Who better to start with than Joseph Czajkowski? At his farm in Hadley, Massachusetts, he grows fruits, vegetables, and specialty products for UMass and the Pioneer Valley community. This third generation family farm has been passed down from Joe's grandfather and parents, originally growing tobacco, potatoes and cucumbers. Since 1914, when John Czajkowski (Joe’s grandfather) started the farm, it has expanded to growing squash, cabbage, sweet corn, blueberries, grape tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, carrots, pumpkins, grain and barley.
“We were little kids when my brother and I started helping. We made our first crop of squash when we were 12 years old and we just kept going,” Joe recalls about the beginning of his farming career.
Joe also helps UMass source more produce locally not only by providing food directly from his farm; he also collects produce grown by a variety of farms in the Pioneer Valley, then sells it all collectively to UMass under one contract.
“Working with Joe has allowed us to streamline the process,” according to Ken Toong, executive director of UMass Auxiliary Enterprises, “and the price is very competitive with conventional produce.” As a result of UMass’ partnership with Czajkowski Farm, UMass has dramatically increased procurement of local food to over $1 million.
“I’m out in a field of organic carrots and it’s beautiful,” Joe says. “No matter how many times you see things grow, each time it’s amazing, it’s a miracle.”