On April 2-4, University of Massachusetts Amherst was the host of the Farm to Institution New England (FINE) Summit. The themes for the summit were “Celebrate, Mobilize, Transform” and the program included field trips to local farms, food processing facilities and, of course, the UMass Agricultural Learning Center. Presenters and attendees gathered from a breadth of sectors: education, culinary, farmers, policy/advocacy, county jails, and government.
UMass Food for All network handed out free vegetables and educated people about food security at UMass while other students sold their original work at UMass’ second to last “Food For All Farmers Market,” a market which has grown this season.
“By eating this, you are reducing food waste,” said Dan Bensonof as he served market-goers paper cups of sweet potato & peanut butter soup– the sweet potatoes in the soup were gleaned by his students at Czajkowski Farm in Hadley. Bensonof, who just started working for UMass this June, helps organize the Farmer’s Market, is teaching the practicum class, Permaculture Gardening, as well as coordinating the Permaculture Continue reading Addressing Food Security and Getting Students Paid: UMass Farmer’s Market Grows→
AMHERST, Mass. – Fall may not seem like a good time for planting, but cool temperatures and ample soil moisture can help plants settle in, says viticulture expert Elsa Petit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture have been busy this fall planting dozens of cold-tolerant grapes at the campus’s first student-run vineyard.
UMass’s First Carbon Farming Initiative Demonstrates How to Sustainably Grow Food and Mitigate Climate Change
By: Lisa DePiano and Nicole Burton
The UMass Carbon Farming Initiative is the first temperate climate research silvopasture plot at the University of Massachusetts. Carbon farming is the practice of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere into soil carbon stocks and above ground biomass. Silvopasture, a carbon farming practice is the intentional combination of trees and livestock for increased productivity and biosequestration.
The plot is a 1 acre silvopasture system at the Agriculture Learning Center (ALC) that integrates a diverse planting of complex hybrid chestnuts systematically arranged to ensure ease of management for rotational grazing sheep. Establishment of the initiative has been funded by the Sustainable Food and Farming Program (SFF) and a grant from the Sustainability Innovation and Engagement Fund (SEIF) and is managed by Stockbridge School of Agriculture Faculty Lisa DePiano and Nicole Burton and SFF students.
According to Project Drawdown, a broad coalition of scientists, policy makers, business leaders, and activists that have compiled a comprehensive plan for reversing climate change, silvopasture is the highest ranked agricultural solution to climate change. Silvopastoral systems contribute to climate change mitigation both through the direct drawdown of atmospheric carbon into soil and biomass and through the reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions emitted by industrial livestock systems. With the growing demand for meat and dairy products, and the limited amount of land available it is essential that we identify agricultural practices that are part of the solution rather than exacerbating the problem.
Umass Student Farmer, Kyle Zegel gives a tour to Intro to SFF class
SFF Senior Sierra Torres and Faculty Nikki Burton show the sheep to Congressmen Jim McGovern
In order to get to down to 350 ppm of atmospheric CO2, the safe amount of concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, we need to have NET Zero carbon emissions and remove 300+ billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere.Research suggests that silvopasture systems are capable of storing as much as 100 tons of Carbon (367 tons of CO2) per acre while adding the yields of tree crops to the existing animal systems, and ecological benefits like reduced nutrient runoff, erosion, and animal stress from heat and wind. Traditional silvopasture systems, such as the dehesa in Spain and forest pastures in Scotland, have existed for centuries but more research and development is needed for cold climate sites in the United States.
Some goals and objectives for this project are:
Establish a concrete example of carbon farming. This example will function as an outdoor classroom for SFF and related courses as well as a demonstration site for farmers and policy makers.
Trial different varieties of complex hybrid chestnuts looking for traits like climate hardiness, nut size and yield, disease resistance, and precociousness
Test market for products such as chestnuts, chestnut flour, nursery scion wood
Track financial implications of these practices such as: cost of establishment, ongoing costs, revenue streams, and CO2 sequestration per acre
Empower students as emerging leaders in the cutting edge fields of Permaculture, carbon farming and sustainable animal husbandry.
Conduct research and development to support regional farmers in adopting carbon farming practices and strategies
Catalog the carcass yields of the pastured livestock
Monitor and test parasitic loads with livestock
Track rotations of sheep
For more information on the Initiative contact Lisa DePiano at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nicole Burton at email@example.com
NOTE: interested non-majors are welcome but will need permission to register. Contact the instructor at Angela Roell <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Class Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:00- 3:30; This course will be both in person and online via Moodle, digital content will be released weekly on Monday, weekly course content will be due by the following Monday by midnight.
Office Hours: Via phone or Skype, by appointment only
As part of his eighth annual Farm Tour in western Massachusetts, Congressman James McGovern will make a stop at UMass Amherst’s Agricultural Learning Center (ALC), where approximately 30 of its 60 acres are in production this summer. The focus of this season’s tour is farms that produce and sell food and produce to schools and other institutions.
Center director Amanda Brown says 10 active faculty-sponsored projects employing 20 undergraduate student summer workers are currently underway at the ALC, including:
a silvo-pasture, combining a woodland nut crop and grazing sheep in a mutually beneficial way
a chicken-raising operation as a source of lean local protein
the “Food for All” garden, which provides fresh local produce to the Amherst Survival Center and the Amherst-based soup kitchen, Not Bread Alone
a native plant demonstration plot, pollinator garden and permaculture garden
an off-grid greenhouse funded by a National Science Foundation grant, now up and running, will allow students to grow produce year-round without fossil fuels
an organic vineyard, now staked out, will be planted in the fall
an organic apple orchard
a demonstration plot of cover crops, grain and pasture management
Women make up nearly half of the global agricultural workforce but receive much less funding, land, input, and training than men.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has spotlighted the gender gap in agriculture as a key obstacle to sustainable development – here’s a great infographic with statistics around this issue.
We want to take these stats and turn them on their head. We’ve rallied women entrepreneurs in agriculture locally and regionally who have the capacity to inspire others to create a better food system.
We’re inviting the campus community and the public to join us to learn about the successes and challenges of their journeys.
There are three lectures in the series, with one taking place each month this fall (click the title for details):
NOTE: Joanna Macy is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking and deep ecology. I rely on her work when I teach STOCKSCH 379 – Agricultural Systems Thinking. I had her permission to modify one of her essays and share it under the title of The Shambhala Worker. Stockbridge instructor, Catherine Sands, sent me this interview. If you think life looks pretty bleak right now…. read this!
“Yes, it looks bleak. But you are still alive now. You are alive with all the others, in this present moment. And because the truth is speaking in the work, it unlocks the heart. And there’s such a feeling and experience of adventure. It’s like a trumpet call to a great adventure. In all great adventures there comes a time when the little band of heroes feels totally outnumbered and bleak, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings or Pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress. You learn to say ‘It looks bleak. Big deal, it looks bleak.’”
This is an interview with Joanna Macy published in Ecobuddhism.
Joanna Macy: It’s happening. It’s combined with so much else that promises wholesale collapse. How do we begin to deal with the plastic in the ocean that covers areas the size of countries? What are cell phones and microwaves doing to our biological rhythms? What exactly is in our food? How do we address genetic modification of crops? We are so hooked on all of this, on every level. How do we begin to contain it?
The most immediate level of crisis concerns the Earth’s carrying capacity. Many civilizations prior to ours, starting with Mesopotamia, could no longer support themselves because they exhausted their natural resources. Carrying capacity is the level most people talk about. It’s a defining aspect of the climate crisis. How will we grow the food we need given huge variations and extremities of weather? How will we handle the natural disasters and famines that will result from a chaotic climate?
Join Gardening the Community and Undoing Racism Organizing Collective for a reading from DEEP DENIAL: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life by David Billings, Core Trainer with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 13; 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Scibelli Enterprise Center, 1 Federal Street, Springfield, MA
Come learn, reflect and be inspired!
Now more than ever we need to address the root causes of the racism and racial superiority that permeate our country and institutions.
Refreshments will be served
Copies of the book will be for sale and all proceeds will benefit the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond
Deep Denial focuses primarily on the deeply embedded notion of white supremacy, and tells us why we remain, in the words o the author, a nation hard-wired by race. Each chapter begins with an intimate and unsparingly personal account from the author’s own life. He then lays out the historical facts, while preserving the master storyteller’s connection with the reader.
“No one speaks to racism and its cure better than David Billings, a white Southerner who has seen it all. His is a voice that needs to be heard. It is a voice with a perfect pitch.” . . . .Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Emmy and Peabody Award winning journalist and civil rights pioneer.
Event sponsors: UROC of Western MA, Arise for Social Justice, Gardening the community, PV Grows Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group