Big Y has partnered with the "Student Farm Enterprise" to bring its customers local organic produce. The "Student Farm Enterprise" is run by University of Massachusetts students from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.
As part of their program, each student is responsible for three different types of crops and creates a plan for how best to grow them. The farm program gives students the experience of running their own farm since they plant, harvest, clean, package and sell the vegetables they grow locally to Big Y.
The Amherst Big Y World Class Market, at 175 University Drive, sells organic beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, leeks, onions, red and gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and butternut squash grown by the "Student Farm Enterprise."
Student farmers started the "Student Farm Enterprise" six years ago. The program started with only two members growing kale. Today, the program includes twelve to fifteen students per year and has grown to over ten markets and thirty-six crops. The program allows students to be able to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to their fields. After they graduate, many students have chosen to continue to work at local farms.
Big Y has been committed to sustaining local farming and supporting local farmers since its founding over 75 years ago.
UMass Amherst Student Farm Facts
- Today the UMass Amherst Student Farm engages 12 to 15 students per year who produce 36 different certified organic vegetables on six acres of land, for 10 different markets. These include Earthfoods Café, UMass Dining Services and Catering, People's Market, the Faculty Club and Greeno Sub Shop on campus.
- In summer, the farm supports six students, who can choose to either receive academic credit or to be paid for their labor. All income goes to support the program, for example to pay for next summer's labor and other expenses needed to run the farm.
- Each fall, students who are accepted into the program sign up for one five-credit farm practicum course per semester. When they begin most have never worked on a farm, driven a tractor or planted a field.
- Farm planning starts each spring semester with students estimating fall harvest demand in pounds and working back from harvest goals to make a production detailed plan that starts with seed orders and includes estimated losses, germination rate and fertility, organic pest management needs and costs. Each student is responsible for developing a production plan for three crops.
- It's a very fruitful partnership for students and the supermarket. People are really interested in supporting local agriculture, and UMass students have been very gratified that consumers are beginning to ask for some of their crops, like spinach, broccoli and butternut squash. The quality is high.
- The UMass collaboration with Big Y has added so much to the curriculum. Students learn that they've got to deliver what they've promised. They learn about quality control and pricing. Students visit the supermarket's distribution center and they learn so much about the produce industry and how it works in the region, nationally and even internationally. The course really opens their eyes to how food is produced, transported and delivered in this country. Big Y is a big part of that overall education. It's a valuable, hands-on opportunity to experience how local farms can actually work with a wholesale operation.
The UMASS Student Farm Enterprise has grown considerably! The latest offshoot involves selling produce at local Big Y World Class Market in Amherst. Amanda Brown, Jason Silverman and Brooke Dillon give a little explanation of the program and their experience of learning hands on.