Food Systems Work by UMass Students


While it is true that the Stockbridge School of Agriculture has been offering courses in food production and marketing since the beginning, our students today are engaged in many learning activities that include farming but also focus on necessary changes to the larger food system.

Here are a few of the things Stockbridge and other UMass students have been up to in October….

  • UMass Permaculture gleaned 900 lbs. of butternut squash from Plainville Farm in Hadley.  Thanks to Stockbridge Alum Xochi Salazar and her team for providing food to a  local shelter, the Student Farmer’s Market, and “Pledge” a program supporting sustainability, the use of “ugly” vegetables, and less food waste!


  • Our Stockbridge Community Food Systems and our Food Justice and Policy classes collaborated with Nuestras Raices to provide high school students with the tools to conduct a school food survey at Paulo Freire Social Justice High School, as well as a community visioning session about a new community garden;  and designed production tracking systems with urban farmers.  Here are a few of the high school students during a visioning session.  Thanks so much to Stockbridge instructor Catherine Sands for connecting our UMass students to students in Holyoke!


  • The SERSI student RSO is interested in helping with the Food Recovery Network and will focus future efforts in this direction.  Here are some of the SERSI members from last year. We look forward to see what 2016-17 will bring!



  • The UMass School of Public Policy and the Amherst Survival Centter is sponsoring an event with Congressman McGovern on  Oct. 26 Food Insecurity Event.    Stockbridge students plan to attend. 
  • The Food for All Garden at the Agricultural Learning Center is having a FALL HARVEST CELEBRATION preceded by GARLIC PLANTING on Friday, October 28th @ 4:30pm (garlic plant) and 5:30 is our Community Potluck.  Bring a food or non-alcoholic drink to share or just come hungry.  Hope you can join us!



  • Stockbridge will offer a one credit seminar in the spring titled How to Recover a Truly Sustainable Food System – A Look at Food Waste and Recovery, on Tuesday afternoons at 4:00-5:15pm.  Thanks to Mary Bell and Angela Roell who will be the instructors!


Think U.S. Agriculture Will End World Hunger? Think Again.

By Anne Weir Schechinger, Senior Analyst, Economics and Craig Cox, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources

The United Nations has forecast that world food production must double to feed 9 billion people by 2050. That assertion has become a relentless talking point in the growing debate over the environmental, health and social consequences of American agriculture.

America’s farmers, we are told, must double their production of meat products and grains to “feed the world.” Otherwise, people will go hungry.

Agribusinesses such as Monsanto sometimes cite the so-called “moral imperative” to feed a hungry world in order to defend the status-quo farm policy and deflect attention from the destruction that “modern” agriculture is inflicting on the environment and human health.

The real experts know better. Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization argues instead that the current conditions of “modern” agriculture are “no longer acceptable.”

The key to ending world hunger while protecting the environment is to help small farmers in the developing world increase their productivity and income, and to promote “agro-ecology” everywhere, including in the U.S.

Poverty is the root cause of hunger, not too few exports of U.S. wheat, corn, soybeans and meat. American exports go to people who can afford to buy them.



American farmers are helping meet growing demand from millions of people in developed and developing nations who can afford better, or at least more diversified diets. This is a welcome business opportunity for our farmers, but those exports aren’t going to the countries where hunger is chronic.

  • 86 percent of the value of U.S. agricultural exports last year went to 20 destinations with low numbers of hungry citizens and human development scores that are medium, high or very high, according to the U.N. Development Program.
  • Only half of one percent of U.S. agricultural exports, calculated according to their value, went to a group of 19 countries that includes Haiti, Yemen and Ethiopia. These are nations with high or very high levels of undernourishment, measured by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Even the hungriest countries produce most of their own food. Overall, in 2013, American farmers contributed only 2.3 percent of the food supply for the 19 most undernourished countries through food exports and aid.

We won’t end world hunger by doubling production in the United States while putting our nation’s environment and health at risk. We can and must help end world hunger by helping people in the hungriest countries do a better job of feeding themselves and ensuring that their farmers make a good living.

Reducing poverty, increasing income for women, providing nutrition education, improving infrastructure like roads and markets to increase access to food, and ceasing wars and conflict could all help undernourished populations better feed themselves.

There is a small farm, community based alternative to the dominant vision of industrial agriculture feeding the world.  Come to learn and grow with us in the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture!

The Food We Don’t Eat

American food writer MFK Fisher once said, “First we eat, then we do everything else.”  Food is central to so much in our lives – family, health and community. But what about the food we don’t eat?

Eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions can be ascribed to food loss and waste. Photo by jbloom/Flickr

More than a billion tons of food is never consumed by people; that’s equivalent to one-third of all food the world produces.  What many people may not know is that one in nine people on earth don’t have enough food to lead an active life, or that food loss and waste costs the global economy $940 billion each year, an amount close to what the entire UK government will spend in 2016.

They may also not know the incredible effect food loss and waste has on the environment.  Eight percent of the greenhouse gases heating the planet are caused by food loss and waste. At the same time, food that’s harvested but lost or wasted uses 25 percent of water used in agriculture and requires cropland the size of China to be grown. What an incredibly inefficient use of precious natural resources.

When you look at the kind of impact food loss and waste has on our environment, economy and society, it’s clear why the United Nations included it among the most urgent global challenges the Sustainable Development Goals would address. Target 12.3 [2] of the goals calls for nations to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses” by 2030. It’s certainly an ambitious challenge, but it is also one that’s achievable.

This week is Climate Week, an opportunity to take stock of where we are on critical environmental issues like food loss and waste. A new report [3] on behalf of Champions 12.3 [4] – a unique coalition of leaders across government, business and civil society who are dedicated to achieving Target 12.3 – assesses our progress so far.

The report details a number of notable steps that have happened around the world, including national food loss and waste reduction targets established in the United States and in countries across the European Union and African Union.

It also highlights efforts to help governments and companies measure food loss and waste, such as the FLW Standard [5] announced in June, and new funding like the Danish government’s subsidy program and The Rockefeller Foundation’s Yieldwise [6], a $130 million investment toward practical approaches to reducing food loss and waste in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, the United States and Europe. There have also been advances in policies as well as education efforts like the Save the Food [7] campaign to raise awareness of food loss and waste.

The progress is promising. But the report also notes that the action does not yet match the scale of the problem, and much more work is needed worldwide if we are to successfully meet Target 12.3 in just 14 short years.

Why the “food movement” is unstoppable..


Excerpted from “Why the food movement is unstoppable.”

The direction of the food movement

…there are profound reasons why the food movement is succeeding and growing.

This analysis suggests that the food movement, compared to other great social movements of the 20th Century (such as the labour, environment, civil rights, climate and feminist movements), has many of their strengths but not their weaknesses.

Further, the food movement is unexpectedly radical on account of having a distinct philosophy. This philosophy is fundamentally unique in human history and is the underlying explanation for the explosion of the food movement.

Like any significant novel philosophy, that of the food movement challenges the dominant thought patterns of its day and threatens the political and economic structures built on them. Specifically, the food movement’s philosophy exposes longstanding weaknesses in the ideas underpinning Western political establishments. In the simplest terms possible, the opposite of neoliberal ideology is not communism or socialism, it is the food movement.

The reason is that, unlike other systems of thought, food movement philosophy is based on a biological understanding of the world. While neoliberalism and socialism are ideologies, the food movement is concerned with erasing (at least so far as is possible) all ideologies because all ideologies are, at bottom, impediments to an accurate understanding of the world and the universe.

By replacing them with an understanding based on pure biology, the food movement is therefore in a position to supply what our society lacks: mechanisms to align human needs with the needs of ecosystems and habitats.

The philosophy of the food movement goes even further, by recognising that our planetary problems and our social problems are really the same problem. The food movement represents the beginnings of a historic ecological and social shift that will transform our relationships with each other and with the natural world.

1) The food movement is a leaderless movement

The first important piece of the food puzzle is to note that the food movement has no formal leaders. Its most famous members are individuals. Frances Moore Lappé, Joel Salatin, José Bové, Vandana Shiva, Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, and many others, are leaders only in the sense of being thought-leaders. Unlike most leaders, including of the environment movement, or the labour movement, or the climate movement, they have all attained visibility through popular acclaim and respect for their personal deeds, their writings, or their insights. Not one of them leads in any of the conventional senses of setting goals, giving orders, deciding tactics, or standing for high office. They are neither bureaucrats nor power-brokers, but leaders in the Confucian sense of being examples and inspirations. It is a remarkable and unprecedented characteristic that the food movement is a social movement that is organic and anarchic. This not to argue it is unstructured, far from it. Rather, the food movement is self-organised. It is a food swarm and absence of formal leadership is not a sign of weakness but of strength.

2) The food movement is a grassroots movement

A second and complementary piece of the puzzle is that the food movement is far more inclusive than other social movements. It is composed of the urban and the rural, the rich and the poor, of amateurs and experts, of home cooks and celebrity chefs, farmers and gardeners, parents and writers, the employed and the unemployed. Essentially anyone, in any walk of life, can contribute, learn or benefit. Most do all three. Importantly too, just about any skill level or contribution can often be accommodated. To take just one example, in how many other social movements can a 14-year-old make an international splash?

This inclusiveness has various aspects that contribute significantly to its success. The first of these is that, unlike many protests, there is no upper limit to membership of the food movement. It is not defined in opposition to anything – it would include the whole world if it could – and so there is no essential sense in which it is exclusive. Exclusivity is often the Achilles heel of social movements, but though its opponents have tried to label it as elitist, for good reasons they have not succeeded. Granted, Prince Charles is a very enthusiastic member, but so too are rappers from Oakland, the landless peasant movement of Brazil, the instigators of the Mexican soda tax and the urban agriculture movements of Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. Such groups are neither elite nor elitist. A better analysis would conclude that anyone can find space under its broad umbrella because the food movement does not discriminate on any grounds, least of all class. It is beyond grassroots. People see what they want in it because it is for everyone.

The second aspect of its inclusivity is that the food movement has barriers to entry that are low or non-existent. This is an important reason it has grown rapidly. These porous boundaries make the food movement unusually hard to define, however, leading some people to mistakenly conclude it is non-existent.

3) The food movement is international

A third unconventional attribute of the food movement is to be international and multilingual. In each locality it assumes different forms. The Campaign for Real Ale, Via Campesina, the Zapatistas, Slow Food and Europe’s anti-GMO movement are very different, but instead of competing or quarreling, there are remarkable overlaps of purpose and vision between the parts. This was on show at last winter’s British Oxford Real Farming Conference where food producers and good food advocates from all over the world shared stages and perspectives and the effect was to complement and inspire each other.

4) The food movement is low-budget

The fourth distinguishing characteristic of the food movement is that it has little money behind it. It might seem natural for “social movements” to be unfunded but it is in fact very rare. The climate movement has Tom Steyer, the Tea Party has the Koch brothers, Adolf Hitler’s car, chauffeur, private secretary, and of course his blackshirts, were funded by Fritz Thyssen, Henry Ford, and some of the wealthiest people in Germany. Even the labour and environment movements have dues or wealthy backers. The food movement therefore is highly unusual in owing little to philanthropic foundations or billionaire backers. Instead, it consists overwhelmingly of amateurs, individuals and small groups and whatever money they possess has followed and not led them. This is yet another powerful indication that the food movement is spontaneous, vigorous and internally driven.

5) A movement of many values

Most social movements are organised around core values: civil rights, social equality or respect for nature are common ones. What is unique about the food movement is that it has multiple values. They include human health concerns, animal welfare, agricultural sustainability, ecological sustainability, food justice and political empowerment, but even this list does not adequately capture the range of its concerns. It is a movement with many component parts.


Join the Food Movement and create a career as a Sustainable Food and Farming major in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst.

Food Waste and Food Access

The University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture has accepted SUSTAINABILITY as one of the core principles guiding our programs.  Toward this end, we help students learn to grow and sell food in a manner more consistent with the multiple, interconnecting objectives of economic vitality, environmental integrity and social justice.

One of the areas we have identified as needing more attention however relates to food waste and food access, which are two sides of the same coin.  To help us think about these issues, the following visuals were contributed by Mary Bell.


Click here to see a pdf (expandable) version of the poster above


For details on how Massachusetts will approach this issue, see:

Massachusetts Food Action Plan

According to ME Food Systems Innovation Challenge program….

Several reports indicated that locally, nationally and globally, 30–40% of food produced for consumption is wasted every year. Food waste has significant implications for the economy, the environment and growing problem of food insecurity.

Economically, food loss and waste in US costs $165 billion per year. Globally, Forbes estimates the loss at $1 trillion per year.  Environmentally, the impact globally of approximately 130 billion tonnes of food waste is a massive resource drain, using 45 trillion gallons of fresh water and generating about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Globally over 800 million suffer from hunger and food insecurity and of that 48 million are in the US.

Reducing food waste could create economic opportunity and growth, conserve water, reduce greenhouse gases and eradicate the problem food insecurity and hunger.

Homecoming is for alumni!


If you graduated from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, the Plant and Soil Sciences Department, or BDIC with a degree in Sustainable Food and Farming, Sustainable Agriculture, or a related area in BDIC….. well….

You are invited to join us to reconnect with your alma mater, your old teachers, and your friends!


Join us Saturday, October 1 starting at 9:30 am for a fun-filled day at UMass Homecoming! Start the day with coffee and light refreshments, and then join us for tours, program information, games, and lunch!

Register today!


ACTIVITIES include a Farmer’s market where UMass Student Farm produce will be available for purchase; Building tours; Information tables for each of our majors; DIY photo booth. Continue reading Homecoming is for alumni!

GardenShare is full!


Our one credit, pass/fail class designed to help “non-gardeners” gain experience and learn from other students is now full.  Watch for it next semester and register for STOCKSCH 298G early!  This is student run class which meets on Mondays from 2:30pm-3:45pm and requires additional time in the garden at the top of Eastman Hill.

To register on SPIRE, look for STOCKSCH 298G – GardenShare Practicum (75664)


The first class was loads of fun (according to the participants).  If you want to stay connected and/or volunteer, join the Facebook group here:

Student Facilitators:

Mission Statement: GardenShare is a student-run community garden where students of all academic interests and background can come together to learn how to grow healthy food. Through community and self-directed learning students at UMass are able to engage Continue reading GardenShare is full!