Shawn McIntire is the farm manager at Cold Spring Orchard and has been working there for years. He recognizes that eating local is more expensive. However, regenerative agriculture is essential for the future of our world, and the best way to support the sustainable farming movement is by supporting local farmers. Shawn 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.”
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
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!
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.
Looking for a job this summer? Join our wonderful, dedicated team of permies and spend your summer days in the permaculture gardens! To apply for this 15/hr per week position, please download our position description and application here and email your completed application to email@example.com by Friday, April 6th.
Members of the Summer Crew work under the Sustainability Coordinator of Campus Gardens and Student Garden Coordinators to support the planning and upkeep of the UMass Permaculture gardens and educate garden visitors. For this role, members of the Summer Crew will develop and maintain our on-campus permaculture sites at Franklin, Berkshire, Hillside, Worcester, and Hampshire. Daily responsibilities may include planting, watering, weeding, harvesting, working with volunteers, and leading tours. Crew members will also assist in longer-term projects, such as repairing raised beds, installing mushroom production systems, plant design, and other tasks as needed. Throughout this process, members of the Summer Crew learn about permaculture design, sustainable agriculture techniques, plant identification, and volunteer leadership.
If you are interested in applying to the UMass Permaculture Summer Crew position, please submit your completed application to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, April 6th.
We look forward to reviewing your applications! Feel free to reach out to Hannah Logan (email@example.com) with any questions you have!
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.