Students had fun guessing the weight of the Rouge de Provence winter squash (a French heirloom variety). Natural Resources Conservation student, Holly Giard, won a Stockbridge hat when she guessed the weight of the squash (which weighed 16 lbs. 7 oz.) missing the actual weight by only a few ounces! Special thanks to new Sustainable Food and Farming graduate student, Nikki Burton, who grew the squash!
While most of the SFF majors have come to Stockbridge in the past via transfer from other majors at UMass or from other colleges, the interest among high school students was exciting at the Open House. Lots of questions from students and parents!
There has been a steady increase (green line) in Sustainable Food and Farming majors in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture over the past 10 years.
Sustainable Food and Farming is the largest program in Stockbridge (including both A.S. and B.S. students) representing about 40 % of our 300+ students.
Perhaps most important however, the Stockbridge School of Agriculture was ranked 4th highest (out of 55 departments) in the university for quality of experience in the Senior Survey for 2013. Stockbridge was also highest program overall for quality of advising and preparation for career .
Recent graduate Lilly Israel gave a tour of the Franklin Permaculture Garden to a few high school students and their parents at the Open House. Lilly is now working for Auxiliary Services, coordinating the UMass Permaculture Gardens
In its fourth year, National Food Day (held annually on October 24th) is an opportunity for people across the nation to celebrate the value and importance of eating fresh, local and healthy food.
During lunchtime on October 24th, students at the Amherst Regional Middle School had the opportunity to sample unique varieties of apples provided by the UMass Cold Spring Orchard.
Johnathan Sivel, Michelle Nikfarjam, and Jessica Maeder from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture assisted Rebecca Fricke (from Grow Food Amherst and District Aide to Representative Ellen Story) distribute the apples and answer students’ questions.
Two of the best quotes from the students during the tasting in the cafeteria were:
“This is like apple heaven!“
“I didn’t know apples could taste this good!”
This was a great opportunity for the students to taste local apple varieties that they don’t typically get from school or the grocery store. The students and teachers were really appreciative. Many of them came back for seconds and thirds and were genuinely interested in how the apple textures and tastes were so different.
A big thank you goes out to Rebecca Treitley, director of the ARPS Whitsons School Nutrition Program and her crew, led by Diane Tower, who helped Rebecca Fricke wash, set up and clean up the tasting. Also thanks to Dr. Duane Greene and the staff at Cold Spring Orchard for donating the apples.
The UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture, in partnership with Holyoke Community College and Hampshire College, has been awarded an $810,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to create collaborative programs combining sustainable agriculture with clean energy studies and share resources that will benefit students at all three schools.
“The main purpose of the grant is to marry what has for the most part historically been two separate sides of sustainability education – clean energy and agriculture,” said Kate Maiolatesi, coordinator of HCC’s Sustainability Studies program.
Much of the grant will allow the development of cross-campus courses that combine the strengths of existing programs at each of the three schools. The first of these joint courses is expected to begin in the summer of 2015.
Students from all three campuses will go to HCC to learn about clean energy and then go to UMass and Hampshire to study sustainable agriculture practices. The joint program is expected to create stronger pathways for students to transfer from HCC to Hampshire and UMass.
Another large portion of the grant will pay for new clean energy and sustainable agriculture equipment that will be used by students from all three schools. This will include a new micro-farm greenhouse demonstration and training facility at UMass and a mobile, solar powered refrigeration unit. HCC will install a new solar powered electric fence, along with composting and irrigation equipment as well as a wind turbine for its sustainability and permaculture gardens.
The grant will also pay stipends to students who want to do summer internships with clean energy businesses or local farms.
Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.
The cover of the report looks like that of a blockbuster documentary or Hollywood movie, and the dramatic nature of the title cannot be understated: The time is now to switch back to our natural farming roots.
The findings on the report seem to echo those of a December 2010 UN Report in many ways, one that essentially said organic and small-scale farming is the answer for “feeding the world,” not GMOs and monocultures.
According to the new UN report, major changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems, with a shift toward local small-scale farmers and food systems recommended.
Diversity of farms, reducing the use of fertilizer and other changes are desperately needed according to the report, which was highlighted in this article from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
It also said that global trade rules should be reformed in order to work toward these ends, which is unfortunately the opposite of what mega-trade deals like the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are seeking to accomplish.
The Institute noted that these pending deals are “primarily designed to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy…” rather than the reflect the urgent need for a shift in agriculture described in the new report.
Even global security may be at stake according to the report, as food prices (and food price speculating) continue to rise.
“This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers,” the report concludes.
You can read more about the report from the Institute by visiting their website here.