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! https://goo.gl/hpTAIZ
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!
By Naila Moreira – Daily Hamphshire Gazette – June 9, 2016
I’ve always had a thing for creepy crawlies. I was the kid who always caught the wasp stuck in the classroom to let it out the window. I’ll still crouch to move a worm from the sidewalk into the grass.
So when a colleague of mine, Sara Eddy, started her first beehive, I devoured her Facebook posts about the process. And this spring, I had a chance to visit her and her bees.
The hive sat pertly in her Amherst backyard, painted lavender and protected from bears by an electric fence. The smoker she uses to calm the bees waited in her driveway, puffing a stream of gray into the air from its metal spout.
Asked about bee stings, Eddy shrugged it off. “Last year I was stung three times,” she said. “But one of them was in front of Seelye,” the building at Smith College where Eddy works.
Her teenage children are less relaxed, she said, yet still attracted. “My daughter gets freaked out. But she’s an artist, and bees are turning up everywhere in her art.”
There’s just something compelling about bees. At age 29, Sylvia Plath – among our region’s most well-known poets – embarked on the adventure of beekeeping. The fuzzy yellow-brown insects soon swarmed into her writing, inspiring her famous sequence of bee poems.
Plath’s queen bees are metaphors for feminine power, leaders of an army of infertile female workers who protect the hive, collect food, and raise young.
“I stand in a column/ Of winged, unmiraculous women,” wrote Plath in her poem “Stings.” “Honey-drudgers. /I am no drudge.”
Besides Plath, our region has other special connections to honeybees. The walls of Seelye Hall have been home to a huge community of 40,000 bees for more than a decade. A 2012 effort to move the bees failed because the hive’s exact location couldn’t be found.
The creator of the modern beehive, Lorenzo Langstroth, also lived and worked here, serving as pastor for Greenfield’s Second Congregational Church in the 1840s and ’50s. Sometimes called “The Father of American Beekeeping,” he was celebrated June 4 at the church’s yearly Bee Fest.
And the first university apiary program in the nation was founded at the University of Massachusetts.
In Eddy’s backyard, I watched her honey-drudgers scurry near their long, slender queen on a hive frame pockmarked with brood cells and pollen.
Eddy said she began keeping bees in part to do her share to fight back against the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder. Since 2006, an average of 30 percent of all hives yearly have failed to survive, according to USDA statistics. This past year saw a 44 percent hive loss nationwide.
But she soon found she was in for as much of a challenge as beekeepers everywhere.
Her first hive contracted the bane of beekeepers: varroa mites. These tiny tick-like pests are an invasive species first documented in the United States in 1987. Despite Eddy’s efforts to overcome the infestation, the hive succumbed. By spring, the bees were dead.
“They’re little vampires, sucking the blood out of bees,” said Dan Wright, Eddy’s beekeeping mentor, who owns about 20 hives at Hampshire College, Small Ones Farm in Amherst, and near the UMass Hadley farm. “But varroa itself won’t kill bees, it’s the disease load they’re passing around from bee to bee.”
Hives infested by varroa often survive the summer but fail in winter, when bees can’t leave the hive and must survive off their summer reserves of honey and strength.
A battle has also been raging over whether a new class of pesticides used since the 1990s, neonicotinoids (known as neonics), are partly responsible for colony collapse.
Neonics aren’t sprayed on fields but instead applied to seeds before planting, theoretically making them safer. Growing plants take up pesticide into their leaves and flowers as a “systemic” pesticides that only kills insects that eat the plant.
Used on crops that bees don’t pollinate like corn and soybeans, neonics shouldn’t reach bees. But in practice, bees may get exposed by several routes.
If not carefully handled, dust from treated seeds can waft away before and during planting. Studies have found neonics in soil, water, and bee favorites such as dandelions near treated crops. Known toxins to bees, neonics can also interfere with their navigation, according to controlled studies where bees were fed the pesticide directly.
But so far, just one 2015 study has linked the amount of neonics actually present in the environment to increased levels of colony collapse. And where neonics are common, other bee toxins are often present in even higher amounts – especially pesticides sprayed by homeowners to kill mosquitos and other pests, according to a separate 2015 study in the journal Nature.
“There is not enough evidence to call for a complete ban on the neonics – there are simply too many beekeepers successfully keeping healthy hives in areas of seed-treated crops,” notes professional apiarist Randy Oliver, who writes the blog ScientificBeekeeping.com.
Experts now believe that no single problem prompts colony collapse. Varroa, pesticides, global warming, and habitat loss can all stress bees. Weakened by one problem, the hive simply can’t survive the others.
“You can’t just blame pesticides, you can’t just blame one thing. It’s a lot of factors coming together,” said Dan Conlon, who owns Warm Colors Apiary in Deerfield. He added, however, that at least in New England, varroa mites “are the number one killers of bees.”
Conlon, who provides pollinator hives to farms, noted that farmers are often eager to work with apiarists to help minimize bees’ pesticide exposure, such as by spraying at night when bees aren’t active, or choosing non-persistent chemicals.
Conlon is also one of just 15 beekeepers nationwide USDA-certified to raise and sell Russian queens, a strain of bee resistant to varroa mites. Most honeybees today come from an Italian strain imported to the U.S. in the mid 1800s.
The Russian bees remove mites from the hive, grooming them off each other and the larvae. Conlon said his 1,200 hives, all housing Russian bees, no longer require chemicals for mite control.
“They live through the winter without any special attention, they take care of the mites pretty much by themselves,” he said. “They’re resistant to a lot of diseases. They’re just hardier than other bees.”
For the backyard beekeeper, this option may help provide a respite from the struggle to keep bees alive. “The future of beekeeping is like a three-legged stool,” said Alice Armen, a Montague resident who has kept bees for 16 years and recently bought three of Conlon’s queens. A broader gene pool including bees like the Russians, a decreased reliance on pesticides, and community sharing of knowledge and ideas will help bees recover, she said.
In terms of community, beginners hoping to own a hive can join the Franklin County or Massachusetts Beekeepers’ Associations for advice getting started and to meet potential beekeeping mentors. The Massachusetts Beekeepers’ Association will also offer hands-on workshops at its annual field day June 18 at the UMass Agronomy Farm in South Deerfield.
Eddy went into the 2015-2016 winter, her second year keeping bees, with two hives of Italian bees. In spring, she discovered one hive was empty, despite having had no mites. At first, she said, she was devastated. But then she opened her surviving hive.
The number of bees had doubled. One hive had simply moved in with the other – perhaps because it lost its queen, or had been disturbed by a mouse Eddy found living underneath.
“They’re amazing,” she told me, as she slid a frame vibrating with bees back into the hive. “Sometimes I think, maybe this hobby is too expensive, and too much work. Because it is a lot of work. And it’s a lot of mental work, a lot of worry.”
She smiled. “But then I come out here and I look at them, and … I just love them.”
Naila Moreira is a writer and poet who often focuses on science, nature and the environment. She teaches science writing at Smith College and is the writer in residence at Forbes Library. She’s on Twitter @nailamoreira.
The Stockbridge School of Agriculture teaches a course, STOCKSCH 166 – Practical Beekeeping, as part of the Sustainable Food and Farming degree program.
NOTE: Students from the Sustainable Food and Farming program in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture were “right in the middle” of the UMass Divest Movement this past spring. See: https://sustfoodfarm.org/2016/04/14/divest/
Contact: Robert P. Connolly 617/287-7073
BOSTON – The University of Massachusetts today became the first major public university to divest its endowment from direct holdings in fossil fuels. The decision was made by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors of the UMass Foundation, a separate not-for-profit corporation that oversees an endowment whose value was $770 million at the end of the last fiscal year.
The decision followed a series of developments that signaled the University community’s desire to fight climate change. Last year, the Foundation voted to divest from direct holdings in coal companies in response to a petition from the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, a student group. The UMass Board of Trustees later endorsed the Foundation’s decision and described climate change as “a serious threat to the planet.” Last month, the Campaign staged a series of demonstrations at UMass Amherst to call for divestment from all fossil fuels.
“This action is consistent with the principals that have guided our university since its Land Grant inception and reflects our commitment to take on the environmental challenges that confront us all,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “Important societal change often begins on college campuses and it often begins with students. I’m proud of the students and the entire University community for putting UMass at the forefront of a vital movement, one that has been important to me throughout my professional life.”
During last month’s protest at UMass Amherst, Meehan met with two representatives of the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, Sarah Jacqz and Kristie Herman. After that meeting, he said he was prepared to recommend that UMass build on its coal divestment by removing from its endowment direct investments in fossil fuel companies and making additional investments in clean/sustainable energy.
To accomplish the latter, Meehan also announced today that he planned to tap the President’s Science and Technology Initiative Fund, which last year provided more than $900,000 in grants to UMass faculty researchers, to ensure future funding for sustainability/green technology projects. He said that UMass is also set to boost its academic and financial involvement in offshore wind energy.
“The Foundation’s action today makes a powerful statement about UMass’s commitment to combatting climate change and protecting our environment,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “It also speaks volumes about our students’ passionate commitment to social justice and the environment. It is largely due to their advocacy that that this important issue has received the attention that it deserves.”
UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Victor Woolridge said he would ask the Board to endorse the Foundation’s decision when it meets on June 15.
“With this vote, the UMass Foundation adopts a divestment position that is among the most aggressive established for any major university—public or private—in the United States,” said Woolridge. “We do so, in part, because members of the UMass community have urged us to consider divestment in moral terms. Since we acknowledge the moral imperative, we are willing to go beyond last year’s action and take this additional step, but we’re also mindful of our moral and fiduciary obligation to safeguard the University’s endowment, which provides critical funding for faculty research and student scholarships, and must be protected against losses. We believe this conclusive action balances those two priorities.”
“Divesting from investments in any particular sector is not done lightly and we have done so rarely,” said Foundation Treasurer and Investment Committee Chairman Edward H. D’Alelio. “The Foundation’s primary responsibility is a fiduciary one. Its primary mission is overseeing the endowment in an effort to maximize returns on funds donated for research, academic programs, financial aid and other purposes. That we took this step reflects not just our comfort as fiduciaries but the seriousness with which we see climate change.”
In addition to its divestment moves, the Foundation has taken a series of other steps to promote socially responsible investing. These include:
- Becoming a founding member of the Intentional Endowment Network, which supports colleges, universities, and other mission-driven tax-exempt organizations in aligning their endowment investment practices with their mission, values, and sustainability goals without sacrificing financial returns.
- Formally incorporating into its investment policies Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria.
- Establishing a Social Choice Endowment option for donors.
- Becoming a signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which provides a global system for organizations to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information.
The Foundation’s efforts are part of a broader University commitment to sustainability—grounded in its origins as a land-grant university and its original mission as an agricultural school—that is reflected in the following achievements and initiatives:
- UMass conducts more than $20 million in environmental science research annually, and is recognized as a leader in areas including wind energy, climate science, marine science and biofuels.
- UMass Amherst ranked 21st in the 2015 edition of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 353 Green Colleges.
- UMass Boston launched the world’s first doctoral program in Green Chemistry.
- At UMass Dartmouth, researchers are developing technology to generate power from ocean and tidal currents.
- UMass Lowell’s National Science Foundation-supported research center brings together wind-energy industry and research experts to create next-generation thinking and technology.
- UMass Medical’s Albert Sherman Center, a LEED Gold research and education center that opened in 2013, employed an energy-efficient design and advanced technologies that make it 25 percent more efficient than similar buildings.
- Since 2007, the UMass system has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent, with UMass Amherst reducing its emissions by 23 percent.
- The University has aggressively increased the use of renewable energy, entering into 15 separate solar contracts with 10 different solar developers, with the vast majority already operational. When all fully on line, they will generate 59 million kilowatt hours and help the state’s electric grid avoid 28,500 metric tons of CO2. Over 20 years, UMass solar operations will allow the grid to avoid more than 544,000 metric tons of CO2.
- The University is a founding member of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, a data center that supports the computing needs of the state’s five most research-intensive universities. The facility is the first university data center in the U.S. to be LEED platinum certified.
About the UMass Foundation
The UMass Foundation is a private, non-profit corporation founded in 1950 to foster and promote the growth, progress and general welfare of the University of Massachusetts, recently ranked as the No. 1 public university in New England in the World University Rankings. The Foundation provides a depository for charitable contributions to UMass, manages the University’s endowment, promotes private support of public higher education, and supports the fundraising efforts of the five UMass campuses—UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School.
Spring has sprung at the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture and as you might expect, our students are busy at work in some of our many gardens and farms. For a more complete list of student projects, see: Sustainable Food and Farming Student Projects.
Just click on the name or the photo for more pictures……
For more events sponsored by students in the Sustainable Food and Farming major over the past few weeks, see:
UPDATE: The President of the UMass System has pledged his support to the Divest Movement started at UMass Amherst. If passed, we would be the first public university in the nation to stop investing in corporately controlled fossil fuel companies. For details see: DIVESTMENT UPDATE
Below is an article from the local news a week earlier….
AMHERST — If University of Massachusetts officials fully divest the state system’s endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil-fuel companies as student protesters are demanding, a UMass economics professor says the impact would be largely symbolic — at first.
“By itself, this would be a drop in the bucket. The UMass folio is just not that big,” Gerald Friedman said Wednesday. “I don’t think ExxonMobil is going to notice.” Continue reading Divest Movement Grows at UMass
The Stockbridge School of Agriculture is proud of our passionate and engaged students in Sustainable Food and Farming. Stockbridge encourages students to “learn by doing” and we would like to share some of the things we are doing with you – especially if you….
- love to be outdoors
- enjoy good food
- care about healthy people and community
- want to study sustainable food and farming systems
Here are some student-organized events which we thought you might enjoy….
The Franklin Permaculture Garden
Volunteer at the Franklin Permaculture Garden
Sponsored by the UMass Bee Club
Saturday, April 2 the UMass Amherst Beekeeping Club will help us redefine our relationship with bees and create a new paradigm of caring for bees.This event is FREE for UMass Students. $20 for public.
More Sustainable Food and Farming Events
Monday, April 4 the Spiritual Ecology and Regenerative Systems Initiative will sponsor a DIY Herbal Spa Workshop in French Hall room 102. Come and make your own herbal body care products.
Wednesday, April 6 the UMass Student Farm will have its Spring Farmers Market and Celebration. Music, vendors, food and fun. Stop by the Cape Cod Lounge any time from 12:00 noon – 4:00pm to join the fun and check them out!
Wednesday, April 6 a group of students in the Sustainable Food and Farming major will sponsor a New Farmer Panel and Expo at the Earth Foods Cafe, right after the Farmers Market on the same day. The will run from 4:00-6:00pm. Join us!
And still more…
Amherst Sustainability Festival
On Saturday, April 16 students in the Sustainable Food and Farming major will be teaching workshops at the annual Amherst Sustainability Festival between 10:00am and 4:00pm on the Amherst Commons. Here are a few workshops:
- Natural Deodorant Making
- Biochar Face-mask Workshop
- Gluten and Dairy-Free Living
- Planting Seeds for Kids
Please stop by the festival and join in the fun!
Earth Day at UMass
Stop by the Stockbridge School of Agriculture booth for fun and educational stuff on Earth Day at UMass, April 22 from 9:00am-6:00pm at the Student Union North Lawn!
- To stay connected or hear about more events like this…. please join our Facebook Group… Sustainable Food and Farming.
- To see more of the “hands-on” projects of students in the Sustainable Food and Farming major check out STUDENT PROJECTS.…. and get involved!
- For information on the fastest growing major at UMass and the largest sustainable agriculture program in the nation, check out our “official” web page at: