Big Y has partnered with the UMass Student Farm to bring our customers student grown local organic produce. The farm is run by University of Massachusetts students from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture who are seeking careers in food production, food sourcing and food security advocacy work. As part of the program, each student is responsible for creating a complete production plan for a portion of the farms vegetable crops. Through a collaborative effort a diversified vegetable farm production plan is created by the student farmers before the season begins. The students then implement their plan during the summer month with harvest and sales starting in late June and running through November. 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 the campus community through various on campus market and to Big Y.
The Amherst Big Y World Class Market, at 175 University Drive, was the first store to offer UMass Student Farm produce. Today produce can be found in the Amherst, Northampton, South Hadley and Greenfield stores. The program began in the fall of 2007 with two students growing a quarter acre of kale and broccoli through an independent study. Today, the program includes twelve to fifteen students per year and has grown to manage over 20 acres of land. Many graduates have chosen to continue to work at local farms that sell to Big Y. Some have even gone on to starting farms of their own.
Big Y has been committed to sustaining local farming and supporting local farmers since its founding over 75 years ago. The relationship between the UMass Student Farm and Big Y is one of a kind and strengthens this commitment beyond putting produce on the shelves but supporting the next generation of farmers.
- Week of April 18th - Plowing of the fields
- May 4th - First planting
- May 30th - Summer employment for student farmers begins
- First week of July - First harvest begins
UMass Amherst Student Farm Facts
- In summer, the farm offers full time employment to enrolled students. All income generated from the sale of vegetables goes directly back into the program to support student labor and input costs needed to run the farm.
- Enrolled students receive twelve academic credits towards their degree upon completion of the year long program. 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 to four crops.
- It's a very fruitful partnership for students and Big Y. Customers want to support local agriculture, and UMass students have been very gratified that consumers are beginning to ask for some of their crops. The quality of the produce is high and purchases go directly to supporting beginning farmers.
- 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 Big Y's Fresh & Local 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.