Category Archives: Work and Internships

SFF STudent internship spotlight

One of the grounding principles of the Sustainable Food and Farming program is that hands-on experience is one of the best ways to learn. Students are encouraged to seek out internships and practicums, and are able to work with faculty members to earn UMass credit while interning! Read about the experiences of some current SFF students below below.

Production-related internships:

Hussein’s Practicum at  Sunset Farm  

I’ve been working on Sunset Farm since September 2019, and I’ve loved every moment of it. It is a 10-acre plot, run mostly by elderly volunteers, and I am the only paid help, which means I do most of the lifting and physically-taxing jobs, but I don’t mind. The beauty of working here is that it is low stakes- it is a hobby farm- but I’ve learnt a lot. We grow over 40 vegetables, and countless cut flowers, and I am involved in every part of the process of farming. From sprouting seedlings in trays in a greenhouse, to plowing and tilling with a tractor, to transplanting, cultivating and hand weeding, to harvest and marketing. I was able to approach my job more critically through a practicum, getting even more from my fruitful relationship with Bill (the owner).

The practicum pushed me to detail and succinctly present my arguments about how we should change/alter certain things at the farm- and being prepared like that helped me convince Bill to implement my suggestions (whether that was wise or not is a different story). Bill is also flexible with working hours, he always tells me “I don’t care if you come with headlights at 1 am, just do what I’ve asked.” So to sum it all up, I learn a multitude of techniques, work hard whenever I want, and I can make mistakes along the way without too much of a consequence (as long as I don’t do them again!) He also allows UMASS students to run experiments on his farm, and is open (somewhat) to trying things differently… it is probably the best job I’ll ever have. 

-Hussein El-Shafei

Nicole’s Independent Study at Common Share Food Co-op 

My name is Nicole Hayduk, and I am a junior in sustainable food and farming with a minor in business and most recently have had the opportunity to intern with the Common Share Food Co-op. Last summer after bouncing around between different ideas of what exactly to do with my degree for the last two years, I decided to focus on finding an internship for the upcoming fall 2020 semester that could give me an idea of what the business side of agriculture and food looks like. Sarah Berquist assisted me with narrowing down some options that would fit in this field of interest and I was immediately interested in Common Share. 

            Common Share Food Co-op is a developing community and employee owned grocery store that will specialize in providing the Amherst community an attainable way to find local, fresh and affordable food. Currently, the co-op is still working on gaining member-owners, or people who have purchased shares to essentially invest in the business before opening an official storefront that will be located here in Amherst. 

            Since working with Common Share, I have been able to tie together the skills learned in my agricultural courses as well as those from business. Many of my tasks at the co-op such as generating activity on our social media pages or creating spreadsheets to document survey responses from member-owners have gone hand in hand with the material learned in my business classes. To be honest, the real life examples and uses of the material I am covering in my business textbooks definitely gives it more meaning, especially for someone who never considered themselves interested in “business”. Classes in Stockbridge have allowed me to understand the mindsets of many of the producers we are looking to work with, especially financially. Sometimes we look for partnerships in the area, and it is useful to have a basic understanding of who you are working with. 

            Overall, getting into an internship was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Before this, I always felt very lost with what I wanted to do with my degree, or even what I was even interested in. This experience has allowed me to try new things within the organization that I never even considered before. Most importantly, I have really enjoyed getting to meet people within our community (even if only over Zoom for now!) and working for something that benefits that community. 

-Nicole Hayduk

Theo’s Practicum at Astarte Farm 

After declaring a major in Sustainable Food and Farming only a couple semesters ago, I was eager to get some hands-on experience working on a farm over this past summer. In July, I landed a job working at Astarte Farm, a no-till/no-spray vegetable production farm right on the Hadley Common. I was absolutely thrilled to get my hands in the soil and to work alongside such a wonderful, supportive crew. With their guidance, I slowly started to gain confidence in the rigorous every-day tasks related to no-till farming, i.e. laying occultation tarps, attentive bed and soil upkeep, and careful efficient harvests. It was so exciting to constantly draw on and apply the knowledge I had learned during the previous semester in my Stockbridge soil science and permaculture courses to the farmwork. 

Faced with the upcoming fall semester, I dreaded having to abandon my work on the farm for a full course-load of zoom classes. Luckily, I was able to continue my work at Astarte as an Intern, receiving credit for my increased involvement in behind-the-scenes work on the farm. I worked with my managers and the farm-owners to devise a strategy aimed at converting compacted path space into productive no-till beds. After a fair amount of research into the best “layer-cake” mulch formula, we concluded that the best method would be to rely on a base-layer of cardboard, topped with a mixture of home-grown compost and leaf mulch to turn path space into rich, productive beds. Throughout this process, as a final project for my internship, I put together a short film outlining our mission and aspirations at Astarte. It was such an invaluable experience to interview and learn from the incredible farmers whom I look up to each day to become a better grower myself. I can’t wait to get back to get back to work on the farm this spring!

-Theo Eagle

WATCH Theo’s VIDEO about Astarte HERE!

You can see how students in Sustainable Food & Farming are engaging in their communities and gaining valuable hands-on professional experience. And having fun while doing it! There are many directions our students can pursue internships based on their interests within sustainable agriculture and food systems. If you’re a current student, talk to your advisor about how to set up an internship! Happy Spring!

-Sarah Berquist Program Coordinator &
Isadora Harper SFF Peer Advisor

how did sff students spend their winter break?

What were SFF students up to over winter break 2020/2021? Despite limitations of the continued pandemic, students made time for cooking, planning gardens, and definitely sleeping. Some students engaged in some pretty cool activities directly related to their studies and interests… read more below!

Braiding Sweetgrass Book Club

Over winter break, I formed and led a virtual reading group for the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer. 

I kept hearing about Braiding Sweetgrass in my classes and really wanted to read it. I noticed a similar desire among some of my classmates and figured a book club would be the perfect way to get the most out of it while also staying connected over the long break. It would also be a great way to utilize the skills and knowledge that I gained from my Agricultural Leadership and Community Education class. I put the word out and received a ton of support from my fellow students, teachers, and faculty. My gratitude goes out to librarian Madeleine Charney who was able to secure 15 copies of the book to give out to our group. 

In our 10 weeks together, a wonderful community emerged around the teachings of plants and the messages of love and reciprocity found in the book. One of the greatest strengths of our group was the diversity of ages between our members which allowed for an interesting range of perspectives. This experience taught me a lot about how to organize a group towards a shared goal and what it means to be a strong leader.

-Adam Finke (SFF & BDIC Double major)

Seed Saving Conference

Over winter break I attended the NOFA NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association New York) seed saving conference, which was housed within the general NOFA NY farming conference. The week included sessions such as Seed Saving 101, Seed and Plant Pathology, and Seed Activists and Not-For-Profits in the Northeast. These sessions, while informative on the actual process of seed saving, also emphasized the significance of the stories, history and culture behind seeds. Seed rematriation efforts were discussed, as were stories of growing and stewarding culturally significant crops. (Seed rematriation, put simply, refers to the return of seeds to their Indigenous seedkeepers; the removal of such seeds from Indigenous communities is but one facet of the legacy of colonialism in this country). It was impossible to leave the conference without some fundamental questions about my relationship to seeds rattling around in my brain. What seeds might my ancestors have grown? What plants do I feel pulled towards? The importance of history in the work of seed saving is almost always removed from the seed-as-industry equation. It was exciting to learn about all the people working to reclaim a regional and mindful seed system.

-Isadora Harper (SFF Senior)

Relevant links: Seedshed, Turtle Tree Seeds, Freed Seed Federation, Reclaim Seed NYC, Truelove Seeds

Exploring the Small Farm Dream Course

For my independent study, I took an MDAR (Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources) course titled “Exploring the Small Farm Dream: Is Starting an Agricultural Business Right for You?’”. I was mainly interested in taking this course because as a prospective future farmer, I wanted to know more about the business aspect of farming. All of the number crunching, marketing, decision-making, and paperwork for running a farm felt overwhelming and scary. Going into this course, I wanted to work to demystify this aspect of farming and to honestly look at whether or not running a farm business was right for me. 

The class ran mainly over winter break, meeting Tuesdays from 6-8. The coursework was split into four different sections: Assess Yourself, Research the Landscape, Assess Your Resources, and Make A Decision & Plan Next Steps. All of these steps were vital to helping me come out of this class more prepared and ready to take on the next steps of my life in farming. Before, I just had a vague, idealistic vision of a farm that I wanted to have some day. Going through homework, the worksheets, and chatting with my peers, it quickly became apparent that that wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to figure out what I wanted if I wanted to have a shot at farming — and farming well. At the direction of the workbook, and instructor Jennifer Hashley, I was encouraged to create a timeline of steps to help obtain my dream of running a farm. Coming out of the class, I feel more focused and energized on what I want to do — and the prospect of owning a farm business feels less intimidating!

-Annemarie Walsh (SFF Senior)

Alumni Panel: Voices of SFF grads

In November, several Sustainable Food & Farming alumni joined incoming freshmen & transfer students on Zoom to discuss “life after graduation”. These alumni represent the many different directions one can go with this major! The panel discussed their current work and what stepping-stones they took to get there, what their days look like in their current jobs (hint: varied! And hard to pin down!), and what strategies they use to overcome challenges in their field among other things.

Watch the highlights from the conversation here!

Meet the panelists: 

Jordan Lake (she/her): Currently a coordinator with the Student Farmworker Alliance, Jordan works with students/youth who want to organize in solidarity with migrant farmworkers. While in SFF Jordan was particularly interested in agriculture education, permaculture, and food justice. 

Will O’Meara (he/him): Will works with Land for Good, a group working on issues of farmland tenure, as the Connecticut Field Agent and recently co-founded Hungry Reaper Farm. Will’s area of focus in SFF was production.

Rob Carney (he/him): Rob came to SFF interested in holistic health and focused on the human side of farming. He now runs his own health coaching business, hosts a podcast, and writes children’s books on mindfulness. 

Megan Saraceno (she/her): Megan works with Grow Food Northampton as the Administration Manager and a Community Engagement Coordinator for their farm to school effort, though she emphasizes that part of non-profit work is being a little involved with everything. Megan focused on agriculture education and food access while a student in SFF.

I try to be honest with prospective Sustainable Food & Farming students when they ask me about careers in the field. This path isn’t very linear, nor does it guarantee a starting salary of $70,000. From alumni, colleagues, and friends working in food & farming, I know that it is hard but meaningful work. There are many opportunities in sustainable agriculture and food systems. There are jobs that have yet to be created…maybe by you?! The work each of these alumni are doing (and many more alumni not in this video…stay tuned for more!) makes our food system and our world a better place!

Thanks to Isadora Harper and Morgan Reppert (SFF Students) for support with this video & post.

-Sarah Berquist

Program Coordinator & Lecturer, Stockbridge School of Agriculture

A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm

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Liz Whitehurst dabbled in several careers before she ended up here, crating fistfuls of fresh-cut arugula in the early-November chill.

The hours were better at her nonprofit jobs. So were the benefits. But two years ago, the 32-year-old Whitehurst – who graduated from a liberal arts college and grew up in the Chicago suburbs – abandoned Washington, D.C., for this three-acre farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

FARMERSShe joined a growing movement of highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers who are capitalizing on booming consumer demand for local and sustainable foods and, experts say, could have a broad impact on the food system.

For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture.

Continue reading A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm

Jason Silverman on his farming experience

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Jason is a graduate of the Sustainable Food and Farming Program at UMass Amherst

CONWAY — Aging farmers own a collective $1.8 billion in farming infrastructure and land throughout Massachusetts, according to Land For Good, a nonprofit promoting New England agriculture.

That combined with rising property values — which have increased steadily since 2006 based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics — pose problems for first-generation farmers who don’t already own land or have access to investment capital. Nationally, farm real estate averaged $3,020 per acre in 2015, up about $1,000 over 2006.

Continue reading Jason Silverman on his farming experience

Women in Agriculture Series at UMass

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.
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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.
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There are three lectures in the series, with one taking place each month this fall (click the title for details):
The series has been organized and coordinated by Stockbridge instructor Angela Roell and lecturer Sarah Berquist and the flyer was designed by SFF student Annalisa Flynn.
Each lecture has its own Facebook event (links are included above). Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP to individual events on Facebook.
We’d appreciate if you could pass along this information to anyone else you think may be interested. Questions and feedback can be directed via email (abthorpe@umass.edu).
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Learn about the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture! 

or…

The Shambhala Worker Prophecy

As students return to universities around the world and I return to my role as a professor of Sustainable Food and Farming, I am thinking about how to maintain the freedom of thought and action that I experience during the summer months while returning to work within a hierarchical institution of power and control.  Students often wonder the same thing…….

I ask each fall – how do we maintain our sense of freedom and hope when we are faced with the sometimes oppressive  university hierarchy?  In 2003, I addressed this question during a graduation ceremony speech in which I claimed the key was compassion for all and knowledge of the connectedness of all things. I adapted an essay by Joanna Macy for this speech which I renamed “the Shambhala worker” (with the author’s permission of course).

I’ve posted it here for you

Namaste…..

Volunteering for the Amherst Summer Farmers’ Market

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The following is a description of UMass Sustainable Food and Farming graduate Sam Bavelock’s experience working at the Amherst Farmers’ Market.  Great story…..

cowOver the summer in 2016, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Summer Farmers’ Market here in Amherst, MA!  I had been helping out with the Winter Market and wanted to continue to help throughout the summer and fall seasons.  I was eager to be outside, note the differences between the two markets, as well as engage with community members, farmers, homesteaders, artists, bakers, and more, in the discussion about food. Continue reading Volunteering for the Amherst Summer Farmers’ Market

Student Forest Garden Manager Job

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The Stockbridge School of Agriculture is seeking applications for a Student Forest Garden Manager to manage all aspects of the Forest Garden at the UMass Agricultural Learning Center (ALC) this season. The Forest Garden is a 2 year old 1/4 acre garden located at the ALC with the following goals and objectives.

  • A permaculture demonstration garden and an aesthetically-pleasing leisure place for the university and
  • A site for active and hands-on learning by students and community members where workshops and classes are held.
  • The Food Forest produces an abundance of food and medicinals for the community and to be donated to those in need.
  • The Food Forest is a place of opportunity where students, faculty, and other individuals make a connection to where food comes from and begins to understand a new type of agriculture which works with natural systems.

Responsibilities include:

  • Pre-season, 3-5hrs/week (Late April): Assisting with irrigation planning and ram pump irrigation workshop. Working with other land managers either with the UMass Student Farm or Food For All garden to market or donate food from the food
  • Summer Season, 15 hrs/week (May-Sept)- Establish irrigation system, mulching and weeding existing beds, sheet mulching existing plantings, establish understory plantings, labeling,
  • Fall Season, 3-5 hrs/week (Sept-late Oct/early Nov) hosting UMass permaculture classes for workdays, harvest & deliver fall crops, prepare garden for winter

Compensation for is $12/hr.

Required Qualifications:

  • Current UMass Sustainable Food & Farming student with at least 1 of the following completed courses permaculture course (Intro to Permaculture or Permaculture Design and Practice)
  • Experience with establishing and caring for perennial food systems either with UMass Permaculture Initiative or other small farm or landscaping experience
  • Excellent leadership and communication skills
  • Ability to work independently in the field
  • Commit to 15 hours/week

Desired Qualifications

  • PDC Certificate holder
  • Prior coordinating or leadership position with UMass Permaculture Initiative or equivalent.

To Apply: Send Lisa DePiano a copy of your resume with 2 professional or academic references and a paragraph describing your interest & qualifications at: ldepiano@umass.edu by Friday March 31 st 2017.

 

Veteran Farm Training

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Jake Alexander welcomes Chip Pinder as the new farm manager for Vets and Veggies!

We want to congratulate one of our recent Stockbridge alums, Chip Pinder, who is the new farm manager at Vets and Veggies in Athol, MA.  Chip completed the Bachelor of Sciences degree program in Sustainable Food and Farming in the UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture just last month.

We hope you will help support this new community building and training operation for Veterans at their GoFundMe link.

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Vets and Veggies offers housing to veterans that are interested in learning how to become a sustainable farmer. Through a small scale sustainable farming operation veterans will be guided through the process of planning crops, planting, integrated pest management, and proper harvesting techniques. Veterans will work together and create a local food systems for the residents in the community.

Here are a few resources that may be of use to Veterans interested in farming:

The Stockbridge School of Agriculture welcomes Veterans to join our Bachelor of Sciences degree program in Sustainable Food and Farming.  For those Vets who are not able to join us in Amherst, MA, you may be interested in either our 15-credit online Certificate Program or our online 60-credit Associate of Sciences degree.