Please help us meet our goal of 10,000 views by Sunday!

A partnership between the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and the UMass Dining Services has helped to highlight the role of permaculture gardens in helping to improve the quality of life and of food in the region.   One of the donors to our efforts to grow more food at the local schools promised another financial gift if we could meet the goal of 10,000 views of our new video (posted below).

The opening of the video states….

An editorial the Daily Hampshire Gazette encouraged the local schools to grow more food for their cafeterias because “nothing is more local than produce grown outside classroom windows.”   A project initiated by Ryan Harb, Permaculture Academic Program Coordinator for the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture, will plant fruit and nut trees in three of the elementary schools in Amherst this fall and several gardens in the spring.

To help us meet our goal of 10,000 views (we are close) by Sunday and receive a donation of trees for the local schools, please click on the video below and share this with friends….


Thanks for your support!

Exciting Time at the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture

As many of you know, the Stockbridge School of Agriculture has always offered exciting programs.  However, Over the last couple of months, significant changes have occurred which will make it even better than before. These changes are born out of a committee appointed to review agricultural education at UMass and develop approaches to strengthen all agricultural work at UMass. A refocus of agricultural efforts is now the main effort as a result of this review.

The approach that we began about 1.5 years ago was to elevate the Stockbridge School of
Agriculture to a full academic unit with a faculty, education offered at all levels from A.S. to Ph.D., and research and outreach responsibilities. It was difficult for the University’s system of governance to accept an academic unit with the title of “School” situated within a college, the College of Natural Sciences in our case, since schools usually referred to Continue reading

Agriculture’s Star Rises in Academia

Published on GazetteNET (

OPINION: Georgana M. Foster: Ag’s star rises in academia

When I read of the plan of Amherst College to follow Hampshire College in having a farm to grow veggies for the dining hall, and for the University of Massachusetts to activate its farm, I was fascinated.

When we arrived on the UMass campus 55 years ago, it was not far from the days of being Mass Aggie, a school which the college at the south end of town thought of as an Continue reading

Helping Students Eat Healthy; an editorial

UMass Graduate, Emily French, and Stockbridge School of Agriculture Instructor, Catherine Sands, recently published this editorial in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

WILLIAMSBURG – There’s a lot of talk about school food these days, thanks in part to Michele Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, and to the people chipping away at a top-heavy system that doesn’t stress fresh healthy food and the educational opportunities that abound when students learn how their food is grown and how to find it close to home.

The Farm to School movement is growing faster than we can count. Steps to provide healthy, fresh food at school meals and to build purchasing relationships between farms and institutions abound.

Fertile Ground, a grassroots farm to school initiative, recently produced a School Food and Community Forum at the Jackson Street and Williamsburg elementary schools. Funding from Cooley Dickinson Hospital and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts provided us with the means to facilitate two afternoons of conversation and resource sharing among teachers, food service staff, school administrators, nurses and families. Over 80 people from 20 schools attended.

These conversations now ripple out into our communities.

Here’s some of what we heard: We know that farm-to-school programs are in over 10,000 schools in all 50 states. In Massachusetts alone, over 300 public school districts, private schools and colleges are directly purchasing locally grown food from more than 110 farms.

School gardens enhance classroom learning and cafeteria choices with the hands-on experience that comes from growing our own food. We are making curriculum connections in math, science, language arts, history and economics – to teach the story of what we eat and why.

In Williamsburg, a collaboration with the local Grange brings town elders into the classroom to make jam. Students visit a neighboring sugar shack. These experiences teach children about food as a system – the whole path from farm to fork, as author Michael Pollan puts it. Snacking on kale, tomatoes, sorrel and raspberries in their school garden helps expand their palettes.

At the two forum events, we addressed new USDA regulations requiring schools to serve more fresh produce, whole grains and other healthy foods. We heard that public school food service departments are in the process of implementing new USDA food regulations. These include hefty servings of leafy greens and orange/red vegetables like squash, carrots, and beets. This is a great opportunity for our region, as our farms grow an abundance of these kinds of vegetables.

Food service directors are trying all sorts of strategies. They are buying from the local apple orchard, collaborating on purchasing among school districts, entering into non-binding agreements with local farms for produce, processing and storing food during the summer and much more.

The ingenuity we’re seeing among food service staff is inspiring.

As a member of Farm to Institution in New England (FINE), the Mass. Farm to School Project is participating in a regional project that may result in New England dairy and beef cattle being processed into local ground beef for institutional markets.

We heard a food service director note that people unfairly blame that sector for the child obesity crisis.

Talk shifted to the topic of equipment needs – for instance, not having enough refrigeration space for fresh produce, inadequate stoves and a lack of steamers. We discussed a Franklin County food processing center’s flash-freezing pilot program, an effort to provide affordable, locally grown produce to schools and institutions during the agricultural off-season, thereby extending the season for local food in schools.

One Williamsburg teacher described how her students will taste anything in the school garden: raw garlic, cucumber, sorrel and arugula, collards and kale, broccoli, you name it. They invent and prepare new recipes from the produce they have grown for an annual harvest feast. But they hesitate to taste new recipes (often using the same ingredients) in the lunchroom.

How do we change this?

In response, a parent, asked the food service director whether she would share the recipe with parents, either by sending home recipe cards or publishing recipes in the school newsletter.

It takes multiple tasting of a new food for our kids to eat it, so encouraging parents to prepare the same new healthy dishes at home might make a difference in whether the kids will eat it at school.

Together they are building a plan.

Catherine Sands directs Fertile Ground, a grassroots farm-to-school initiative and teaches Community Food Systems and Food Justice and Policy at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Emily French is the Farm to Cafeteria Director for the Mass. Farm to School Project.

New Agricultural Learning Center to Resurrect Farming at UMass

BEN STORROW Staff Writer  

July 24, 2012

AMHERST – In an effort to give its agriculture students practical experience, the University of Massachusetts announced Monday it is moving forward with plans to open a new Agriculture Learning Center at the former Wysocki Farm in 2014. In a nod to the university’s past and future, school officials said the new center would fulfill UMass’ founding mission as an agricultural land grant college and reflects the growing nationwide interest in agriculture. Approximately 200 students will grow every type of crop produced in Massachusetts, including cranberries, on the 40-acre property, they said.

The project involves moving two buildings to the North Pleasant Street farm – an 1894 horse barn and the Blaisdell House, formerly the original farm manager’s residence. No new construction is planned. Officials pegged the cost of moving the barn and converting it into classroom and office space at $5 million, while costs for moving and renovating the Blaisdell house are still being developed, they said.

Stephen Herbert, director of the Center for Agriculture, said UMass students today graduate with a good academic understanding of agriculture, but with little actual farming experience. “Looking isn’t the same as doing,” Herbert said, noting that the new center will provide students with an opportunity for hands-on learning. The Stockbridge School, the university’s long-standing school of agriculture, is geared toward agricultural research and thus does not provide the same opportunities as those to be offered at the new center, he said.

The barn, among the last remaining agricultural structures on campus, and the Blaisdell House now sit next to the physical plant on Commonwealth Avenue. Officials said the two buildings will be sited in the northwestern section of the Wysocki Farm along North Pleasant Street. Dennis Swinford, director of campus planning, said the project fulfilled several different needs for the university.

“This is the last barn on our campus,” Swinford said. Moving it up to the 40 acres on Wysocki Farm “saves the barn, starts the agricultural learning center and uses a site near the middle of campus,” he said. Zoning out UMass does not require planning or zoning approval for the project because the school is maintaining the property’s agricultural use, Swinford said.

The plan will require the approval of the Conservation Commission to make sure it is compliant with wetland regulations, he said. North Amherst residents who enjoy walking on the property will continue to be able to do so, he said. All access to the property will be from North Pleasant Street, with a small 20-car parking lot situated next to the homestead and barn and a second access point next to an existing UMass parking lot on the property’s southwestern corner.

Swinford said the introduction of buildings to the Wysocki property, which is in use now as a hay field, should not alter neighbors’ views. Furthermore, there should be no discernible increase in smell or noise related to the farm operations, as livestock will be situated along the property’s southern edge next to a parcel of UMass-owned forest.

A public meeting to present the project to neighbors will be held at 6:30 tonight at the UMass police station. The new center’s operating costs will be paid out of the university budget, said UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski, while private fundraising is expected to cover the cost of renovations to both buildings, he said. Money to move the barn has already been secured in the form of a $500,000 pledge from the Massachusetts Farm Bureau, he said. No firm timeline has been set for moving either building, UMass officials said.

Herbert, who grew up on a dairy farm in New Zealand, said he has long thought about ways to make the university’s agricultural course offerings more hands-on. “I said a hay field so close to campus is not the best use of the field,” he said, noting that the plans for the new center have been in the works for around a year.

The center would serve as a recruiting tool for future students and a venue to hold public workshops on agriculture, he said. “I want it to be a showcase learning center,” Herbert said. “I want people to be proud of it.” The vast majority of the 40 acres will be divided among different agricultural uses, Herbert said. There will be pasture space for livestock, an orchard, a small golf green for turf management, as well as areas dedicated to permaculture, vegetable production and growing agronomic crops like wheat and barley.

“This will expose student to many different types of farming,” Herbert said. Food grown at the site will be sold, but where it is marketed will be determined by students and teachers, Herbert said. “Agriculture has become more important on campus,” Herbert said, noting that interest in agriculture courses has increased substantially in recent years. “This will be a great thing for students.”

The center’s projected opening date is 2014. But Herbert said he is hopeful that some aspects of the new center will be up and running by next year to coincide with the university’s 150th anniversary. That would be a fitting tribute to a school whose founding mission was, in part, to enhance agriculture in Massachusetts, he said. “It would be nice, from an agricultural point of view, to have the center started by next year to help celebrate that event,” Herbert said.

Copyright 2012, Daily Hampshire Gazette, All Rights Reserved.

For more information, see: UMass Agricultural Learning Center


For information on the Sustainable Food and Farming Program in the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture, see:

  1. 15 credit Certificate Program
  2. Bachelor of Sciences Program
  3. What are our graduates doing now?
  4. Editorial: Return of Mass Aggie

The B.S. degree is quite flexible and you can focus on sustainable farming, permaculture, medicinal herbs, policy and advocacy, urban agriculture, farm-based education, etc.   For details, contact Professor John M. Gerber, Program Coordinator.

Its a good time to be an aggie!

Editorial: Farming’s key place in higher education

FROM: Amherst Bulletin – August 2, 2012

Two Amherst campuses are making major commitments to broaden student awareness of how food is produced. We applaud their timely support for agricultural education and for responding to the community’s interest in localizing the food supply.

The University of Massachusetts expects to open a new Agricultural Learning Center on North Pleasant Street in 2014. This will coincide with the university’s 150th anniversary and remind everyone of its founding as a farming-based institution once known as Mass Aggie.

Meanwhile, Amherst College is inviting proposals for starting and operating a campus farm to provide fresh produce for the dining hall and to connect students and faculty with local food and sustainable agriculture.

There has been a tenfold increase in the past seven years in the number of UMass students majoring in sustainable food and farming. Prof. John Gerber’s class on sustainable living, which drew 35 students seven years ago, now enrolls 300 and would have more if the classroom were bigger.

This increasing desire by students to learn about food may be motivated by concern over pesticides used in industrial agriculture, worry over climate change or interest in local food. Students tend to find that working on farms can give meaning and purpose to their lives, as well as create products that are useful to people. Graduates of Gerber’s program are managing farms, teaching and marketing food products.

The new center will enable UMass students to easily apply what they’ve learned in a classroom to the cultivation of crops within walking distance of their dormitories. The university has also shown support for agricultural education by recently restructuring the Stockbridge School so that it now offers four-year and graduate programs and incorporates fields such as plant and soil science, entomology and animal programs.

The new Agriculture Learning Center will harken back to Levi Stockbridge’s pioneering work 140 years ago in combining classroom lectures with practical agriculture experience at a time when small farms dotted the landscape in Massachusetts and helped define the social and economic order.

Elsewhere in town, Hampshire College has had a farm center for many years and now Amherst College is planning one on four acres near the campus. Other small colleges in New England, such as Bowdoin, Middlebury and Colby, have done the same.

Amherst plans not just to grow fresh food for students to consume, but to create a partnership among the farm’s operator, students, faculty and staff. It wants to provide them with an opportunity to interact not only with books but with soil.

Amherst College owns hundreds of acres of open farmland. Some of these fields are leased to farmers for crops like hay, but none is used for sustainable agriculture. The college plans to lease four acres, and possibly up to seven more, to the farmer who is selected and will guarantee the purchase of produce for its dining hall. The goal is that by the third year of operation, the farm will be financially self-sustaining. The college will even provide the farmer with a tractor.

Amherst’s town seal displays both a book and a plow. Its campuses are putting that emblem into practice by elevating agriculture to the central role it plays in all our lives.

Daily Hampshire Gazette © 2011 All rights reserved


For information on the Sustainable Food and Farming Program in the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture, see:

  1. 15 credit Certificate Program
  2. Bachelor of Sciences Program
  3. What are our graduates doing now?
  4. Introducing the new Ag Learning Center

The B.S. degree is quite flexible and you can focus on sustainable farming, permaculture, medicinal herbs, policy and advocacy, urban agriculture, farm-based education, etc.   For details, contact Professor John M. Gerber, Program Coordinator.

Its a good time to be an aggie!

Amherst to organize mass harvesting to feed the hungry

Published: Monday, July 30, 2012, 10:57 PM

AMHERST – A group of people interested in growing more food in town is looking for some volunteers to help plan and implement a community-wide gleaning event this harvest to help feed the hungry here.

On Tuesday, members will be holding a planning meeting at 7 p.m. in the Bangs Community Center.

This gleaning – which is a gathering of crops that would be left in the field – is part of a larger resident-led initiative to grow more local food, said Stephanie Ciccarello, the town’s sustainability coordinator.

The town is offering help by providing meeting space “and getting information out there to get people more connected with the food they eat.”

This all started with a meeting that involved Ciccarello, W. David Ziomek, director of conservation and development, and John Gerber, a University of Massachusetts professor involved in a variety of local food endeavors.

The gleaning initiative is called Feed our Neighbors and the plan is to stage a gleaning at the end of the harvest at a few town farms to collect what’s not harvested by farmers. Then the food would be given to the Survival Center and other groups and families, she said.

“The reality is there are people that need food. This is a way to have the community get it out to them,” Ciccarello said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, more than any other material category but paper.

The gleaning, though, “It’s a part of something bigger.” Called Growing Food in Community, the group is “looking beyond the community garden (model) to grow more food in town,” Ciccarello said.

She said there are just two community gardens and they have accessibility and water issues.

The group wants to create a website where they can pair people looking to farm or garden with people who might have land or need help farming or gardening. They would be able to use the website to find a match. The helper would be able to keep some of what is grown and the farmer would be able to cut down on waste.

For more information, contact Ciccarello at (413) 259-3149 or by email at

Brian Donahue on the future of New England farming

Professor Brian Donahue knew from a relatively young age that he wanted to have an impact on the world and he was gonna to do it his way.

Having left school after sophomore year to pursue a life more “interesting,” he started making it on his own. From logging to starting a non-profit to teaching and writing, Mr. Donahue has become well versed in the art of raison d’être, finding his “reason to be.”

One of Mr. Donahue’s more important involvements comes from a 2005 report titled, Wildlands and Woodlands . In this is an outlined vision pertaining to New England’s forest lands that calls for 70% of it to be put aside for conservation within the next 50 years. The report also summarizes a plan for New England growing a large chunk of its food supply.

In his latest pursuit of happiness him and a few friends are working on a start-up pasture based family farm in Gill, Ma called Bascom Hollow Farm.

According to a recent article in the Hampshire Gazette…

Brian Donahue has done the talk, he’s done the walk, and now he’s doing the math. And for him, it all adds up:

  • his work as an associate professor at Brandeis University,
  • his three decades of working on a community farm in Weston and now,
  • the 170-acre farm he recently bought off Bascom Road (in Gill, MA) where he’s begun putting down roots with friends.

To read the article, go to Gill professor-farmer sees food as more than academic.

Professor Donahue spoke to a group of local citizens in the Amherst Town Hall last winter on the future of farming in New England.  It was an inspiring and thoughtful presentation.


Here is a synopsis of his presentation on “Leading a New England Home-Grown Food Revolution”

Lets look fifty years into the future and ask, if New England were to do about as well as we can imagine at providing its own food through sustainable farming, what might we best grow here? Let us say that we were to triple the amount of farmland in New England to 6 million acres—close to where it stood in 1945. That would return about 15% of New England to agriculture. If we assume ‘smart growth,’ that could be done while leaving 70% of New England still covered in sustainably harvested woodlands and wild reserves. Given 15 or 16 million New Englanders to feed (and presuming they were eating more healthily), we could envision five major building blocks of a sustainable New England food system:

  1. New England could produce the great bulk of its own vegetables and a substantial part of its fruit, and from that fruit a significant portion of its own beverages. This might require on the order of 1 million acres: about 250,000 acres devoted to fresh and storage vegetables; 250,000 acres devoted to fruit (notably apples, cranberries, blueberries, and grapes); and 500,000 acres devoted to dry beans, which would replace some meat in the diet. While much of this produce might be intensively grown on small acreages near cities, some vegetable crops such as potatoes and other root crops, winter squash, and beans might be grown in rotation with hay and grain on more diversified rural farms.
  2. New England could once again produce the great bulk of its own dairy products, and alongside that most of its own beef, almost entirely on grass (with some supplemental grain). This assumes dairy consumption about as it is today, but red meat consumption cut in half. Most of the farmland reclaimed from New England forest would be devoted to pasture and hay, for which our soils and climate are well suited. This defining element of our pastoral landscape might require as much as 4 million acres: about 1.5 million for dairy cows and 2.5 million for beef, along with some sheep and goats.
  3. That would leave on the order of 1 million acres of cropland that could be devoted to some combination of grain for direct human consumption, grain for livestock feed, or oil crops (such as canola, sunflower, or soy) which could provide protein meal for stock feed as well. If most of that million acres were to grow grain for human consumption (flour, pasta, beer, and so forth), for example, we could about cover those needs; but that would not leave much for feed or oil. Grain and oil crops could be grown mostly in rotation with hay.
  4. New England could produce the great bulk of its own pork, chicken, turkey, and eggs. These animals could be integrated into grazing systems without requiring much additional pasture acreage, as most of their feed doesn’t really come from grass. However, their feed grain requirements would amount to more than a million additional acres, which is probably far more than New England could supply. But importing grain is not a bad thing (presuming the grain were to come from sustainable farms elsewhere)—it is one very effective way to import fertility into intensive grazing systems.
  5. A restored and thriving regional fishery would be another crucial building

We wish Brian well and are delighted to have him joining the local food movement in Western Massachusetts.  To stay linked to some of the activities and thinking on local food in this region, please join the Facebook Group – Just Food Now in Western Massachusetts.

And for resources on sustainable food and farming, go to Just Food Now.

Written by Steven Cognac and John Gerber, January 2012.


Anne Cody

           Anne Cody is a consultant for the Massachusetts Farm to School Program, which is a program created to help farmers distribute their fresh food to their local school community.

The program is beneficial on many different levels to both the farmers and the school system. Local farmers benefit not only from having a large year round paying customer but even get to sell some of the foods that would have otherwise been rejected by other consumers (for example potatoes that would have been too small are PERFECT for tater-tots!). The Schools are able to serve healthier, better quality food to their students, create a relationship with their local farmers (students get to go on field trips to the farms) and remove a large portion of their imported food.

When Anne Cody isn’t building bonds between schools and farms she’s working on her other program: The Kindergarten Initiative, which, similarly to the Mass Farm to School Program, helps offer locally grown snacks and nutrition education to Worcester kindergarteners and their parents.

Some of the toughest obstacles that Anne faces are convincing some of the lower income schools to buy local food because of the difficulties of organizing school financing. She feels her job is making a large difference in society and is an exciting change for the school system. She is grateful to live in a community, which is such a large support for local food and I believe that with her successes already, her program could eventually join local farms and schools together all over country!


Farm to School: