Xochiquetzal (Xochi) Salazar manages the UMass Permaculture Initiative. She maintains the five permaculture gardens, coordinates volunteers, creates workshops and events, teaches courses, and manages the on-campus Student Farmers’ Market. “I always felt really connected to food, the earth, and gardening, especially as an indigenous person,” Xochi shared. Xochi’s father empowered her by teaching her the beauty and responsibility of growing food and fostering life through Native traditions.
Xochi's passion for food inspired her to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. In culinary school, Xochi read the U.S. Farm Bill for the first time and the way she thought about food shifted. “That was the first time my eyes had really been opened to how truly broken our food systems were.” Following the completion of her Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, Xochi decided to go back to school and graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in Sustainable Food and Farming in May of 2016.
The UMass Permaculture Initiative is a cutting-edge sustainability program managed by Xochiquetzal Salazar that provides empowering hands-on education for students to learn about local, sustainable food systems. Now in its sixth growing season, UMass Permaculture has five gardens on campus that are home to nearly 300 different species of plants and supplies over 2,600 pounds of fresh food to the Dining Commons each year. The UMass Permaculture herbs and veggies can be found in all four Dining Commons and the University Club throughout the growing season.
Conventional agriculture is extremely resource intensive, produces immense amounts of waste, and is one of the leading contributors to climate change. Permaculture is a set of design principles used to create resilient systems that mimic natural ecosystems. Permaculture can be used for any system, not just agricultural ones, including businesses, communities, or even households. UMass Permaculture works to combat these harmful forms of agriculture to transition our campus beyond sustainability and toward regeneration and resilience while producing food and medicine. The UMass Permaculture gardens help the environment by preventing soil erosion, providing habitat and forage for pollinators, remediating the soil, and sequestering carbon. Additionally, the gardens are helpful to people by providing organic, affordable, and accessible medicinal plants and produce to the community.
Teaching the 1 credit Permaculture Practicum at UMass is Xochi’s favorite part of her job. “I love providing [people] with a platform to make meaningful connections with their food and change the way they think about where our food comes from.” UMass Permaculture engages over 2,000 people every year through volunteer hours, tours, workshops, and academic credit. As Xochi likes to say, “Education is our greatest yield.” The gardens have been designed to be a replicable model for institutions around the world to educate people about food and agriculture.
Xochi works tirelessly to make an impact on our campus community. What keeps Xochi going is the fate of future generations and being able to act as a role model in higher education for young women of color. Xochi explained that this is especially important because permaculture is largely considered a "white and affluent movement, even though a number of the practices that permaculture finds its basis in are from the practices of indigenous peoples from around the world."
Xochi’s advice for for people that want to start a home or school permaculture garden “is the Permaculture Principle to ‘Use Small and Slow Solutions.’" She explained that, "Permaculture by its very nature is something that requires us to be patient. The best, most productive ‘you’ is one that is nourished and not worn thin. By taking small steps, appreciating their impact, and waiting for that bigger pay off later, you won't run yourself into the ground.”
If you would like to get involved with UMass Permaculture, attend volunteer hours every Thursday and Friday from 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM. You can also request a tour of the Franklin Permaculture garden for classes, local groups, or interested individuals. For students interested in taking the Permaculture Practicum in the Fall or Spring, search for STOCKSCH 198P on Spire! Visit the UMass Permaculture website for more information about their program, how to get involved, or to reach out for resources.
Thank you so much Xochi, for spreading your knowledge, wisdom, and love to the UMass community. You are an inspiring woman and leader and UMass Dining is so lucky to have you on our Sustainability Team!
Start the semester off right and treat yourself to some free healthy snacks, herbal infusions, and spin-to-win prizes for our Welcome Back Wellness Market. Let us all celebrate and support the well-being of our community in this hectic, yet exciting time of year.
Join UMass Permaculture and the UMass Student Farm for the first Student Farmers' Market of the season this Friday, September 15th from 12-4 PM on the Goodell Lawn! At each market you will find veggies from the UMass Student Farm, tea blends and assorted perrenials from UMass Permaculture, as well as live music, jewelry, art, various other homemade goods from UMass students and community members.
If you have a CSA share from the UMass Student Farm, this will be the first pick up date! You can pick up your share anytime from 12-4, and they will provide you with a bag. Stay tuned for a detailed email from them about the process.
Are you interested in tabling or performing at Farmers' Markets this fall? Apply here! All performers and entertainers will receive a $10 voucher to use at the market for each date that you perform!
We will be hosting 10 markets this Fall Semester every Friday from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm on the Goodell lawn from September 15th - November 17th. *Our 10/13 market will be held on the Student Union North Lawn. Be sure to follow the UMass Student Farmers' Market Facebook page for updates about each week's market.
We look forward to seeing you this Friday to celebrate autumn and share in the abundant harvest!
Fungi Ally grows fresh, organic mushrooms year round in Hadley, MA and provides a sustainable, medicinal, and nutrient dense protein source for our local community. Fungi Ally is owned and operated by Willie Crosby, an alum of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst. Fungi Ally grows Oyster, Lion's Mane, and Shiitake mushrooms, which all have vibrant colors, ranging from blues and greys to reds and yellows.
Fungi Ally mushrooms are grown indoors in individual plastic bags filled with a mixture of organic agricultural by-products such as soybean hulls, wheat bran, and oak sawdust. These organic materials would normally be considered agricultural waste, so using them for production creates a circular and sustainable model. The next step to the growing process is to colonize each bag with the desired type of fungus. Once the fungi has eaten all the organic material, it will begin fruiting beautiful mushrooms that are ready for harvest.
Willie Crosby graduated from UMass Amherst in 2012 with a degree in Plant and Soil Science. After graduation, he worked at multiple vegetable farms but “put so much energy into someone else’s dream” that he decided to cultivate his own. “There was not much knowledge about mushrooms [when Willie started his business], and they were not popular yet in the Pioneer Valley,” Willie explained, which gave him a unique opportunity to learn and educate others. What Willie enjoys even more than growing mushrooms is returning to UMass as a Professor to teach students to cultivate mushrooms themselves.
UMass Dining serves Fungi Ally mushrooms in all four Dining Commons on campus. You can find his mushrooms in menu items such as Red Fish with Mushrooms and Scallions or Traditional Korean Hot Pot. Fungi Ally mushrooms are sold fresh at Whole Foods, Red Fire Farm, and local Co-ops and Farmers’ Markets. To learn more about mushrooms, visit Fungi Ally’s website. For students interested in Willie’s class at UMass, search on SPIRE for STOCKSCH 198M: Mushroom Practicum.
"Mushrooms play an integral role as recyclers. They create life from death.”
- Willie Crosby, Fungi Ally
A genuine thanks to Willie Crosby for your inspiring leadership to nourish people and the planet!
Thank you Keith Toffling for photography.
On July 26, 2017 UMass Dining hosted a Poultry Gathering to facilitate a conversation with our community about how the local poultry industry can be supported, improved, and expanded. More than 45 people from sectors across the poultry industry attended, including local poultry producers, State and Federal agricultural agencies, Nonprofit organizations, and institutional food service operators from the Pioneer Valley. The gathering was created to identify priority actions for growing the region's poultry economy and increasing the production and consumption of humanely and sustainably raised local poultry.
At the beginning of the meeting, UMass Dining set forth an ambitious goal to double the amount of local chicken it purchases annually (principally from Massachusetts poultry farmers), to help other institutions do the same, and to increase of the state’s production of local, humane and sustainable chicken by doing so.
The meeting closed after several small group discussions where participants discussed what it would take to increase poultry production in Massachusetts including attracting new farmers and allied investments, as well as increasing the likelihood of success through processing, storage, and infrastructure improvements.
The next Poultry Gathering will be held on Thursday, November 2nd 2017 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. If you or someone you know would like to attend the upcoming gathering, please email Brittany Florio, Senior Sustainability Coordinator at BFlorio@umass.edu.
Are you interested in building a community with a group of highly dedicated individuals working towards a more sustainable UMass?
Please consider applying to the UMass Dining Sustainability team! For Fall 2017, we are looking to fill 1 Student Garden Coordinator position.
We are looking for an undergraduate student who can commit to Fall 2017, Spring 2018, and Summer 2018 or a senior graduating in May 2018 who may be interested in a position post-graduation.
To review the application and position description, click here.
If you are interested in applying to the Student Garden Coordinator position, please submit your completed application to Sustainability Coordinator of Campus Gardens, Xochi Salazar at email@example.com by 11:59 PM on Sunday, September 17th.
We look forward to reviewing your applications!
2017 UMass Amherst Permaculture Summer Garden Crew member Lizzy Keery on her experiences working in the gardens:
When I started applying for summer jobs I knew I wanted to do something different. The previous summer I’d scored a competitive internship at a public relations company. While I learned a lot that summer, and still consider that internship an invaluable experience, the biggest thing I learned was that I wanted to do work that mattered in a different way than public relations matters. I didn’t want to spend another summer in an office helping big companies sell products to people who didn’t need them. I wanted to have a direct impact on the community I was a part of.
It connects the people who eat at the dining halls to the earth and the crew in the garden to the staff at the dining commons. Working in the permaculture garden has made me understand the importance of knowing where our food comes from, how it is being produced, and made me passionate about engaging with my local community.
I believe that change starts with small, personal action. The permaculture gardens only makes up a fraction of the food supply at the UMass. But even small scale initiatives like this can make big change. I know that after experiencing the beauty, simplicity and satisfaction that comes with working in the garden, I think about food on my plate differently. If we can change people’s relationships with their food, we can make a large-scale difference in our community.
UMass Permaculture Crew Member Summer 2017
This week, the 23rd annual Tastes of the World Chef Culinary Conference hosted by UMass Dining has returned! The theme of this year’s conference is The Power of Food, which encompass all aspects of food, including nutrition, community, food security, and sustainability. The conference focuses on the unique power and influence that high-volume food service operators and campus chefs have on our flawed food system. Chefs have the power to make our food more fair, healthy, and sustainable through their tremendous purchasing power and their influence on the food choices of young consumers. The annual Chef Conference hopes to empower chefs to question norms and tradition, ask questions about where the food they are serving is coming from, and to push innovations in our food system forward one meal at a time. Hundreds of participants registered for the five day long conference, attending workshops, presentations, and competitions to improve their own culinary skills, waste reduction strategies, and sourcing practices.
Check out Seafood Watch’s Recommendations to see what species of fish you should look for or avoid!
Thanks so much to everyone who attended this year's conference for making it such a success!
Be sure to check out the Tastes of the World Chef Culinary Conference next year from June 3rd – June 8th, 2018!
Photos by Keith Toffling.
Freshly mulched paths at Berkshire Garden.
We started with our crew last week, and so far a lot has been accomplished. We began with a giant pile of wood chips from a local landscaping company. Every year, the paths in the permaculture gardens must be covered with wood chips. The chips deter weeds from growing, hold in moisture, and keep the gardens looking fresh and new. We spread about 25 cubic yards of wood chips in Franklin garden alone.
Wood chips or an alternative mulch are often utilized in no-till agriculture. All of the UMass permaculture gardens are maintained without tillage or turning of the soil. Tillage is used to prepare beds for planting crops, but it has many down sides. It increases erosion and loss of organic matter. Tilling the soil also disturbs microbes, fungi, and worms until they no longer reside there. No-till is a practice in which farmers do not till their soil and instead keep the soil covered and plant directly into the un-plowed earth. There are some difficulties to doing this, but it is better for the plants, microbes, and environment.
In the permaculture gardens, we spread wood chips in areas where we do not want weeds to go, like in the paths. To plant our crops, we dig right into the soil without any bed preparation or plowing. Once the crops are planted, we cover the surrounding soil with straw to prevent weeds and hold moisture in. This is a perfect environment for plants to grow and microorganisms to thrive. There is never a shortage of worms in a no-till system, and we have plenty in the permaculture gardens. Worms actually will feed on the wood chips and come to the surface to do so. In their travels, they aerate the soil which increases it ability to support life.
We must start with the soil if we are to have healthy ecosystems. In the permaculture gardens, our soil is top priority and always cozy and covered.
Cucumber and lettuce plants cozy warm under a bed of straw.
We would like to thank NRC 185 students Tyler Weeks, Ryan Martin, Steven Chang, and Kayla Jewett for their time and passion! Check out their beautifully crafted video below to learn more about their experience!
Thank you to Xochi Salazar and Lena Fletcher for all of your hard work and dedication to hands-on student learning!
NRC 185: Sustainable Living in the 21st Century is only offered in the spring. However, NRC 100: Environment and Society is also instructed by Professor Lena Fletcher and is still open for fall enrollment!
SPRING FARMERS' MARKETS
Join us for fresh, organic, student grown food, yummy herbs, handmade crafts, live music, and much more! Our last two markets of the Spring Semester will be on Fridays from 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm.
The next two markets will be on Friday, April 21st and Friday, April 28th on the Student Union North Lawn. See you there!
Join us for an Earth Day inspired pollinator planting! We'll be adding lots of beautiful, fragrant, and beneficial plants to our pollinator sections and herb spiral. Find us in the Franklin Permaculture Garden on Friday, April 21st from 9:30 am - 11:00 am!
EARTH DAY FESTIVAL
Stop by the Earth Day Festival by the Student Union on Friday, April 21st for tie dye, DIYs, live music, and more!
Check out the UMass Dining table to enjoy a human-powered smoothie for Earth Day! We have partnered with Sustainable UMass to make free, delicious smoothies with a bike-powered blender from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm, or until supplies run out.
Visit the UMass Permaculture booth between 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm to make your own seed bombs or take home some calming herbal tea!
Dive deeper into mushroom exploration with UMass Permaculture and mushroom expert John Michelotti of Catskill Fungi! Join us on a guided forest walk in search of mushrooms. Explore the identification, uses, and ecological functions of different fungi.
This event will have two sessions from 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm on Wednesday, April 26th from and Thursday, April 27th in the Franklin Permaculture Garden. Check out the Facebook event here!
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.