UMass’s First Carbon Farming Initiative Demonstrates How to Sustainably Grow Food and Mitigate Climate Change

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Trial different varieties of complex hybrid chestnuts looking for traits like climate hardiness, nut size and yield, disease resistance, and precociousness
  3. Test market for products such as chestnuts, chestnut flour, nursery scion wood
  4. Track financial implications of these practices such as: cost of establishment, ongoing costs, revenue streams, and CO2 sequestration per acre
  5. Empower students as emerging leaders in the cutting edge fields of Permaculture, carbon farming and sustainable animal husbandry.
  6. Conduct research and development to support regional farmers in adopting carbon farming practices and strategies
  7. Catalog the carcass yields of the pastured livestock
  8. Monitor and test parasitic loads with livestock
  9.  Track rotations of sheep

For more information on the Initiative contact Lisa DePiano at ldepiano@umass.edu or Nicole Burton at ngburton@umass.edu

Accessing land and passing on farmland

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Shemariah Blum-Evitts, Program Director for Land For Good. (Courtesy Photo)

KEENE, N.H. — Shemariah Blum-Evitts, a farmer, regional planner and project manager is now the Program Director for Land For Good, a New England-wide nonprofit that works to ensure the future of farming in the region by putting more farmers more securely on more land. Blum-Evitts will direct all of the organization’s education, consulting, and research, as well as its direct service to New England farmers looking to access land, plan for farm succession, and obtain more secure land tenure.

Supporting farmers and farmland owners around accessing and transferring farmland and farms is critical in the region. Nearly 30% of New England’s farmers are likely to exit farming in the next 10+ years, and 92% of these 10,369 senior farmers do not have another farm operator working alongside them. (Gaining Insights) While this does not mean that these farmers don’t have a succession plan, it does suggest that the future of many of farms is uncertain. The 1.4 million acres they manage and $6.45 billion in land and agricultural infrastructure they own will change hands in one way or another. What these farmers do with their land and other farm assets as they exit farming will shape New England’s agricultural landscape for generations to come.

At the same time, access to land is a top challenge facing new and beginning farmers. Fewer young farm operators are getting securely on land, and they need support to determine their land access strategy, find and assess farm properties, and negotiate good agreements.

A farmer herself, Blum-Evitts was also the founder and Program Manager of New Lands Farm with Ascentria Care Alliance from 2008-2015. The program, which she initiated and built in collaboration with community partners, offered training and land access to New American farmers in Central and Western Massachusetts seeking community gardens, farming enterprises and technical assistance. Blum-Evitts studied land use and agricultural planning while gaining her Masters in Regional Planning from UMass Amherst. Her thesis developed a foodshed assessment model to map current and potential working farmland and farmland capacity. She believes strongly in the importance of working farms. Since 2004, she has been working on and managing farms in GA, TX, CT and MA. She and her husband operate their own small-scale, kosher, pastured poultry operation on their home farm in South Deerfield MA.

”Shema brings the skills, experience and that are a great fit for this position and our team. Her farming and program work on farms with diverse populations will enrich and deepen our work. We’re excited to have her – and another farmer – on our team.,” says Jim Hafner, Executive Director for Land For Good.

Blum-Evitts will work with many organizations and agencies in the region that are already cooperating on land access and farm succession education, technical assistance, and policy. In Massachusetts, for example, these groups include Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), New Entry Sustainable Farming ProjectSoutheastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP), Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) and other buy local programs, Massachusetts Farm Bureau, the land trust community, and the MA Food System Collaborative, among others.

“Land For Good has been a resource for me – both as a beginning farmer and a service provider,” shares Blum-Evitts. “It was through working with LFG that we were confident in our lease arrangements for New Lands Farm and fully understood our options. I am delighted to be part of the organization and extend expertise and support to more farmers.”

Land For Good (LFG), based in Keene NH, is a New England-wide not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the future of farming in the region by putting more farmers more securely on more land. With field agents serving all New England states, LFG educates, consult, innovates and advocates with and for farm seekers, established farmers, farmland owners, and communities. LFG is the only organization of its kind, nationally, with a sole focus on farmland access, transfer, and tenure.

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UMass Sustainable Food and Farming grad, Jason Silverman, is a Field Agent for Land for Good! 

Original Post

Global Day of Action Against WTO and Free Trade Agreements

Reposted from La Via Campesina 

September 10, 2018

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Global bodies such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) that are directly and indirectly promoting a host of multilateral and bilateral trade agreements have created a criminal level of inequality in this world, wherein according to reports, 82% of the world’s wealth is now controlled by merely 1% of the people. Global Hunger is again on the rise, with peoples’ food sovereignty under severe threat.

This comes on the back of a seven-decade long persistent push for neo-liberal policies, which called for ‘free market trade’ regimes around the world. Privatisation and de-regulation that came about as the consequences of such a push has evidently made the Continue reading Global Day of Action Against WTO and Free Trade Agreements

STOCKSCH 166 – Practical Beekeeping

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STOCKSCH 166 – Practical Beekeeping 

Instructor: Angela Roell, M.S.

NOTE: interested non-majors are welcome but will need permission to register.  Contact the instructor at Angela Roell <angela.roell@gmail.com>.

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

Contact Information: Angela Roell, angela.roell@gmail.com, 413.588.6977

Course Description

This course will focus on knowledge pertaining to honeybee hive anatomy & social structure, and the management strategies necessary to perform basic beekeeping. Continue reading STOCKSCH 166 – Practical Beekeeping

Food Justice & Policy Class this fall!

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Photo credit: Nuestras Raíces youth leaders’ Photovoice project, 2013.

Food Justice and Policy

STOCKSCH 356

Why are food power and justice important for our communities’ health and environment?

How do we frame racial equity in our food policies?

This course examines the role of policy in determining WHAT we eat, WHO experiences barriers to access to safe, healthy, local, fairly produced foods, and HOW we create equity and sustainability in our local food system. Learn about key local, regional and federal policies framing the food system and public health. Engage with experts who are changing food equity.

Monday: 12:20-1:10. Wednesday: 12:20-3:20

Contact Professor Catherine Sands chsands@pubpol.umass.edu

This course is generally restricted to Sustainable Food and Farming majors but we can waive this requirement for students who are interested.  Contact the instructor for help.

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Photocredit: Interaction Institute for Social Change

Congressman James McGovern Will Visit UMass Agricultural Learning Center

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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
  • honey bees
  • 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

Continue reading Congressman James McGovern Will Visit UMass Agricultural Learning Center

Nothing Green about the Green Revolution

This post is one of the reading assignments in my class, STOCKSCH 391A – Dialogue on Agricultural Issues, taught during the Fall semester 2018.

By Dr. Vandana Shiva


The system that drives farmers into a debt trap creates malnutrition. The solution lies in shifting from a toxic, high-cost system to a nutritious, low-cost, sustainable food production model

There is no reason why India should face hunger and malnutrition, and why our farmers should commit suicide. India is blessed with the most fertile soils in the world. Our climate is so generous we can, in places, grow four crops in a year, compared to only one in most of the industrialised West. We have the richest biodiversity in the world, both because of diverse climates and because of the brilliance of our farmers as breeders. They have given us 200,000 varieties of rice, 1,500 varieties of wheat, 1,500 varieties of mangoes and bananas.

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Sir Albert Howard, who was sent to India in 1905 to introduce chemicals in farming, saw how fertile the soils were with no pests in the fields. He decided to make the Indian peasants his professors and wrote An Agricultural Testament, which spread organic farming worldwide on the basis of India’s ecological farming, today recognised as

Continue reading Nothing Green about the Green Revolution

How Foodies Can Understand Capitalism and Farm-to-Table Justice

From:  Yes Magazine: Powerful ideas – Practical actions 

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NOTE:  If food justice is of interest, you might be interested in our new online class, Food Justice and Policy, being offered this summer at UMass Online! 

A new book aimed at the socially conscious food activist explores how our food system can be a place for transformation through an alliance between the progressive and radical wings of the food movement.

As advocates for a just food system, most of us try to live by our beliefs. Shopping at the farmers markets: Check. Buying local and grass-fed: Check. We rail against Big Food, yet don’t dare, or bother, to look too far beneath the surface when we shop at Whole Foods or order from the organic aisle of Fresh Direct. We are walking, kale-stuffed characters out of Portlandia, better-intentioned than informed. After all, what are we really doing to change the system?

If this undercurrent of low-level guilt is one you’ve experienced, you might be a target of Eric Holt-Gimenez’s new book, A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat. The book, by and large, delivers on its goal of serving as a political economic toolkit for the food movement. It’s Capitalism 101 for the socially conscious, would-be food activist. Continue reading How Foodies Can Understand Capitalism and Farm-to-Table Justice

2018 Pioneer Valley Grows Forum

We are just one week out from the 2018 PVGrows Forum and we are nearing capacity! Register today to secure yourself a seat on April 7th as we dig deep on the urgent and timely topics facing the Pioneer Valley food system. Join us to broaden and deepen your relationships with others in the field while identifying paths to take collaborative action for a more just, equitable food system!
Catered lunch, Gateway City Arts – Spanish interpretation services available
Keynote from Migrant Justice 
Migrant Justice organizes immigrant farmworkers and allies in the state of Vermont for human rights and economic justice. Founded in 2009 after the death of a young dairy worker, the organization brings the farmworker community together with community assemblies to create a vision and roadmap for advancing human rights through collective action. In the decade since its founding, Migrant Justice has received national accolades for its cutting edge grassroots organizing, winning access to driver’s licenses for immigrant workers and the country’s strongest statewide policy preventing police collaboration with deportation agencies. In 2017, Migrant Justice signed a contract with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to implement the organization’s worker-driven social responsibility program “Milk with Dignity” in the company’s supply chain. This program is now transforming conditions and securing human rights on farms across the state.
Sessions for the Day
Land Access in the Pioneer Valley

Both rural and urban agriculture face challenges related to land access in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. Our region’s long history of enslavement, racial discrimination, and anti-immigrant biases has forged the patterns of land and wealth distribution that exist today. Join us to explore this history, the challenges that exist in the field of land access today, and opportunities for taking action moving forward.
 
Immigration and the Food System
Now is a time of heightened stress and fear for foreign-born residents of the Pioneer Valley and beyond. Foreign-born residents play a substantial role in the food system of our region and now, more than ever, it is essential to support the food system workers of the Pioneer Valley. Join us as we examine the current lay of the land for immigrants working in the food system and explore approaches to taking action moving forward.

Building Political Muscle for Food Resilience

What’s the Farm Bill? Why does it matter? Build your toolbox, and take away actions your communities can do at the State and Federal levels to preserve the programs that ensure healthy food is accessible to all.

The Trump Administration’s 2019 Budget proposed cutting SNAP’s budget by over $200 billion in the coming decade while radically restructuring the entire program. This session will feature updates on the current status of this and other essential programs like Farm to School and FINI, the federal grant program that funded HIP, while offering an opportunity for developing strategies across our communities for protecting current funding levels and new ways of moving forward.

PVGrows Forums bring together food system stakeholders and participants to spend a day deeply exploring the Pioneer Valley food system. Our events are open to all. The 2018 PVGrows Forum is made possible by a volunteer planning committee, our sponsors, and CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.)

For more information, visit the 2018 PVGrows Forum event page or contact Noah Baustin, the 2018 PVGrows Forum Coordinator.

Thanks to the sponsors of the 2018 PVGrows Forum

 

Home is where the hemp is…

New York Times 

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Russians sorting raw hemp fibers in the Kursk region in the 1960s. Hemp has been used as building material for millennia in Europe and elsewhere, but it’s only just starting to get wider recognition as a green construction option.

The Romans have been using it since the days of Julius Caesar, but not to get high. Both Washington and Jefferson grew it.

Now that several states have legalized the use of marijuana for some recreational and medical purposes, one of the biggest untapped markets for the cannabis plant itself — at least one variety — could be as a building tool.

The most sustainable building material isn’t concrete or steel — it’s fast-growing hemp. Hemp structures date to Roman times. A hemp mortar bridge was constructed back in the 6th century, when France was still Gaul.

Now a wave of builders and botanists are working to renew this market. Mixing hemp’s woody fibers with lime produces a natural, light concrete that retains thermal mass and is highly insulating. No pests, no mold, good acoustics, low humidity, no pesticide. It

Continue reading Home is where the hemp is…