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.
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.
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 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.