The following students presented the results of their Senior Capstone Projects from STOCKSCH 590B – Project Development in Sustainable Food and Farming at the 2012 Undergraduate Research Conference. To see the 2013 group, click here.
Market your Market: Developing a comprehensive plan for the Amherst Farmers’ Market
Across the nation, Farmers’ Markets provide an opportunity to connect food producers with the local community. The demand for fresh and healthy produce is rising, but not all managers are familiar with the practice of market researchor know how to reach their target audiences most effectively. Employing new resources to increase accessibility
(i.e. accepting food stamps), market managers must now focus their attention on expanding their customer base. A marketing plan for the Amherst Summer Farmers’ Market will be developed through the exploration of specific market related metrics. Ultimately, this marketing plan aims to attract a diverse new customer base and lay down a framework for “marketing the market”. Research will include interviews with managers from a variety of settings as well as secondary data from sources such as the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. With the basic framework of a specific marketing plan in place, other managers will be able to customize this plan to fit their ownneeds and become familiar with some of the most current and effective marketing strategies
Mushroom Farming in Western Massachusetts
The Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, is home to a vibrant local agricultural community. Many of the farms in the area focus on growing vegetables, with a smaller number also offering meat, flowers or eggs. However there arefew local mushroom growers of any capacity, and the existing ones appear to either pick wild varieties or grow onlyshittake (Lentinula edodes) on logs outdoors. With farmer’s markets increasingly becoming a place where people canget the majority or all of their food for the week, the lack of mushrooms is apparent. Mushrooms are a nutritious foodthat can be grown year-round and due to the strong buy-local movement in the region, it seems likely there is a marketfor mushrooms at this time. This project outlines a business plan for growing mushrooms on a small scale. It examinespotential markets, competition, partners, growing methods, and the legal ramifications of starting one’s own farm. Eating locally is of vital importance in the face of climate change and peak oil, and adding mushrooms to the list of foods the Pioneer Valley provides is a noble enterprise.
Save the Seeds: Planning for a Seed Bank in the Pioneer Valley
Seed banks are an organized way of storing and cataloging seeds from plants in a specific area. On a large scale, these banks are important resources in the event of threats to plant species caused by climate change, disease, and natural disaster. Seed banks that are more localized provide growers with the ability to preserve their crops, and therefore
their livelihood. This project explores the possibility of organizing and maintaining a seed bank in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, and presents a plan of action to begin the process. This project will allow local farmers and gardeners to ensure their crops for future seasons and allow local botanists to help protect wild and native plant species in the area for generations to come.
A Call for Partnerships: Youth Participatory Evaluations for the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council
Through its Call for Partnerships Program (CFP), the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council (HFFPC), an organizationfounded in 1995 to tackle food access issues, was able to provide grants to local agencies. Without the help of thesegrants, many projects, such as the Nuestras Raices Harvest Festival, the after school gardening program, and the YMCA bike shop would not have been realized. In this project, youth participatory evaluation techniques and community-based strategies were utilized to evaluate CFP programs for efficacy, collaboration, and the need for more support. Over the course of three months interviews were conducted alongside local youth group members to gather information on CFP programs. This information was compiled to understand what worked effectively and what did not, and most importantly how the HFFPC might be of better assistance in the future. Evaluation of the Call for Partnerships Program is imperative to best utilize resources within the Holyoke community.
Strengthening a Community Food System Using an Integrated Farming Plan
Locally grown nutritious food has become increasingly popular and many people are now more interested in personal health and environmental quality. To help people explore this goal, more small, local farms are needed to serve the increasing customer base and ensure the health of the community. Today, there is not a lack of food in this country, but
rather a lack of good nutritious food. Between the synthetic chemicals used on produce, the reliance of large farms on non-renewable energy resources, and the amount of time and energy that goes into getting industrial food to our plates, many people have become concerned about the impact of the food industry on our health and the environment.
The best way to produce good nutritious food is by supporting intelligent, sustainably minded and environmentally friendly farmers. Using a “closed loop system” to guide the overall farming plan, this project will produce nutritious and eco-friendly food products. The closed loop system is designed to keep usable resources on the farm by cycling nutrients and carbon through the integration of plants and livestock. This project will produce a well-researched and science-based farming plan over consecutive years on a small, family farm in Truro, MA for the purpose of growing sustainable food, creating profit, and keeping the community healthy.
Creating Awareness for Chronic Lyme Disease
Establishing awareness and support for those affected by chronic Lyme disease is important to the health of communities in the United States. While an estimated 300,000 people are affected with chronic Lyme disease each year, many people remain unaware of the existence of the disease. Lyme patients are often left feeling that their well-being and health are not the top priority of health-care providers and research institutions. This project aims to create increased awareness of the disease in the Amherst, Massachusetts community, while establishing a support group for those affected. Bringing people together to share experiences and solutions provides a valuable resource to individuals and families struggling with the physical and emotional challenges of Lyme disease. An electronic survey will be administered to a sample population to assess the current level of understanding of Lyme disease in the area. This initial survey will serve as a comparative tool to evaluate the current level of awareness of chronic Lyme and how this may change in the future. Perspectives on Lyme will be gathered through interviews and research with scientific and medical professionals, patients, and community members. The completion of the project will create access to accurate and current Lyme information and provide support for those affected with the disease in Western Massachusetts.
Chicopee Chicken Peace: Collapsible Coops to Publicize Pro-Chicken Ordinances
The objective of this project is to design movable, collapsible chicken coops especially suited for populated areas. This will promote urban agriculture using tactical management, increasing individual health and strengthening communities, while creating an incentive for more pro-poultry ordinances. The Urban Chicken Movement has gained national recognition for its economic and social value, but a negative public perception of raising poultry in cities is still prevalent. Laws and restrictions that are designed to cause difficulty for inspiring stewards vary from city to city. This can be disheartening, particularly when citizens are trying to build the confidence needed to move a community towards a
sustainable future. Compared to traditional stationary housing, this revamped design takes a preventative approach, drafted structurally to deter pathogens and odors, simultaneously revitalizing depleted city soils while providing urbanites with a source of food and companionship. These safe and sanitary coops operating in close proximity to neighbors, will motivate more people to raise poultry, thereby decreasing our dependency on the corporate food system, and enhancing individual and communal independence.