Senior Capstone Presentations 2011

Sarah Berquist

Establishing an EBT System at the Amherst Farmers’ Market
sarahbFarmers’ markets are gaining popularity and becoming increasingly recognized as essential focalpoints for local food systems in the United States. However, many low-income communities do not have the opportunity to fully participate in this growing trend. This is particularly problematic when considering that many people in impoverished communities face hardships regarding access to fresh nutrient-rich foods. Food stamps, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) have transitioned into the paperless EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) debit card system. With this transition, farmers’ markets have had to adopt a new system in order to accept EBT (food stamps).  The Amherst Farmers’ Market, which is an extremely diverse and well-established market open from April to November, has not yet made the transition. Consumers, farmers, and market managers must accommodate the steps necessary to implement and sustain a successful EBT system. These models must be customized to meet the needs of each market. This study will examine the demographics of the town of Amherst, research protocols, study successful examples, make community connections, and raise funds in order to create and maintain a successful EBT system at the Amherst Farmers’ Market.

Thomas Geras

New Roots Forest Garden

tomgMany farmers today are struggling to make a living solely from growing food. Methods of growing have strayed very far from what they were 200 years ago. The model in which most food is produced today
is based on the use of fossil fuels which is extremely costly, not only monetarily but also ecologically.  These methods result in harmful outcomes such as declines in soil health and negative impacts on water quality due to fertilizer runoff. For every calorie of food that is produced, 10 calories of fossil fuel are consumed. One promising alternative to this detrimental process of producing sustenance is the forest garden model. A forest garden is an approach to designing agricultural systems that are modeled after the relationships found in natural ecosystems. By mimicking these principals, the system maximizes output while minimizing input. This method of farming is significant in that it is economically and ecologically sustainable. Not only is it a viable form of production in a wide range of climates, but it also has potential to improve the overall health of an ecosystem. With declining health of global ecosystems, an increase in forest garden awareness and education will promote a shift from conventional forms of farming to more sustainable systems. Not only can this model of farming be used to produce food, but also medicine, fibers, building materials, fuel, and other useful products. This project will demonstrate how to turn a relatively unproductive area residing between forest and farmland into a beautiful and productive forest garden.

Olivia Johnson

The UMass Chicken Group: Bringing Chickens into the Curriculum

oliviaChickens are an important component of any agricultural or animal husbandry education program. The University of Massachusetts currently offers education programs for Boer goats, Belted
Galloway cattle, and Dorset sheep but there is no opportunity for students to learn practical poultry management skills, at present. The UMass Chicken Group will establish a new poultry education program modeled after the existing student-based livestock groups. This poultry program will give students a meaningful hands-on experience in the handling and management of a flock of meatbirds. The birds will be raised in a spacious free-range environment that utilizes chicken tractors and pasture rotation. All areas of poultry management will be addressed in the class including the benefitsof local poultry production and their significance on small-scale farms. Students will be responsible
for the care of the birds as well as all decisions regarding the flock. Weekly responsibilities of thegroup will include regular meetings and scheduled chore dates. Collaboration between the AnimalScience Department, motivated student leaders, and the UMass Hadley Livestock Center will provide the necessary resources to maintain a flock of meat birds for educational purposes. The project will be an integral part of the livestock program at UMass, educating students about chicken production and the benefits of local farming. The UMass Chicken Group will reconnect students with poultry while facilitating an enhanced understanding of the symbiotic relationship between livestock and agriculture.

Allison J Langley, Marisa B Gruenwald and Erin Kassis

Brownfields to Greenfields: Combating Food Insecurity through Urban Agriculture

erinkOver the past several decades, land-use policies and economic trends associated with deindustrialization created an abundance of vacant polluted sites in U.S. cities. These sites, referred to as “brownfields,” tend to be located in lower-income neighborhoods and both indicate and perpetuate economic disenfranchisement. The forces that lead to the creation of brownfields also give rise to food insecurity. The common model of brownfield reclamation only addresses economic revitalization; however, sustainable models of community growth and redevelopment must integrate food access and brownfield remediation. This project proposes an alternative development process which, through the introduction of community gardens, turns brownfields into sites that simultaneously bolster the local economy and address issues of food insecurity. Collaboration between Springfield organizations and Five College students during fall 2010 produced a preliminary guide facilitating the transition of brownfields into sites for food production. This document addresses land access, remediation, and eventual use of sites as community gardens. This project will, through the continuation and elaboration of the guide, further create connections between Springfield and the Five Colleges that will catalyze the conversion of brownfields into sites for community empowerment.

Alex Kermond

The Dirty Fork: Developing a Model for a Sustainable ‘Farm to Table’ Restaurant

alexkThere are many problems with the current food system in America, especially relating to the restaurant industry. Fast food and chain restaurants are taking over, generally serving the same cheap, overly
processed, and unhealthy food. In response, the Slow Food Movement is growing rapidly among diners who are concerned with healthy diets, organic, and locally sourced food. Slow Food’s goal is to re-localize the food system, by supporting nearby organic farms and making a commitment to the use of fresh and healthy ingredients. The Dirty Fork restaurant will offer the freshest organic foods, picked daily from an on-site sustainable farm and other local sources. This project will raise awareness about ethical and healthy consumption, and promote the restoration of the environment and the health of animals. The proposed site includes ten acres of land for organic vegetable, fruit, poultry,
and pork production. Within two years, enough food will be grown to sustain the restaurant entirely from the farm. This project will serve as a model for the development of an organic ‘farm to table’ restaurant in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Dirty Fork will offer a solution to those who want to enjoy going out to eat while supporting a healthy, organic diet.

Jason Silverman

Starting A Sustainable Livestock Farm

jasonsSupport for local, sustainable agriculture is rapidly gaining momentum due to increased consumer demand, but much of this movement is centered on the production of vegetables crops. It is important to acknowledge the role of animal-based farming within a comprehensive and sustainable local food system. By utilizing the practice of land reclamation through management intensive grazing, it is possible to create small-scale livestock operations that have the potential to compete with industrial feedlots. This project uses an opportunity to start a small livestock farm in Western Massachusetts as
a case study for how aspiring sustainable farmers can turn agricultural dreams into reality. Many new agricultural operations fail because of a lack of financial planning. Developing a business plan clarifies the variables involved in starting a farm, including the estimation of start-up costs, costs of production, and prospective income. It is also essential to balance economics with the environmental, ethical, and social responsibilities of operating a truly sustainable livestock farm. This project culminates in a business plan that will allow for the start-up and thorough development of a small-scale sustainable livestock farm.

Thomas Trepanier

Sustainable Living Garden in Worcester, MA
tompIn the urban setting, information on sustainable living and local food production is limited, though the demand for this information is increasing. Community gardens, agricultural training programs,
and classes are emerging in cities around the world, to help people learn to become more self-sufficient. This project will develop an urban community garden in Worcester, Massachusetts, while also including programs and seminars to teach the community about sustainable food production and sustainable living practices. The site is an intercropped fruit, vegetable, and herb garden, with separate garden beds for rent to community members. The focus will be on the benefits of community gardens, community garden development, sustainable living practices, and urban permaculture gardening. Information gathered from other community garden programs like “UGROW” (Urban Garden Resource of Worcester) and “ACGA” (American Community Garden Association) will be used to build community involvement. The goals of this project are to educate people about sustainability, while building community and providing better access to fresh food, and land to grow fresh food on.
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