Thanks to everyone who came to the Annual Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference

As usual, our students were some of the “stars” of the annual conference!   We heard over and over from faculty (in other departments) and students that Stockbridge students had some of the most interesting and creative presentations at this statewide event.  Our students were VERY appreciative that our faculty and instructors stopped by to see the results of their work this past semester.

Professor Autio encouraged Tabbitha to publish the results of her investigations!

Dr. Autio encouraged Tabbitha to publish the results of her work!

Amanda Brown has been very supportive of our students

Amanda Brown has been very supportive of our students

Ruth Hazzard sponsored Lilly's research on late blight

Ruth Hazzard sponsored Lilly’s research on late blight of tomatoes

Many of our students take Dr. Mangan’s Vegetable Crops class

Everyone knows Dr. Simkins!

Everyone knows Dr. Simkins!

Dr. Barker comes to the Research Conference every year!

Dr. Barker comes to the Research Conference every year!

Sarah Berquist is a mentor for many of our stduents

Sarah Berquist is a mentor for many of our students

See the abstracts and more photos from our Stockbridge students who presented at the Annual Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference.

Annual HerbFest at UMass

HerbFest is a celebration of medicinal and aromatic plants presented by students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture class, STOCKSCH 280 – Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants.  It is part of the Stockbridge School Medicinal Plants Program.

Congratulations to Professor Craker and the many Sustainable Food and Farming students who presented the results of their projects at the Annual UMass HerbFest this week!  Here are a few photos from the event!

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For information on majoring in Sustainable Food and Farming at UMass, contact Dr. John Gerber or see:




More women in sustainable farming these days!

logoThe following segment is from an article on women in farming featured in Yes Magazine (4/17/14).

What the numbers show

The number of women who were named as the principal operator of an American farm or ranch increased by nearly 30 percent between 2002 and 2007, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. Women composed about 14 percent of principal farm operators in 2007, and that percentage has held steady since then, according to the preliminary 2012 census released in February.

But it’s not just a picture of women farmers barely scraping by. Census data from 2007 showed that women were more likely than men to operate farms with a diversity of crops, and to own a greater percentage of the land they farmed. Women farmers also tended to sell food directly to the consumer rather than to large food-processing corporations—an approach that the United Nations report has found to be important for improving food systems.


While this is interesting, I think it is even more important that the number of women studying sustainable agriculture is significantly greater than the number of men, as seen in this photo from the UMass Student Farm (a class in our undergraduate program). sfefarmcrop_0In fact, 60% of the nearly 100 students in the Sustainable Food and Farming Bachelor of Sciences degree program in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass self-identify as women.  Many of these students have participated in the local Women in Agriculture Network which has partnered with Holistic Management International to offer farm planning advice and education.  It is just as important that there is equal gender representation among our instructors in the Sustainable Food and Farming program!

Back to the article

Referring to the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, the article states….

…the network has been expanding its ranks to provide much-needed camaraderie for women working in a male-dominated field and education on how to lead the sustainable farming movement. This year’s conference included sessions on marketing, soil health, cooperatives, research and grants, pricing, pesticide drift, and wildlife and watershed management. Sustainability was a common theme.

There is surely something about the concept of sustainability that attract women into farming.

Please join us for the Stockbridge capstone class poster presentations!

Please join us for the Annual Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference!

ConferenceThe abstracts are posted here.

Stockbridge School of Agriculture Students Presenting

Ian BackPermaculture Anonymous: By Dirt we Live, By Dirt we Die

Aaron (Gabe) Benton –  Evaluation of Growth Media for Growing Vegetable Crops Hydroponically

Molly BajgotNuestras Raices and UMass Service Learning: a Partnership

Kailey Burke – Farm-to-Restaurant: Exploring the Direct Wholesale Market

Aaron DrysdaleThe Amherst Sharing Garden: a cooperative and educational community garden space

Catherine Elliott – Food For All: Designing and Maintaining a Community Donation Garden

Leigh-Ellen Figueroa – The Children’s Garden Project: Implementing Sustainability Education  Training for Childcare Professionals

Tabbitha GreenoughContain Yourself – Found, Repurposed, and Alternative Materials and Methods for Apartment Gardening

Lillian Israel Breeding for Economic Resilience: Late Blight Resistance in Tomatoes

Eli Kessing  – Cultivating Green Minds: Researching and Designing Curricula for Elementary Sustainable Education

Rebecca Larris – A Budding Industry: How Green is Medicinal Marijuana?

Breanna MurphyBuilding Your Own Home Apothecary

Elisheva NeffingerEfficacy of Whole Plant Artemisia annua Malaria Treatment

Hannah PerkinsFine Dining in the Wilderness

Alissa PetitoEssential Oils and Their Ethnobotanical Uses: Extraction, Preparation, and Application For Healing

Walter PoulsonPotential of Student Managed Agriculture at Hampshire College

Hannah Sadosky For Bee’s sake! Plant a flower garden!

Shannon-Marie ScottThe Farm to School Movement

Nicolle TaniuchiNatural, Holistic and Sustainable Approaches to Beekeeping

Max TraunsteinBuilding a partnership between Blue Star Equiculture, the Student Farming Enterprise, and the Agricultural Learning Center at UMass Amherst

Kyle VahjenRocket Power: A Study in DIY Draft Induction Stoves and Thermal Mass Heaters


Each student developed a poster presenting the results of their research.  Please stop by any time between 4:15pm and 5:15pm to support our students!

UMass Student Farm kicks off season

Daily Collegian – April 10, 2014 –

As the spring semester comes to a close, most classes begin to wind down and prepare for finals. For students enrolled in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture’s Farm Enterprise Practicum course, however, this is far from the case.

With a 1 to 6 credit course in which students plan the farming process for a 6 acre organic farm located in South Deerfield, the students enrolled in Farm Enterprise Practicum are just beginning the implementation of their work.

Their first major public activity for the new student farmers is a Special Topics Fair in which students present the results of their research.


During the spring semester course, students partake in the planning process for the farm work that will take place over the summer. Following the summer, students enroll in Stockbridge 498E, the second half of the Farm Enterprise Practicum.

“About half of the class stays in the summer to work on the farm,” said Amanda Brown, the instructor of the Farm Enterprise Practicum.

“Not only are students planning for the crops; they also each take on an area of interest and they create a research project about how they can implement this on the farm,” explained Jason Silverman, assistant manager of the University of Massachusetts Student Farm.

Among the 12 students enrolled in the course, projects covered topics such as seed saving, record keeping and farm planning, organic disease management, animal rotation, flea beetle management and draft horse husbandry.

Chris Raabe, a student enrolled in the Farm Enterprise Practicum, completed his project on the use of biodiesel. After completing research on biodiesel use at Kansas State University, Raabe was inspired to complete further work on the topic at UMass.

Raabe proposed an implementation plan that would convert cooking oil from the dining halls to biodiesel that could be used for tractors on the University farms and other resource-fueling needs across campus, such as the Physical Plant.

“It’s a compelling project with a lot of hoops you have to jump through,” Raabe explained of his implementation plan. “I’m hoping to build a task force working with different departments in order to get this project going.”

On Wednesday, students in the Farm Enterprise Practicum course showcased the projects they had completed and their plans for implementation at the Special Topics Fair, which took place in room 165 in the Campus Center basement.

“This is great because it is sort of like a big kick-off and allows students to talk to the farmers,” Brown explained.

In the fall, the students will work on marketing the crops that are being produced during the summer. In addition, students will share their research on their special topics and implementation in a student handbook that is published each year and given to the next semester’s students to serve as guidance.

“They sort of write their own textbook,” Brown said. “This is our third year doing this.”

Brown hopes to see a large collection of these handbooks for students to use as resources in the future.

The crops produced over the summer are sold through the Campus Supported Agriculture program, where students at the University can pay ahead and receive weekly shares of produce from the Student Farm.

In addition to the farm located in South Deerfield, students will also be working at the Agricultural Learning Center in North Amherst this summer, located just off of the UMass campus.

“Hopefully, this will increase visibility to other students,” said James Silverman, who graduated with a degree in Sustainable Food and Farming from the University and continues to work with the program today.

Members of the UMass Student Farm recognize the benefits of working with this program. Most specifically, Brown noted the business experience and knowledge that students gain from taking these two courses and participating on the farm.


“Each year’s success keeps it going,” Brown explained. “Half the money we make goes towards supplies and production, while half goes towards labor costs. It’s sort of like a non-profit organization.”

“Everything that we do is applicable to real life,” she said.

“This really was the capstone of my education,” added Silverman, who hopes to see a larger awareness of student farming on campus.

Katrina Borofski can be reached at


There are a few openings in this class for Fall 2014.  For information, see: UMass Student Farm Enterprise Class.

Massachusetts Envirothon Resources

Having had the pleasure of speaking with some of the participants in this year’s Massachusetts Envirothon on the issue of Sustainable Local Agriculture in Massachusetts, I thought this list of blog posts might be useful to the participants.

LOCAL AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD AND FARMING BLOGS by Dr. John Gerber, UMass Professor of Sustainable Food and Farming

Is Sustainable Agriculture Sustainable?

Symbols and Perspectives Matter

Lets Get Practical

Why do I Care?

Is Walmart’s Version of Sustainable Agriculture Really Sustainable?

Social Equity Must Remain One of the Three Pillars of Sustainable Agriculture

Reflections on Sustainable Agriculture

Education for a Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture Education – A Story?

Reflections on the Early Days

Is the Modern Food System in Collapse?

Dealing with Food Systems Collapse

Just Food Now: Public Opportunities and Responsibilities

Just Food Now: Taking Personal Responsibility

Local Food: Lets Get Serious Now

The Future of Sustainable Food and Farming

Sustainable Agriculture and the Public University

Sustainable Agriculture Jobs after College

Agroecology – Science for a Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Agriculture 2011: A Year in Review

Want to help design a local food hub?

Occupy the Food System: Education and Policy

Occupy the Food System: A Sermon

Its the U.N. International Year of the Cooperative in Western Massachusetts

Agriculture is a business… AND a way to connect with the divine

Industrial Agriculture is a “Fix that Failed”

The U.S. needs 50 million new farmers – including home gardeners and homesteaders

New courses in Sustainable Food and Farming

As you know, we continue to add new and interesting courses for students in the Sustainable Food and Farming major.  Registration for fall classes will begin soon and I wanted to remind you of a few new (and old) classes that are available.

STOCKSCH 190A – Intro to Sustainable Food and Farming (1 credit) – this class is for first year students and transfers.  It is designed to learn about the major, internship opportunities, career paths, and how to “navigate” UMass successfully.

STOCKSCH 197D – Draft Horse Husbandry I (3 credits) – learn how to work with draft horses on and off road.  This class fills fast so sign up early!  Satisfies an “ag production” requirement for the major.

STOCKSCH 197G – Intro to Permaculture (3 credits) – intro to the ethics, principles and practices of permaculture design and living.  Satisfies an “ecosystem” or “ag production” requirement in the major.

STOCKSCH 197P – Physical Care and Wellness for Beginning Farmers (1 credit) – former SFF student, Sarah Berquist, will offer this class again.  She introduces students to body (and mind) care through stretching, breathing and yoga.

STOCKSCH 290AE – Intro to Teaching Agricultural Education (3 credits) – teaching technical subject matter with an emphasis on observing programs, developing and evaluating agricultural-based curricula. Fulfills a “policy” requirement in the major.

STOCKSCH 297NR – Preserving Food Culture From the Homeland (2 credits) –Preserving Food Culture from the Homeland looks at different examples of migrant, immigrant, and native communities and how their use of food and land informs questions of identity and efforts at cultural preservation. There is a focus on exploring the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States, Puerto Ricans as a migrant community, and their efforts on cultural food preservation. Our community partner is Nuestras Raíces, an urban agriculture organization in Holyoke, MA, whose work is important in the preservation and production of local Puerto Rican cultural food in the Pioneer Valley. The course is a Civic Engagement course, supported by UMass CESL. The class sessions are held bi-weekly and the course requires 4 Saturday work days at Nuestras Raices Farm. Enrollment is by application. To apply contact

STOCKSCH 397P – Food Justice and Policy (3 credits) – Catherine Sands introduces students to national policy debates around food and farming.  Satisfies your “policy” requirement for the major.  Offered in alternate years.

STOCKSCH 397PB – Pollinator Biology and Habitat (1 credit) – knowledge and skills pertaining to pollinator biology and habitat.  NEW COURSE!  Sustainable Food and Farming students only!

Anyone who wants to talk about their fall schedule should try to schedule me ASAP as I do get busy when registration begins!

And don’t forget we are offering quite a few online classes this summer!

See UMass Online for a list of our summer classes.

elearning2If you have not yet taken Chemistry, consider taking STOCKSCH 117 – Agricultural Chemistry, as this satisfies your chemistry requirement for the major!




UMass agricultural programs ranked among top ten in the U.S.

SSA Logo -- blue on white with UMASSA recent ranking of the Top Agricultural Universities in the World put the University of Massachusetts at number 10 in the United States (and 11 in the world), according to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings.  UMass was the only ag school in New England to make the top 50 and second behind Cornell for best in the East.

We were delighted of course,” says Stockbridge School of Agriculture Director, Dr. Wesley Autio, when asked about the “meteoric” jump in ranking.

The rankings are based on reputation among other university faculty and employers, and research productivity.  Being placed among the list of “best Ag schools” is  an certainly an honor.  Autio  continued; “of course, we think the nearly 150 year-old University of Massachusetts has always been among the ‘go to’ schools for excellent undergraduate education, but it is nice to get this recognition.

The University of California at Davis and Cornell are perennially ranked number one and two on this annual list.  The research budgets and industry grants of these large institutions far surpass UMass.  The rankings indicate that “reputation among other university colleagues in agriculture” put UMass in the top 10.

The Stockbridge School of Agriculture offers 8 Associate of Sciences degrees and 4 Bachelor of Sciences degrees, as well as opportunities for students to work toward graduate degrees in agriculture and related fields.  The Sustainable Food and Farming Program, which allows students to concentrate on farming and marketing, agricultural education and public policy has grown from just 5 students in 2003 to 100 today. Other Associate and Bachelor programs focus on all aspects of agricultural science, important in a rapidly changing world.

Here is the ranking of U.S. agriculture and forestry universities in 2014:

  1. UC-Davis
  2. Cornell
  3. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  4. Iowa State University
  5. University of California-Berkeley
  6. Oregon State University
  7. Purdue University
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Ohio State University
  10. University of Massachusetts

For the top 50 Agriculture and Forestry Program, see “rankings 2014.”

Autio believes that the international recognition of the Stockbridge School is long overdue and that “programs such as our herbal medicine program, the Student Farm, our draft horse classes, and our Permaculture Initiative for example, have really put us on the map.” Students are encouraged to get involved in real-world applications of their course work. Autio says, “we offer both a solid Bachelor of Sciences degree as well as lots of opportunities to gain practical experience in preparation for exciting and satisfying careers.” He concludes “our alums will certainly tell you that Stockbridge is among the top agricultural programs in the world.”

Information on the food and farming degree program is available on the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture web site:

Dr. Wesley Autio, Director

Mushroom Growing Workshop for Stockbridge Students – Registration Required

 Free Workshop for Stockbridge School of Agriculture Students

Saturday, April 12 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm

at the Wysocki House in front of the UMass Agricultural Learning Center (911 North Pleasant St. – north of campus toward Puffton Village)

willie4Join Stockbridge graduate, Willie Crosby from Fungi Ally, for a hands-on workshop to learn the basics of growing medicinal and culinary mushrooms in your backyard. The workshop will focus on methods of growing mushrooms on wood using 3 techniques. Participants will learn the procedures of inoculating logs, totems, and woodchip beds and get to implement each one. Upon completion of the workshop students will have the knowledge and experience to cultivate mushrooms using these methods at home.









To register for this workshop, send an email to John Gerber with a contact phone number.  Willie’s workshops generally cost $25 but this one is being provided to Stockbridge students free of charge.