok choy, leeks, and strawberries for Franklin Dining Commons and the UMass community as a whole. UMass Hydro was founded about a year ago by Evan Chakrin, studying Horticulture, and Sustainable Food and Farming student Dana Lucas. "We wanted to have a chance while in school at Stockbridge to have hands on hydroponic experience using common production systems and growing actual food," says Evan Chakrin.
Right now, UMass Hydro is supplying greens to on-campus student-run business Greeno Sub Shop and will begin regular deliveries to Franklin Dining Commons and the Belly of the Beast in Northampton this semester. They will also be launching a small Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share around March 1st and will be selling their produce at the returning UMass Student Farmers' Market this Spring. Because of their small scale, UMass Hydro cannot provide all of the calories that people need, "but we can supplement what they are eating with the highest quality produce that is possible to be grown," says Evan.
Hydroponics is a very important innovation for farming because it is extremely portable, resource efficient, and customizable for any location. UMass Hydro has eliminated pest pressure, the need to weed their crops, and the need to attend to soil fertility and health. The adaptability of the technology also allows hydroponics to potentially increase food security. "You can set it up in a desert, in a city, on a rooftop, or in a shipping container without the need to deal with tons of soil. It is a very portable and efficient way to grow food," Evan shares. Hydroponics uses only 10% of the water that traditional farming requires to grow the same types of crops. Evan explains that, "hydroponics will never replace field agriculture for root or grain crops, but for delicate crops and small fruit crops it is perfect." Dana Lucas shares that "Massachusetts grows only 4% of their food and 80% of the cost of produce is transportation." Dana explains that to run one freight container of hydroponics for one year takes the same amount of energy to drive one truck load of produce from California to Massachusetts. Hydroponics may become an essential part of the solution to food insecurity and the increasing pressures of climate change on food production.
Another unique and sustainable benefit of UMass Hydro and other indoor farms is their capability to grow food year-round. "We have been growing lettuce, basil, and tomatoes all winter," says Evan. Even in the middle of January, students can look out the windows of Franklin Dining Commons to see the food they are eating being grown in the purple-lit greenhouses of UMass Hydro. Evan shares that he loves "being with the plants in the winter under the light and in the heat of the greenhouse. When it's cold and the ground is frozen and nothing is growing outside we can come in here with lights that have the orange glow of the sun."
This spring, UMass Hydro is expanding using a grant that they received from the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund (SIEF). They are building four new lettuce raft tables to double their growing space and will also begin experimenting with aquaponics. This is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, and they will be raising koi fish and growing plants together in an integrated system. The only inputs to the system will be fish food and water. The UMass Hydro project was started using a grant from the University as well, and Evan shares that "if you’re really ambitious, do a lot of work, and write decent grant proposals, there are a lot of opportunities at UMass that are not advertised."
Arguably the most impactful and important aspect of UMass Hydro is the educational opportunity that it provides UMass students. In fact, UMass Hydro is the only year-round indoor food production system that they can be a part of on campus. Mia Cogliano, a Sustainable Food and Farming senior at UMass, works in the UMass Hydro greenhouse. She shared that she has learned about growing and identifying vegetables, cloning plants, managing pests, and building hydroponic equipment. Mia explains, "I didn’t even know what hydroponics was when I started. I was with Evan all of the time and that is one of the reasons I stayed. He taught me so much and any question I could ask he would answer it.” Mia describes the UMass Hydro greenhouse as her "happy place" and points out that "you can get really cheap lettuce here and it is really fresh. You can literally come by any time and choose which one you want. I don’t think it gets fresher than that.” UMass Hydro takes pride in its unique and exceptional ability to provide an unparalleled opportunity for students to gain access to fresh produce and hands-on experience with hydroponic growing systems.
A huge thanks to Evan, Mia and Dana for speaking with us for this interview, and to the entire UMass Hydro team for all of their hard work to provide fresh food and unique educational opportunities to the students of UMass Amherst. Follow their Facebook Page for information and updates or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in purchasing a CSA share, getting credit for working in the greenhouse, or buying their produce!
Photo credit: Keith Toffling Photography
Sidehill Farm is a small, family run dairy farm that produces delicious, organic yogurt in Hawley, MA. Sidehill farm is owned by Amy Klippenstein and Paul Lacinski. They decided to start making yogurt because it is a healthy food “that your average person could afford to eat every day.” They started the farm nearly 20 years ago in Ashfield with only one cow and a small garden. They moved to their land in Hawley in 2012, which was previously an organic potato farm. Today, Sidehil Farm is the highest elevation operating farm in the state, and has a gorgeous view of rolling hills in every direction. They produce nearly 1,000 gallons of yogurt each day and have 225 acres of pasture and hay fields in the Berkshire Hills.
Their great care extends to their customers as well. Sidehill Farm raises Normandes and Jersey cows because their milk has a much higher protein content than traditional Holstein cow’s milk. This high protein content and natural cultures of their milk is essential for making firm yogurt naturally. Many companies use Holstein milk because the cows are a lot larger and produce much more milk per day, but have to add artificial ingredients to make their yogurt firm. Amy and Paul sell their raw milk at their small farm shop. They also sell their sour cream, yogurt, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and cheddar cheese. Additionally, they carry many products from other nearby farms including cheese, eggs, ice cream, and even pickles.
Paul and Amy both love the “moments in farming of breathtaking beauty” and the ability to spend so much time with nature and animals. They love contributing good, healthy food to their community and love when customers stop through to visit the farm. Sidehill Farm's yogurt is available at Harvest Market in the Campus center and other retail dining locations on campus. Be sure to check out their farm stand in Hawley if you are ever in the area!
Thank you so much, Amy and Paul, for all of the hard work you do to care that you have for the earth and to provide such delicious, healthy, unique yogurt to our community.
Photo credits: Keith Toffling
Warm Colors Apiary is located on eighty acres of woodlands, open fields, and wetlands in South Deerfield, MA. They produce over seven different kinds of delicious regional honeys from Western MA. Right now at Warm Colors Apiary, owners Dan and Bonita Conlon are working to prepare their bees for the coming winter. They are insulating the hives, checking them for disease, and making sure there is enough honey in the hives for their bees to survive through the long stretch of cold weather approaching. UMass Dining is the largest single buyer of Warm Colors Apiary honey. Their honey is used in the Dining Commons and the UMass Bakeshop.
Honeybees and other pollinators are crucial to the health of ecosystems and the survival of humans. More than 75% of all flowering plants on earth need pollinators to reproduce, including a majority of the food that we eat. Dan Conlon explained that bees have been around for 80 million years and have overcome all kinds of natural phenomenon, but many species of pollinators, including bumble bees, are endangered. The decline of pollinator species is attributed to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats, and Warm Colors works to provide both of those for their bees and other pollinators.
Since we last spoke with Warm Colors in April 2017, they have been working with UMass Amherst to incorporate more bees into the UMass landscape, and will hopefully be installing new beehives in different gardens around campus in the coming year. This project hopes to connect students to bees and other pollinators and educate them about beekeeping and honey harvesting. Installing beehives on campus would also provide ultra local honey for students to enjoy. Additionally, Warm Colors Apiary is working with Graduate students in the School of Engineering to develop sensors that diagnose disease within beehives to help beekeepers like Dan and Bonita catch and treat them early before they spread out of control.
Dan urges readers to be aware that “the biggest threat to all of these creatures is human activity. Everyone should be conscious of their activities, actions, and how they affect the environment.” Dan has many suggestions for how everyone can help bees to survive and thrive:
"Everything in nature has a purpose and contributes in some way to the cycle of life. Insects are actually very important to humans. I admire these little creatures."
Mapleline Farm is a family owned and operated Jersey farm established in 1904 in Hadley, MA. They have 300 Jersey cows, who are brown instead of black and white, and produce rich, creamy milk that is higher in calcium, protein, and nonfat solids than traditional cow's milk. As of September 2017, Franklin Dining Commons now serves 100% local milk from Mapleline Farm! This increase in purchasing allowed Mapleline to scale up their operations. Jennifer Zina, the farm owner's daughter, shared that Mapleline started processing milk “three days a week instead of two to be able to provide UMass with what they needed and what is the best for the students.”
When Jennifer and her family moved back to the farm about five years ago, she “fell in love with the farm all over again because I was seeing it in my kids’ eyes. They are 14 and 10 and love being in Hadley and being able to walk across the street and be with the cows. I love that the farm is a piece of our family and our family’s history. My kids are the fifth generation to grow up on the farm and I think that is really special.”
Mapleline Farm milk can be found at Harvest Market in the Campus Center, many other retail dining locations, and Franklin and Hampshire Dining Commons. Mapleline milk is also available through many local businesses and featured in delicious treats all around the Valley. Be sure to try their chocolate milk- it is the best around!
Thanks so much to Jennifer Zina for speaking with us, and thank you to Mapleline Farm for your admirable dedication to the local community.
Photo credit: Keith Toffling Photography
Cold Spring Orchard is an education and research facility of UMass Amherst and grows over 100 varieties of apples on 50 acres of land. They offer “pick-your-own” apples and also sell a variety of goods including peaches, honey, apple cider, jams, jellies, grapes, blueberries, pears, squash, and pumpkins. They always have between 15 and 20 different varieties of apples available to choose from. They even offer bags of “seconds” to decrease their waste at a discounted price. Cold Spring Orchard also sells some of the best apple cider around. They decrease the amount apples they throw away by using their imperfect fruit to make their cider. Additionally, it is always made with at least 6 different varieties of apples, giving it a unique, rich flavor. They are located only 14 miles from campus in Belchertown, MA with a beautiful view of the Mt. Holyoke Range.
Many fruit growing operations will spray their entire orchard with pesticides even if only a portion of them are being impacted by pests. Shawn and his workers also take care of about 15 beehives every year. Because pesticides are particularly harmful to bee populations, and the Cold Spring Orchard team closely monitor the health of the bees and are sure to avoid pesticides and practices that will harm their hives.
Shawn is very passionate and takes pride in the work that he does. He shared, “It is really rewarding to grow something and sell it to someone. It feels like I am doing something with my life, like I have a purpose.” It is clear from interacting with Shawn that he cares deeply about the Amherst community, all of his customers and employees, and about the orchard’s impact on the earth. Kristen and Jim are two of the people Shawn works the most closely with. He explained the Cold Spring team are all like a big family. He added that, “I'm just one person and I do a lot, but there are a lot of people behind me that might not get the credit and those people deserve it as much as me.”
Shawn urges everyone who wants to make a difference in their local community to support their local businesses. He explains that, “sometimes things might cost a little more around here, and it's just because there are more challenges to grow those things, but you are getting something a lot fresher, something that is more valuable.” Most fruits and vegetables in the United States travel more miles to reach the grocery store than the average american does in a year. Buying locally not only supports local farmers like Shawn and their sustainable practices, but it also decreases the fossil fuel emissions burned to get them to you.
Cold Spring Orchard apples are served in all four dining commons until at least December each year. To learn more about Cold Spring Orchard and meet Shawn McIntire, come to UMass Dining’s apple week! The event is from 6:00-9:00pm in Hampshire on November 8th and Franklin on November 9th.
Thanks so much, Shawn for working with us, and for your time!
The UMass Student Farming Enterprise is a student-led initiative that manages 14 acres of land and grows 35 different crops using ecologically sound practices. They supply UMass Dining with over 46 tons of ultra local, fresh, and organic vegetables every year- grown for students, by students. Working with the Student Farm helps UMass Dining meet many sustainability goals, such as decreasing food miles, reducing food waste, and increasing local and sustainable menu items. UMass Dining tries to purchase "imperfect" produce from the Student Farm to prevent their carefully grown veggies from going to waste. Produce from the Student Farm is featured in all four Dining Commons, at the weekly Student Farmers’ Market on Goodell Lawn, and at the new Student Farm Stand in Harvest Market.
The Student Farming Enterprise empowers students to take initiative, develop their leadership skills, work collaboratively to make business decisions, and learn from their mistakes. For Jacqueline Montminy, a Student Farmer and a Junior at UMass, “the best thing about it is that it’s a whole new group of people and even though it has been running for over a decade we start fresh every year. Our decisions are what run the program.” The Student Farmers work hard to make their learning environment collaborative fun and create a close-knit community to support each other.
A huge thanks to all of the Student Farmers for their valuable partnership with UMass Dining and for everything they do to make our campus community a better place!
Interested in becoming a Student Farmer?
The application for the 2018 UMass Student Farm Program is now open until November 1st! To apply, or for more information, click here.
Photo Credits: Keith Toffling.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.