Archive for March, 2012

Along with all the other magic that is happening with the UMass Student Farming Enterprise, we have recently started collaborating with some of the other great organizations on campus that are working to create a more sustainable UMass community!

FoUMP, UMass for Real Food, SUMAC, and the Student Farming Enterprise will be holding a Vermicomposting Workshop, and we will be getting FREE buckets to help everyone get started!!

WHERE: Commonwealth Room in the Student Union (Earthfoods)
WHEN: April 10th, 2012. 7:00pm-8:30pm
WHO: All students and public are welcome
COST: Free! Materials needed to construct a 5 gallon vermi-bin will be provided.
REGISTRATION: www.bit.ly/goworms

Friends of UMass Permaculture (http://www.facebook.com/groups/207094022694179/) is joining up with UMass for Real Food (http://www.facebook.com/groups/254038801335479/), The UMass Student Farm (http://www.facebook.com/pages/UMass-Student-Farming-Enterprise/120871627944123), and the Sustainable UMass Action Coalition (SUMAC) (http://www.facebook.com/groups/SustainableUMASS/) to bring you a DIY Vermicomposting Workshop. After attending the workshop you will leave with: a ready-to-go vermicomposting bin that you’ve made, a thorough knowledge of vermicomposting at home, and a guide to maintaining your bin.

What is vermicomposting?
Vermicompost is a combination of the words vermi, meaning worms, and compost, being nutrient rich decayed organic matter. Vermicomposting uses worms and micro-organisms to turn organic material, such as kitchen scraps and old newspapers, into a rich compost called castings (or in less technical terms, worm poo). It can be done indoors, in small spaces, and without too much effort!

Why vermicompost?
• It can be done inside or outside, making it a great composting solution for apartment dwellers
• Vermicomposting is scalable from a single person’s kitchen scraps to a big household that loves to cook
• Vermicompost bins are low maintenance
• Vermicomposting creates a finished product much faster than traditional composting
• The largest contributer to discarded municipal waste in the U.S. is food waste, making up 21% of the total! That’s even more than plastic waste, which makes up 19% (EPA, 2009)
• Worms are fun! Composting worms in particular are a lively bunch.
• No more trekking out to that back corner of your yard in the middle of winter to bring our your compostables!

• Vermicompost bins are easily made with readily available materials

What will be happening at the workshop?
The Vermicomposting Workshop will start with a quick overview of food waste in the United States. We’ll move into a presentation on everything you need to know to start vermicomposting at home from what to feed your worms to harvesting castings once they have done their wormy magic.

Then the real fun begins and we’ll start constructing DIY vermicomposting bins! First will be a demonstration on how to turn an ordinary 5-gallon bucket into a vermi-paradise. Attendees will then work together with the help of facilitators to build their bin.

Picking a suitable worm container
If your household creates a lot of food scraps you may want a bigger bin then the one we will be providing. Fortunately, worms can thrive in many different kinds of containers. Lidded plastic tote-bins are long lasting and easy to clean. They have poor ventilation, but that is easily solved with some well placed holes. The surface area of the container is more important than depth. Composting worms are surface feeders so the bin does not need to be deeper than one foot. Worms enjoy being in the dark; an ideal bin will block out light. A 10-15 gallon bin is a good starting size for a household.

You can also check out our Facebook event here: http://www.facebook.com/events/360628377309360/

Hope to see you there!


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What a week it has been! I don’t regret staying in the valley for spring break one bit. Yesterday my friend and I biked out to South Deerfield to visit the farm. Being there with the sun shining made me think back to August when I went to the farm for the first time. The kale from last semester is starting to grow again as well as our garlic! We planted our garlic in early November and covered it with straw. The straw helps keep the garlic warm and snug over the winter months so that in the spring it can start growing as soon as it gets warm. All this abnormally warm weather has allowed the garlic to get a jump start on growing. By June/July the garlic will be harvested and allowed to dry so it’ll be ready for CSA shares and our other markets come fall!

I hope that everyone is having an amazing break and enjoying the weather. If not get outside! Start planning your garden or thinking about purchasing our CSA for the fall.

Happy Spring!


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This week was major exciting for the student farmers!!!

Saturday of this weekend we spent the day at the Amherst Winter Farmer’s Market! We had a table with info packets, UMass Student Farm bags and stickers, and a sign warning shoppers to get ready for our transplants! Combined with the smiling Student Farmer’s standing behind– who could resist stopping by?

We had lots of curious customers stop by and ask us what our deal was. ‘Are we connected to the Permaculture Garden?’ was one of the popular questions, naturally. ‘Not directly!’ we would respond, then explaining how we collaborate by growing transplants for them!

Lots of people were excited by our presence at the market! We are farmers like them!

The feel of the Winter Farmer’s Market is great. There is always someone playing music, which sets such a nice calm scene. Kids love it there, running around from table to table, while their parents stroll along beside them. Farmer’s standing at their tables with friendly faces– and taste testers are always a plus!

Check out the Amherst Winter Farmer’s Market Page on Facebook at:


Or the website!


But that’s not all! Today was an eventful day for the group as well. We started off the day with some seeding in the greenhouse. We have a LOT of onions to seed, and some leeks too! Since, it was so beautiful outside this morning, working in the greenhouse getting our hands dirty was so enjoyable.

This afternoon, we had a very fancy lunch with Tom Hastings and some of the high ups in the veggie department in Big Y! We showed them some of our plans for the crops we are growing and hope to create a relationship with them for the future!

Once they had left, we got down to business and figured out the final amounts of seeds we need to order for each crop. Things are getting real. Real quick! This weather is just adding to our excitement!

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FINALLY! We made it to South Deerfield. It was so scenic with all the snow on the ground! Jason gave us the full tour. Introduced us to all the equipment we’ll be using, the land we’ll be growing on, and the cows that just happen to be hanging out at the farm with us. I never really noticed how big cows were, they were always off in the distance when I saw them. Now I get to be up close and personal with them!

Like this…

It was a beautiful day out, perfect day for a field trip! When we got to the farm, we trekked through the snowy, muddy roads to the barn with all the equipment in it. Jason introduced us to most of the equipment we will be getting accustomed to in the very near future, and then we headed out into the fields to do some soil tests.

It felt so good to actually be doing things on the farm! We walked in zig zags across the organic farmland collecting soil here and there. But not only did we get to walk all around gathering soil to be tested, we got a taste of what to expect! There is kale still alive and growing!! It is delish.


We also measured out the extra acre of land that we acquired this semester! This will be great to have for all of the expansions we are making this semester to the CSA, our cooperation with student businesses, and the Dining Halls.

Things are happening. Spring is on its way, and the SFE farmers are READY for some hands-on farm-fresh action.

We will be at the Amherst Winter Farmer’s Market this weekend… with SFE STICKERS! Stop by to support the local Farmers of the market, and to meet the UMass Student Farmers!


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Wow! After today’s class with the discussion on Crop Planning by our guest Dan Kaplan, I think we all realized how there are a lot more pieces than we expected in this UMass Farm puzzle we all started this semester!

Dan Kaplan is from Brookfield Farm. It is awesome to have been able to collaborate with him in order to get some feedback and insight into the secrets of successful scenario building. Kaplan has been in charge of this farm since 1995, so you cant really beat nearly 20 years of experience! His first words of wisdom were “Disasters happen. A LOT!” Remembering this is the only way to not let it stress you out, plan ahead.

We took this to heart, and once he had left and we had started on our seed estimates, we were counting in at least a 20% loss factor.

At this point, we are ordering the seeds for celeriac, onions, leeks, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. These crops need to get started real soon! We can’t wait! Not soon after these transplants are seeded will we have to start moving on to the direct seeding of other crops and more transplants too!

Transplants galore! A whole other deal is all the transplants that we are going to begin working on tomorrow for the Permaculture Garden! How exciting that we provide for the Garden that has been nominated by the White House for Campus Champions of Change!!! (ps. VOTE FOR THEM)

So we have a lot of planning, seeding, transplanting, math, marketing, and much more ahead of us! Oh! AND tractor driving next week!!! SO COOL.

Thank you to Dan Kaplan for helping us to find our way through all the numbers involved in crop planning!

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