UMass Student Farm: ‘Plan, Do, Deed’

Student farmers provide farm fresh food to students, university dining halls and local supermarkets

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Charlotte Mourere

For many, returning to campus this fall means a return to in-person classes, involvement in clubs, reunions with friends and the University of Massachusetts’ beloved, “Number One Dining.” While COVID-19 has had a huge impact on each of these activities, the University’s student farm has continued their work and preparations for the fall season throughout the pandemic.

While we may not be there to see the student farmers working hard over the summer, their efforts are still well-appreciated across campus, especially at the Student Farmer’s Market. The pop-up market enables the farmers to sell fresh food and introduce the farming program to other students at the Goodell Lawn, located next to the Old Chapel. The market is open on Fridays early in the school year from noon to 4 p.m. There are currently two dates remaining: Friday, September 24 and Friday, October 8.

Dara Greenwald, a junior mathematics major, shares the pleasure of working on the farm and the learning experiences it has provided her with. Though she is a math major, Greenwald explains, “anyone can be a part of [the farm], whether they are in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture or not.”

Having this opportunity has opened a new door for many students interested in exploring farming and agriculture on the side, like Greenwald. The goal of the student farm is not only to provide fresh produce that is affordable, but also to spread an appreciation for agriculture across campus.

In 2020, COVID-19 put a halt to almost all campus activities, as students were sent home to ensure safety during the pandemic. Greenwald explained that despite the difficulties of the pandemic, the student farm continued their work as it is safely done outside. Instead, the main concern was the weather. Rain volume was exceptionally high, especially during this past summer.

Greenwald says the farm’s “Plan, Do, Deed” structure made it possible for farmers to proceed with their work throughout the pandemic. The “Plan” aspect of the procedure takes place in the spring, when students create a business plan to execute in the fall when produce is ready to be sold and distributed. The 2020 season’s business plan was developed via online communication, but did not hinder students from creating an effective procedure that would be carried out in the summer and fall.

The “Do” aspect of the program pertains to the hands-on farming and agriculture processes that are accomplished to produce the fresh food. Because this work is done outdoors, the pandemic did not limit students from effectively planting, taking care of or harvesting produce. Each student works at the farm at least three times a week during the season. Students cultivate the two farms associated with UMass, both of which are located off-campus in North Amherst and South Deerfield, MA.

In the fall, when goods have been harvested, the “Deed” aspect is carried out, as produce is ready to distribute. The UMass Student Farm services the UMass Student Farmers Market, UMass Dining Services, Earthfoods Cafe in the Student Union, four local Big Y supermarkets and the on-campus Community Supported Agriculture share program that provides fresh food to members during the entire fall semester.

All produce sold at the Farmer’s Market is organic and offered in large variety. This past Friday, Sept. 17, the market offered pumpkins, squash, onions, watermelon, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, carrots, beets, jalapeños, basil, kale and chard, as well as flowers. The farmer’s market appeals particularly to on-campus students, as they can have direct access to affordable, fresh foods at walking distance from residential areas.

After a full season of planning, working and distributing, students prepare the farm for the next season, and resume planning once again in the spring. Greenwald joined the student farm last year in 2020, and after being a part of a seasonal cycle she expressed that “it’s really awesome to see all these aspects,” as each part of the plan comes together to ensure a successful season.

Working on the farm and at the Student Farmer’s Market has been a positive experience for Greenwald, as it introduced her to a tight community of driven students who work well together and provided her with the fulfillment that comes with working in agriculture. She recommends students to explore the program and discover possible interests in the field of farming and agriculture.

Charlotte Mourere can be reached at [email protected].