Category Archives: Stockbridge

UMass students and faculty engage in farm to institution conference

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.

Each day, in the presentations and audience, there was a strong presence of UMass alumni, current students, and faculty. The Stockbridge School of Agriculture was well represented in all of these areas. One thing this summit did really well was showcase the diversity of opportunities that exist and are required for effective food systems change.

Sustainable Food & Farming students, faculty, alumni and staff presented on a range of topics:

“How We Built This: A Garden Internship Program Created Through Public Primary & Higher Education Collaboration”

“Campus Farms: Food for Thought”

“Permaculture on the Menu: UMass Dining Diet for a Cooler Planet Event”

“Designing Local Food Programs at Jails and Prisons”

These topics represent the rich areas of study AND practice available for students studying Sustainable Food & Farming in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass. It was clear in the programing FINE was emphasizing the inextricable role social equity plays in mobilizing and transforming the food system. Voices from UMass Dining and Dean’s office helped welcome featured speakers Jose Oliva, co-founder and director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance to tell his story and the issues confronting food chain workers throughout the food system and Karen Spiller of Food Solutions New England calling conference participants to action to participate in the currently ongoing 21-day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge The summit also included a career networking event in collaboration with the UMass School of Earth and Sustainability that provided students a chance to connect directly with food systems leaders and professionals across sectors.

UMass Sustainable Food & Farming Senior Jordan Lake reflects on her experience: “Being at the FINE Summit the past two days has been so fun and thought provoking. It was especially exciting to present and be given a voice among all of the great presentations. I am in continued awe as I learn more about how many avenues exist to become involved in work in the food system. I met a lot of great folks engaged in addressing topics such as racial equity, needs assessments in school food security, and supporting refugee farmers in Massachusetts. I am leaving with a greater picture of the work being done to create alternatives in the food system, and along with that I have ideas about where to plug in or where to address gaps in the future. 

While participants agreed there is a lot of work to do, there was a sense of community that felt like a gust of wind in our sails to remind us of how much more effectively we can Celebrate, Mobilize and Transform when we work together.

-Sarah Berquist, Program Coordinator of Sustainable Food & Farming, UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture

Sarah Berquist receives major award

UMass Instructor and Program Coordinator of the Sustainable Food and Farming B.S. sarahbdegree program in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, Sarah Berquist, was chosen as the 2019 recipient of the Massachusetts Distinguished Service Award by Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society.  According to society President, Professor Theresa Y. Austin, the UMass Chapter recognized Ms. Berquist for her outstanding service to the University in ways that are consistent with the Society’s motto of Let the love of learning rule.” 

With a focus on farm-based education and social equity in the food system, Berquist connects her passion for teaching with community engagement through hands-on projects that are actively working toward a more just and sustainable food system.  In collaboration with the UMass Student Farm, she co-founded and manages the Food for All Program that donated 10,000 pounds of recovered “excess” and “seconds” produce in 2018 to the local relief organizations Not Bread Alone and Amherst Survival Center.  She also mentors students that design and execute garden-based lessons with K-6 grade students with the School Garden Program at Amherst Regional Public Schools.

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A Food for All project – Melissa Bonaccorso, Braeden Leinhart, Dan Bensonoff, Courtney Spera, and Michi with 500 lbs of gleaned sweet potatoes from Joe Czajkowski Farm.

On a national scale, Sarah serves as Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association and is currently working with other SAEA members to champion innovative educational approaches for sustainable agriculture through research and teaching practices that are rooted in social equity.

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Berquist is recognized as an outstanding teacher and adviser by the students in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.  Majors in the program know that her courses help equip them with practical life skills such as the ability to grow their own food, gain confidence in leading others, and become skilled at community organizing and critical thinking.  Her love of learning is contagious as evidenced by this statement from one of the seniors in the program.

“I first met Sarah Berquist the Fall before enrolling at the University of Massachusetts. I was still applying to colleges at the time and had no more interest in Sustainable Food and Farming at UMass than any of the other agriculture programs I had researched. Upon my visit, I decided to opt out of the traditional college tour and instead I emailed Sarah to ask for a meeting. What was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting turned into a four-hour conversation.  That was the day I fell in love with the University of Massachusetts.”

As a former student in the program herself, Sarah Berquist is passionate about providing students with challenges and opportunities that build on the student’s own love of learning.  She draws on a diverse educational theories, pedagogies and frameworks for contemplation, integration and transformation, cultivating patience, presence, and compassion for both herself and others.

Berquist will be honored at the annual Initiation Ceremony for the Massachusetts Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi at the University of Massachusetts Campus Center on March 31, 2019.

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