UMass Farmer’s Market: A center of student expression and sustainability

“We rarely get to appreciate the fruits of our labor, here we literally get to appreciate the fruits”

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Kat Mayo / Daily Collegian

By Lucas Ruud, Collegian Contributor

After a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UMass Farmer’s Market has returned for the fall season. Since 2011, UMass Permaculture and UMass Student Farms have organized a weekly market to give students access to fresh produce, medical herbs, handmade jewelry, live music and other student-produced goods.

The market also serves as an opportunity for student clubs to set up tables and meet with new students. TedX Amherst, UMass Radio and the Young Democratic Socialists of America were all present at the market on Friday to recruit new members.

“It’s a hit,” said Bella Lambros, a sophomore mechanical engineering student. She purchased a small pumpkin from UMass Student Farms and a typewritten poem from John DelSignore’s “Bad Poetry” stand.

DelSignore’s “any price” poetry was extremely popular among marker-goers. “You don’t even have to pay,” he told customers. “Some guy gave me a pepper.”

Lambros bartered with seashells from her wallet and received a custom poem about her newly acquired pumpkin, complete with a complementary dramatic reading.

“Anyone can be a vendor,” said Sustainability Coordinator Dan Bensonoff.

Bensonoff is aiming to have the event turn into a “maker’s market,” where students can share passions and creations of any kind at the venue. Vendor Maddie Fabian, for example, sells her custom-made jewelry that she began making during pandemic quarantine in 2020. Fabian’s sustainable line of earrings, rings, and necklaces feature refashioned buttons and beads found in antique stores.

Bensonoff hopes that as the market continues this fall, more students will apply online for a stand to share their work.

“We rarely get to appreciate the fruits of our labor, here we literally get to appreciate the fruits,” Bensonoff said regarding the UMass Permaculture Initiative. At the market, students could purchase produce straight from the permaculture installments on campus such as peppers, medicinal herbs and potatoes.

“Permaculture is a set of principles and ethics,” Student Garden Coordinator Adam Finke said. “It’s more of a way of thinking than a way of farming.”

Finke promotes regenerative agriculture, which replaces harmful practices with natural solutions. “Instead of spraying poison everywhere, we grow a plant that attracts a predator insect to the pests… now we have a new plant, a new insect, and no pests,” Finke explained.

The Permaculture Initiative is home to numerous opportunities for students to get involved with the food they eat, including volunteer garden work, open harvest hours and a hands-on practicum class that provides university credit (STOCKSCH 198P.)

“So much of what we do in the University is in the head, there’s no room for doubt here,” Finkle said of the inclusive, community-driven environment of the permaculture gardens.

UMass Student Farms also had a large booth set up for students to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown on and around campus. According to Dara Greenwald, a farm vendor, they work out of a desire to “feed the community.”

Their stand at the market, however, is only a small fraction of their distribution. The farm has a weekly standing order with UMass Dining and a Community Supported Agriculture program, in which students and Amherst community members can order a box of fresh produce from the farms to have access to every week. In addition, the farm donates fresh fruits and vegetables to the Amherst Survival Center and other local shelters.

The UMass Farmer’s Market is open every week on Friday, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Goodell Lawn until the end of the season on Oct. 8.

Lucas Ruud can be reached at l[email protected].