Letter: Why you should buy a UMass Student Farm Share

Our collective voices are the future of agriculture.


Keith Toffling

By UMass Student Farm

Today, the University of Massachusetts continues to approach the front of the college pack, securing a slot in 2020 as the 24th best public university in America. It has the number one food science program in the United States, and now teaches over 30,000 students. At first glance, all seems well.

But like the rest of the nation, it exists in a reality where we are injecting poison into the veins of the Earth. Pollution has killed 75 percent of the animal populations in freshwater ecosystems since 1970. Partially as a result, half of the wildlife on this planet, our home, has died in the past 40 years. We are feasting upon the very food webs themselves. As the world burns and acid rain falls, we wrap ourselves tighter and tighter in a blanket of ones and zeroes. We expect them to save us.

On a small farm in Amherst, morning glories capture the sun’s rays and turn them into velvet. Monarch butterflies alight on their petals as rabbits nap in a patch of holy basil nearby, hidden from the prying eyes of hawks circling overhead. A blue heron rises stark against the surface of a pond, its minute movements making perfect ripples that barely break the barrier separating two worlds. A man wipes his brow as he checks the soil underneath a top-heavy branch of beans that droops drunkenly from the weight of its bounty. His name is Hans Leo, and 20 years ago he arrived at the boggy, failing dairy farm now called Bramble Hill. Instead of trying to beat the Earth into submission with synthetic pesticides and herbicides, poisoning the water, he saw the plants and animals as notes, and began to compose. As the years went by, he became a conductor of an orchestra so beautiful that teachers brought their students to marvel at the wildlife and owners of local restaurants showed up of their own accord in the hopes of sparking a profitable discussion.

Such a feat takes knowledge, experience and mastery. As the fourth best agricultural school in the world, the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass provides this training, but unlike the ever-expanding Isenberg School of Management or the College of Information and Computer Sciences, it struggles to keep courses on the curriculum. The very heart of the program, the Student Farm, depends not on funding from the university, but the passion and the resourcefulness of its students.

These are the farmers of the future, the people who will use pockets of flowers to bring back the swarms of bees we are starting to miss. These are the people who will use carpets of green to restore fertility to the soil and proper nutrition to the crops. These are the people who, when drought and flooding from climate change comes, will have built ecosystems with the fortitude of kingdoms and all their subjects to rise to the challenge. These are the people who will feed your kids.

Fighting big corporations is difficult; they enjoy making it that way. I’m going to mention a price tag and I want you to continue reading: $335. It is a lot of money, even if it is for enough organic, local vegetables to feed three people for three months. Even if it is to invest in the soldiers who will be on the frontline of climate change. But it is nothing compared to the value of sharing this letter with a friend you trust. Our collective voices are the future of agriculture. The more people who know we exist, the stronger we become.

If you want to buy a share, follow the UMass Student Farm on Facebook and Instagram, we’ll be selling shares starting March 1.

Locally yours,

UMass Student Farm Crew 2020