Autumn approaches

As the hottest days are behind us, the cool nights bring an end to our summer production and a look into the fall. Zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers and melons have made way for peppers, potatoes, beets, winter squash, and lots and lots of kale!

It’s been a great summer delivering to Big Y Amherst and Northampton, UMass Dining and the Faculty Club. We have a very supportive partnership with Big Y (did you see the news? http://wwlp.com/2014/07/25/umass-bringing-fresh-produce-to-big-y/ and   http://www.cbs3springfield.com/video?clipId=10406422&autostart=true), and summer production gives us invaluable experience with wholesale marketing and allowed us to establish a harvesting routine before the Fall semester rush!


Fall and Winter Crops

Digging Potatoes - Chris Raabe, Duncan Fuchise

Digging Potatoes – Chris Raabe, Duncan Fuchise


Many classic autumn crops take months to grow to maturity, and then days (or even weeks) to “cure” before they are ready to be eaten or stored. In the past couple weeks, we’ve pulled the garlic and hung it to dry; similarly we picked the onions, which need a week or two to dry in the sun before storage. The winter squash need time in the sun as well, after their leaves have died back. The potatoes have been resting in the ground for their skins to toughen a bit, and the sweet potatoes – which, fresh out of the ground, don’t taste like much – will soon be curing in the sun so that they may sweeten! Yummm.

Butternut Squash Curing in the Field

Butternut Squash Curing in the Field







Transitioning to the Agricultural Learning Center

While our summer crops were grown in South Deerfield, the majority of our fall crops are being transplanted and cultivated at the Agricultural Learning Center, closer to campus. There, our three acres of production are nearly all planted, with peppers and kale ready for eating and lettuce, corn, spinach, radishes and turnips all on their way (to name just a few)! We built our hoop house to grow salad greens later into the fall and winter season, and hope to have a wash station and cold storage facilities in months and years to come. This will allow us to grow food and deliver to Earthfoods, Green-O, Big Y and UMass Dining further into the winter months.

Agricultural Learning Center

Agricultural Learning Center


Harvesting Leeks - Duncan Fuchise, Chris Raabe and Eli Bloch

Harvesting Leeks – Duncan Fuchise, Chris Raabe and Eli Bloch

With the Fall semester just a week away, we look forward to becoming a full class and crew again, adding a couple old and a few new faces to our Student Farm! And we can’t wait to greet all our CSA members and see the UMass community at the on-campus Farmers Markets. The pick-ups and the market will begin the second week of classes, but if you can’t wait until then to try our delicious produce, don’t worry! Our melons, leeks, onions and more can be found at Big Y in Amherst and Northampton!



Getting to know the Routine!

Summer production carrot harvesting. July 21st: Duncan Fuchise, Nicolle Tanuchi, Ben Goudreau

Summer production, carrot harvesting. July 21st: Duncan Fuchise, Nicolle Tanuchi, Ben Goudreau

We have been waking up early to get out on the farm for 7am as the hottest parts of the day are beginning to be unbearable, except in the water! Our summer production is under full swing and we are on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday harvesting schedule with smaller harvests on Tuesday and Friday which are our delivery days. At first we were only harvesting Basil and Cilantro and soon after Summer Squash, Zucchini and Cucumbers came in and have been in production for four weeks now.

We have made three deliveries to both Big Y Amherst and Northampton as well as four deliveries to the UMass Dining Services at Hampshire. We have also made smaller deliveries to the Faculty Club and Catering Services The Cilantro, Basil, Summer Squash and Zucchini are on their way out of production while the tomatoes, eggplant and carrots are now ready to harvest!

Cleanup Crew July 21st: Ben Goudreau and Chris Raabe

Cleanup Crew July 21st: Ben Goudreau and Chris Raabe

Deer Fence Set up: Week of July 14th: Duncan Fuchise, Nicolle Tanuchi, Eli Bloch and Zach Zenk lending a helping hand.

Deer Fence Set up: Week of July 14th: Duncan Fuchise, Nicolle Tanuchi, Eli Bloch and Zach Zenk lending a helping hand.


Fall production makes way!

While there is only about 1/6 of all the land at the Agricultural Learning Center being used by students, we are making a sight to see between both the Student Farm and Food for All Garden! With our 3d solar powered deer fence up and our hoop house nearly done there is now some structure to the farmland. We ask all to take caution and not be tempted by the apple scent that is on the fence, that is for the deers to have a little surprise!

The deer fence came from a grant given by the James Underwood Crockett Fund and we wouldn’t be able to be farming at the ALC with out them! We hosted four of the members this past week, we dined them with our fresh vegetables, showed them around both farms, and both sides put a smile on each others faces!



Greenhouse covered! July 17th: Ben Goudreau, Nicolle Tanuchi, Chris Raabe, and Ian Back

Greenhouse covered! July 17th: Ben Goudreau, Nicolle Tanuchi, Chris Raabe, and Ian Back

Volunteer Day!

If you haven’t already heard we are having a volunteer day on Saturday July 26th from 12pm to 5pm at 89-91 River Road in South Deerfield! A potluck will also be happening so bring some food if you care to join or just stop by and see what we are doing! No time commitment is required and all ages are welcome!

            At South Deerfield: The Food is Coming

June has brought some very hot weather, and a seemingly overwhelming number of tasks for the student farmers. The weeds are popping up everywhere, and pulling them is becoming a bigger part of daily work at the farm. As mentioned in the previous blog post we are cover cropping the space in between raised beds in order to suppress weeds, and improve microbial activity in the soil. The cover crops we have used are buckwheat, oats, rye, clover, vetch, in nearly every combination of them possible. It is refreshing to see a green mat of clover, or buckwheat between each bed. The most exciting thing this week are the green cherry tomatoes that are beginning to change color, or perhaps the tiny heads of broccoli getting bigger each day, or little zucchini’s forming. We have also gotten a taste of marketing, and just a few days ago picked basil, garlic scapes, and cilantro and sold them to our friends at UMASS catering, for our 3rd sale of the season.

Buckwheat coming up between beds of eggplant and cucumber 



             At the Agricultural Learning Center: A hoophouse, and we’re growing more vegetables too.

            In the last two weeks we have begun planting at the ALC.   Peppers, and tomatoes have been transplanted. Yesterday we direct seeded popcorn, sweet corn, and edamame, we are anxiously awaiting for the little green stalks to pop up above ground. There Agricultural learning center is much different from the soil at our field in South Deerfield, something we were all aware of but didn’t fully realize we got down in dirty diffing little holes with our hands to plant peppers. There are a lot of rocks in that field, if you are reading this and you want some rocks feel free to go there and take as many rocks as you want.

            Also happening at the ALC is we are in the process of building a 50 foot greenhouse. It is still a greenhouse skeleton with 10 metal arches stuck in the ground, with a baseboard spanning the bottom of each sidewall. Building the greenhouse has been an excellent if not terribly frustrating experience for all of us.   Still it will all be worth it if we are able to grow greens through the winter, as we hope to do. I mentioned earlier that the Student Farm is offering pick your own rocks for free whenever anyone wants them. But if you are looking to visit, get your hands dirty and see what the farm is all about and picking rocks isn’t your thing then you should come to one of our volunteer days on July 12th and July 18th.

We have come a long way since the second week of May!

In just a few weeks, we have transformed the farm from a bunch of empty fields, to a thriving place where we will soon have veggies to harvest!


Summer production field May 15, 2014: Transplanting Eggplant



Summer Production field june 6, 2014: Eli bloch, nicolle tanuchi, and ian back Interseeding cover crops into a full field!

The Student Farm trials summer production:

As we work our way through June, we have just finished planting all of our crops for the student farm’s first ever summer production! Growing about an acre of crops, our main market will be UMass Dining who ill be using our vegetables for the summer New Students’ Orientations that occur throughout the summer. We are so excited to show the incoming students what the student farm is all about, growing food for a growing campus!

Here is a list of our summer crops:

  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Cucumber
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honey Dew
  • Summer Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Carrots

The Student Farm Expands to the Agricultural Learning Center:

As we begin to fill up our 3.75 acres of planned production land in South Deerfield, we at the student farm are more than ready to begin planting at the new Agricultural Learning Center this week! With about 3.5 more acres at our disposal this season, we have been working hard to get these new fields prepped and ready for planting.


 Eli Bloch Spreading fertilizer on our fields at the Alc june 4, 2014


We are not only expanding production area at the ALC, we are also expanding our processes and techniques! This year we are experimenting with a no-till patch to grow our pumpkins:


Rolling the rye for our no till pumpkin patch june 4, 2014


As you can see, the student farm is up and running. With a crew of six full time farm hands, the possibilities are endless!Image

Summer 2014 crew: (top row,l-r) Eli Bloch, Ben Goudreau, chris raabe, Ian back. (bottom row, l-r) Duncan Fuchise, Nicolle tanuchi


If you’d like to be a part of our story don’t worry, there is still PLENTY of work to do! Stay tuned for a list of volunteer days where you can join us out in the field for a day filled with dirt, laughs, plants, and more dirt!

Remember: “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” -Margaret Atwood

Greetings from the Student Farm once again, and happy May! We have had a busy few weeks. Highlights include plowing, cutting potatoes for planting, planting potatoes, transplanting onions, getting soaked in the rain and wrapping up the semester with an awesome potluck to celebrate our work. We also had our last spring market on April 25th, and that was great-we sold pea shoots, t-shirts and more transplants! The other big news is that we are up to 29 CSA members, the highest we’ve ever had for this time of year!

On Wednesday, April 23rd, we all got a chance to drive our older tractor, the Massey Ferguson 175, to plow our middle field at South Deerfield. It was a little nerve-wracking, as the tractor is big itself, and then you have a heavy plow attached to it. The tractor was also at an angle, lower on the right side to keep the right two wheels aligned in the dead furrow, which is basically a strip that will always exist where the tractor wheels have been because the plow cannot reach it. We had to learn how to raise and lower the plow piece and how to switch between the two speeds high and low and change gear. Luckily, we had Jason walking alongside us the entire time, and we were grateful for his help and pointers. The first few times watching the plow was amazing-suddenly the field went from leftover green cover crop to rich brown soil ready for planting. The plow essentially flips the soil over in this really cool rotating motion, flipping it to the right for now. Next year, we’ll flip it to the left to help reduce the damage of plowing on the soil and avoid extreme compaction. The tractor had to be driven really straight and fairly slow too, which isn’t easy. At the end of the field, we had to raise the plow piece and drive around the field in a half circle to get back to where we started and make a really wide turn to align it for the next row. Plowing can only be done in one direction, otherwise the dead furrow ends up in the middle of the field and that’s not healthy, and makes it harder to plant. Despite all of the challenges, plowing was one of the biggest highlights this semester!

On Monday April 28th, we spent the morning in the barn in our indoor space, cutting seed potatoes. There were sacks upon sacks to go through. What is a seed potato, you ask? Well, it is a potato that has sprouts already emerging from its eyes, and it has been specifically produced for growing, with disease tests run on it to make sure it is the highest quality possible. The potatoes you find in grocery stores have often been pre-treated to make sure the eyes don’t grow, as they are poisonous to us. But don’t you worry-I assure you our potatoes are 100% safe to eat. If you see an eye, just cut it off carefully, there’s no need to get rid of the entire potato. Or you could try and grow a potato plant from it (that is if you’re feeling ambitious.) We set up tables and cutting boards, and got to work, taking handfuls of potatoes from the bags and cutting them into smaller pieces, each with an eye on the section. The gross ones were composted. By the end of class, we had filled every available flat surface with cut potatoes-it was quite the sight! Some of them even had to be migrated into the room next door to accommodate the insane numbers! We left them there to dry out a bit and become fully ready for planting.

On Wednesday April 30th, our last official day of class, we headed out to the farm with the onion transplants from our greenhouses and spent the afternoon planting onions and potatoes in the pouring rain. We had a potluck beforehand, so that raised the spirits and got everyone ready to face the nasty weather. After all, farming must go on, rain or shine. There was no possibility of waiting. People brought lots of yummy food that they had made, and we filled out final evaluations and chatted about tractors, summer plans, and how much we were all going to miss each other and how happy we were about out awesome semester. It was another big highlight of the semester. Then, we headed out into the rain, and boy, did we get drenched. Most of us were soaked from head to toe; some of us had forgotten rain gear (oops)! The fields turned to mud, but we pushed on and so did our equipment.

We popped the onions out of their spots in the flats that we had originally planted them in and laid them out on empty flats so that those planting could have easier access to them. Amanda and Jason had already laid the black plastic that we use to keep the bed shape, reduce weeds, and pests for the onions. The transplanter was started and in position, ready to go. With Amanda driving, two people rode on the back, each with flats of onions on two slanted trays above us. As the transplanter moved, triangular spokes poked holes in the plastic and each person dropped three onion transplants into the hole. Others followed, tucking in the onion plants and making sure they had adequate space. Despite how slowly we were moving, it was hard to keep up, and the rain made everything worse. Yet, we managed to get an entire row planted. The beds are long; in the rain they can seem endless. It felt good to accomplish something though, and we trudged on.

Planting potatoes was much simpler, and another highlight. The cut potatoes were put into the potato planter, attached to the tractor that Jason was driving. They go into a hopper that feeds down into a tray, from which whoever is riding on the planter must grab the potato places and drop them into each slot on the spinning circular disk just below as it spins. It’s important to keep up and try not to drop potato pieces off the side. The spinning disk controls where they fall into the soil, and it is adjusted to the right depth and spacing. Most of the time, the planter succeeds in burying the potatoes as it goes, but we had someone follow behind just to make sure every potato piece was getting covered. We got a lot accomplished, four rows, if I’m correct, because the potato planter moved faster than the transplanter. It was easily the most fun task of all, and wasn’t too bad in the rain.

Yesterday, for our “final exam,” all of us came to the farm at some point in the day and worked for three hours to finish everything we had started on Wednesday. It went a lot quicker, partly because we had spread the work out all day and partly because it was drier and no longer raining, a big relief for everyone. It was really satisfying to continue the work, and we accomplished everything we had set out to do by the end of the day. It was a great way to end the semester, but bittersweet at the same time, as not all of us are able to work for the farm over the summer for various reasons. The team has grown really close this semester, and that’s one of the most beautiful things about this program. 14 complete strangers turned close friends and a tight-knit team in just 16 weeks. It will be hard to have the summer separation, but the farm will be in good hands with the summer crew and everyone will be back together this fall. So, to close out, thank you all for all the support that you have given us, we couldn’t have done it without your help. Stay tuned for more updates this summer, and this fall, and we can’t wait to show off our beautiful vegetables to all of campus this fall!

-The Student Farming Enterprise Team 2014

    Hello for a third time from the UMass Student Farm!  We slogged through the cold, snowy and wet March to burst into a beautiful warm April!  The amount of things that continue to happen for us is endless.  Our biggest highlight from March was the three Amherst Winter Markets.  They happened at Amherst Middle School, and we were there selling many, many flats of the transplants we had seeded earlier on this year!  Lettuce and spinach and broccoli and cabbage galore!  It was so much fun to walk around the market too; it was packed with local vendors selling everything from wooden bowls to wool and yarn to apples and apple cider from the end of the apple season.  The live music was a big bonus. 

     Don’t despair if you missed these markets, however.  You can find us selling transplants and other things on April 11th out on Goodell Lawn here at UMass!  The student farmer’s market is back and will be there the next three Fridays from 12-4.  The dates are April 11th, 18th and 25th.  We will be joined by UMass Permaculture and UMass Gardenshare, other sustainably focused groups on campus.  There will also be live music.   It’s a lot of fun, so definitely stop by if you can!

     Another big piece of news from the student farm is that we were finally able to get out and do some work in the fields, now that all the snow is melted.  We went to the Agricultural Learning Center, where we took measuring tapes and walked the perimeter of each field, recording lengths of our field borders.  We also used our soil core tools to push down into the soil and take samples.  For each field, we took 15 samples throughout the field, zigzagging to make sure we took samples from the whole field and not just one area.  The Agricultural Learning Center is still quite a bit of a pond though, and our shoes and pants got quite wet. 

   We did the same soil tests and measurements out at the farm in South Deerfield, and noticed a big difference in the type of soil there.  The soil there was pretty compacted, and caked, dried out quite a bit in certain areas because a cover crop had not been put down in time to protect the field.   Cover crops are things like oats or rye, planted once a crop is done growing and has been harvested.  Their job is to protect the soil, and help rebuild nutrients, among other things.  The most exciting find at South Deerfield was the discovery that our garlic, planted last fall, had survived the winter and that it is beginning to sprout, just as it should be!

    The soil cores were mixed in a bucket, one per field, and then our official soil sample boxes were filled.  These samples will be sent to the West Experiment Station, a very old building on campus that is home to the soil testing lab.  We toured there last Wednesday, and were blown away at how many different processes and all the different tests the soil goes through to produce results for growers.  The soils lab was saying that the season was off to a slow start so far because of how long it had taken for the snow to melt, and were expecting things to pick up in the next few weeks.  They also said they expected to be still testing soil much later than usual due to the long winter. 

      We also have many exciting events coming up this April: it is our busiest month before the summer starts.  The team has been preparing their special topics, which we will be presenting at a special topic fair on April 9th in the campus center basement, room 165-169, from 2-4 pm.  All are welcome to stop by and talk with the team.  As mentioned above, we also have our spring farmer’s markets April 11th, 18th and 25th on Goodell lawn here at UMass.  Then, on April 16th, we have our flexible farmers’ workshop from 5:30-7 pm in Earthfoods Café, located in the Student Union.  It will cover functional anatomy, the four rules for good body mechanics, injury prevention tips, and how to maintain the body overall, with care tips for problem places.  And last but not least, we will be tabling and have a small market set up at the UMass Earth Day celebration on the 22nd of April.  These are all good times to come by and meet the team in person and to see for yourself the work we’ve been doing. 

     As we move into spring fully, there will be more planning, plowing and planting to do.  Look for another update in the next few weeks, and we hope to see you at our April events.  Once again, thank you so much for the continued support, and if you haven’t already, go buy a CSA share! Details for that can be found in the second blog post of the year.  We wish you a pleasant and warm spring!

 -The UMass Student Farming Enterprise Team 2014

Facebook: search for UMass Student Farming Enterprise

CSA: http://stockbridge.cns.umass.edu/csa-membershipImage



Spring is here and the student farm is roaring to go!

April Events:

April 9th: Special topics fair, Room 165-169, Campus   Center Basement, 2-4 pm. Come talk with 2014’s student farmers and see what we’re up to! 

 April 11th, 18th and 25th: UMass Student Spring Farmer’s Market on Goodell Lawn-come check it out!

 April 16th: Flexible Farmer Workshop, Earthfoods Café, 5:30-7 pm! Cost is $5.

 April 22nd: Earth Day Celebration! Goodell Lawn, more details to come.


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