The students listed below took STOCKSCH 485 – Capstone in Sustainable Food and Farming. This class is a senior capstone class in the Sustainable Food and Farming major at UMass. These students presented the results of their work at the:
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Efficient Food Waste Composting on a Large University Campus
This project investigates the reasons that the food composting system at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is not universally adopted on campus, and ways to improve the situation. A proposal will be developed to optimize food composting to be considered by the University of Massachusetts as well as other large university campuses. Currently, the only easily accessible compost bins on campus are located in Blue Wall, the Hatch, and by the Franklin Permaculture Garden. For this project, ideal locations for new compost bins throughout campus will be identified, as well as methods for transporting compost to its final location. In addition, suggestions will be made for possible ways to make a better quality compost product. A “test bin” will be set up to evaluate how much material is disposed of and how aforementioned transport of compost from that location would work. Prices and other important factors will be included in the proposed composting plan.
Herbal Apothecary Essentials
By exploring herbal medicine as an alternative to today’s Western medicines, people are able to reconnect to the earth by using materials from nature to heal a variety of symptoms and ailments. Healing through nature allows the patient to have a better understanding of the medicine making process as well as a better understanding of their own healing process. This project focuses on finding five remedies for common ailments that can easily be treated at home. The project discusses recipes, ingredients, and the history of each remedy. The results will be presented along with a recipe book to help others learn about the benefits and simplicity of at home medicine making.
Clean the Earth with Fungi through Mycoremediation
Fungi play an important role in maintaining the health and fertility of both natural and farming soil ecosystems. Through various agricultural, commercial, and even everyday practices, toxic substances such as pesticides and other chemicals contaminate soil and lower its quality and health, leading to environmental degradation. Mycoremediation, using fungi to decontaminate and restore soil from pollutants, is an excellent method of using earth’s natural ability to heal itself. The cyclical nature of fungi’s beneficial role in the environment lessens the need for outside intervention, reducing further environmental harm. Just as mycelium is able to break down plant debris and create organic matter, it also can degrade pollutants in the environment and renew soil to a healthier state. This application’s common principles have a place in sustainable agriculture because it aims to reduce the amount of pesticides in soil and improve the quality and health of soil. Research is being conducted by gathering information from scientific literature including case studies of contaminated soil, conducting interviews with experts, and performing hands-on experiments with fungi and contaminated soil. This project will provide information to the public on how to effectively implement a system of mycoremediation of contaminated soil and its potential benefits through description and visual explanation.
The Heartwood Center: Living and Healing Arts in the Northern Berkshires
The city of North Adams, Massachusetts recently adopted its first comprehensive plan in more than 40 years—North Adams Vision 2030. This vision is a way for the community to address key issues and concerns, while creating a plan for a more resilient and positive future. By 2030, the city is envisioned to be a local food and healthy living hub. To make this vision a reality, the city has set these goals: strive to integrate a robust, local food system (production, distribution and access) into existing urban fabric; strengthen the North Adams economy through its food system; provide access to healthy, local food for all North Adams residents; increase opportunities for health and wellness in North Adams Schools and Institutions; promote sustainable methods of food production and food waste management. To meet the above goals, a business model for a community space has been created. The Heartwood Center will be a sanctuary for community, learning, and growth. It will act as a well of resources to empower and provide citizens the tools they need to build resilient communities. The center will host affordable workshops with the underlying themes of earth education, sustainable living, wellness, and expressive and healing arts. Through community organizing and leadership training, The Heartwood Center will be the heart of North Adams, creating harmony between people and planet and profit.
Healing the Self through Mindfulness
Healing the self through mindfulness focuses on making the connection between what the body intakes and how it affects ones soul and actions. Because bodies are constantly consuming food, ideas, and air, the intention behind why or how the processes occur tend to be overlooked. Being proactive about intake requires spending time to become aware of the body and taking the necessary steps to care for it. The soul is directly connected to the physical body and therefore anything that is consumed by the body will have a mental repercussion. This project focused on one emerging adult’s journey through understanding how their body and mind connects, the awareness and intention of diet, and the ability to make mindful decisions towards health. Tasks for this project involve progress over time through recordings of daily life through a journal that includes food intake, how to de-stress and spend free time, and reading literature on mindfulness. The end of the project will result in a timeline of the student’s work and a pamphlet on how others can benefit from conscientious thinking about the self.
Importance of Bats to Resilient and Healthy Ecosystems
Bats are a well-known pest and horror to many people, but they are also an essential part of natural and agricultural ecosystems, pollinating crops as well as controlling insect pest populations. This project seeks to clarify some of the myths surrounding this mysterious creature, inform the public about White Nose Syndrome, which threatens the local bat population, and encourage the public to help with conservation of the bat population. Information about bat biology and behavior is included, as well as observations about their function in the ecosystem, how to build a bat house, and how to integrate bats into the garden or farm. Research includes sources written by leading bat experts, interviews with bat conservationists and enthusiasts, and a hands-on experience building a bat house. The results of this project will demonstrate how important bats are to agricultural and ecological systems, and how the average person can get involved by integrating bats in their own farm and garden systems. In concluding this project, information about the importance of bats shared with others will improve awareness within the agricultural community and the general public.
Bee-ing Sustainable: the Benefits of Backyard Beekeeping
The purpose of this project is to find ways in which the production of honey can be done in a backyard setting to promote sustainability and colony health. This project will involve researching different techniques and methods used by bee keepers to determine the most successful and sustainable ways to keep bee’s in a backyard. It will involve investigating different systems and techniques used by gardeners and will result in a plan for successful and sustainable honey production as well as the integration into a functional pollinator garden, with herbs, flowers, and produce. The final product will be a compilation of different methods and suggestions for gardeners looking to start their own hive, while also noting any limitations that backyard bee keeping may have. It will also discuss the benefits of consuming raw, organic honey, and it’s many uses in holistic medicine. The project will create an informative guide to keeping honey bees sustainably in a backyard, integrating honey production with home gardening, and the benefits of honey.
Fermentation: Efficiency in Food Production
This project examines principles of vegetable fermentation in relation to sustainable postharvest handling of food. Using the oldest form of food preservation—exploitation of the natural bacteria that begin the decomposition of food—vegetables can be stored and enhanced to provide fresh, nutritious food long after harvest. This project uses scientific and medical journals to identify the health benefits of fermenting vegetables and the particular need for these foods in the standard American diet. Through personal experimentation, this project looks at the practical aspects of fermentation including: which vegetables grown in New England ferment most effectively; what herbs and spices add to the edible quality or health benefits of a ferment; and how fermentation can be carried out in a home environment. Finally, it looks at fermentation as a tool in sustainable living. Fermentation may be used in temperate regions of the world to reduce the need for refrigeration and thereby the need for energy while at the same time managing the surplus of produce in the summer and fall. Fermentation may have applications in postharvest food preservation, the greatest challenge in our food system today.
Earthwooms to Remediate the Earth
This project creates a low cost, low input method of composting organic waste products and producing nutrient rich soil for home gardens. The project utilizes the natural life processes of earthworms, fungi, and microorganisms, the decomposers which break down organic material into fertile soil. The result of this composting method will be a proliferation of earthworms, which may then be harvested to reproduce more earthworms, and sell to home gardeners, bait shops, and fishermen. The earthworms, fungi, and other microorganisms thrive while decaying waste products and creating compost. The only inputs include the addition of fungi and bacteria naturally present in an older compost pile to the new pile, as well as a starter batch of earthworms, and daily watering and less frequent turning of the pile. Fertile soil can become a renewable and farmable resource to support plants in gardens, making it cheaper to independently grow food.
Western Slope Wellness
This project will result in a design of a holistic healing center that integrates sustainability, biodynamic farming, nutrition, and spiritual practices into personal wellness. This will be done by planning a cost-effective budget for the prototype’s location, along the Western Slope of Colorado in the city of Cortez. This will include the starting and maintenance expenses of the location, as well as farming and labor expenses on site. Another budget will be made in order to hire well-versed herbalists, nutritionists, ayurvedic healers, and reiki masters. All food and livestock produced and raised will also be taken into account. The plan is to have the community produce their own food, with little to no dependence on outside sources. The goal is to use sustainable farming and spiritual practices as a form of therapy to promote overall wellness in this designed community.
Marijuana Medicine Cabinet
This project creates a visual marijuana medicine cabinet that demonstrates the health benefits of marijuana. Given the growing use and availability of medical marijuana, people should be better educated on the use of different strains of marijuana as well as the products that can be made from marijuana. This project addresses how people who suffer from various sorts of health problems can benefit from medically prescribed marijuana. This project also introduces alternatives to prescription medication. The different cannabinoids found in marijuana are described. The overall objective of this work is to help people learn how to alleviate and cure chronic problems that afflict many people in their everyday lives.
Hailey’s Rooftop Farm
This project presents a small-scale farm to be built on the rooftop of an apartment complex in Baltimore, Maryland. This farm is unique because it integrates livestock animals and vegetable production. The purpose of this project is to provide fresh, local and nutritious food to inner-city families. This rooftop farm also encourages the residents of the building to participate in growing their own food through a community garden center. The proposed farm was modeled after Simple Gifts farm located in Amherst, MA with one goal in mind, sustainability. Using sustainable farming methods such as natural manure fertilization and rain water collection irrigation, this farm encapsulates the ideals of truly sustainable and small-scale agriculture. Through designing, building and managing this urban rooftop farm project, low income families of Baltimore will now be able to enjoy healthy fruits and vegetables while learning how to garden sustainably.
Creating a Regenerative Food Forest at the Agricultural Learning Center
The goal of this project is to design a forest ecosystem that creates large amounts of food for humans, while also providing the many ecological benefits of a forest, such as habitat for wild animals, soil preservation, and carbon sequestration. The planned site for the food forest will be the Agricultural Learning Center, which was established by the University of Massachusetts to be used for agricultural education. The site is a wet field that has long been used for dairy production, and more recently for hay production. The soil has a high organic matter of about 9% and it is very rocky in places. The plan is to cultivate this land using permaculture principles in selecting edible flora that complement one another and thrive without significant human intervention. The forest will have a canopy of fruit and nut trees; beneath them will be edible shrubs, ground covers, nitrogen fixing plants, beds for edible mushroom propagation, and pollinator habitats. This project will require a multi-year approach. Planning for the forests transition from an open field into a dense forest where every inch of ground will be covered with useful plants will be crucial At the beginning there will be more plants that thrive in full sunlight, build soil, and produce food. Those will eventually be replaced by useful shade plants that will grow beneath the canopy of fruit and nut trees. In the end there will be an ecosystem capable of re-generation without human intervention.
Posters and Abstracts from Previous Conferences
Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference – 2014
Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference – 2013
Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference – 2012