UMass and local farms: a flourishing relationship

Every week Joe Czajkowski travels two miles down the road with a truck full of apples, potatoes, and carrots to deliver to the University of Massachusetts. The high-rises of the Southwest residential area appear in the distance, just beyond his 300-acre farm in Hadley.  The vast greens of Joe Czajkowski’s farm and the many Dining Halls at UMass continue to benefit from each other.

Joe Czajkowski’s Farm is one of the three local farms that distribute to the university. Along with Czajkowski’s farm, Jiang Farm and the Student Run Farm in Deerfield also distribute weekly to UMass.

“Whenever possible we source locally, the colder months makes this challenging, but we continue to increase our percentage each year,” said Christopher Howland, interim purchasing manager.

The UMass Dining Halls receive 28 percent of local produce from the several farms in the area. In 2004 the percentage of produce used in the meals in the campus Dining Halls purchased from local farms has increased by about 8 percent. Czajkowski says nine – 10 percent of his total sales come directly from UMass.

“It’s been good,” said Czajkowski. “There has been some hard times but it really has made a difference in the valley.”

Buying locally has decreased the costs of transportation. The amount of fuel burned on campus has also decreased, promoting a cleaner environment.

As UMass increases business for local farms, owners, like Czajkowski provide the university with constant distribution. Whatever Czajkowski cannot supply to UMass from his farming operation, he’ll procure from another local farmer, said Howland. This cuts down the number of deliveries, but UMass still receives what they want from a single local vendor, he said.

Along with UMass, Czajkowski Farm also supplies to Hampshire College as well as many schools in Worcester and even in Boston. The farm supplies to businesses, farm stands, and local residents as well.

Czajkowski Farm was founded by Joe’s grandfather, John Czajkowski. The family farm originally grew tobacco, potatoes, and cucumbers but changes have been made since then. Czajkowski now specializes in fruits and organic produce. 100 acres of the 300 acre farm are certified organic.

Along with buying locally, UMass has made other initiatives to support sustainability. In 2011 UMass decided to dedicate the Franklin DC Permaculture Garden for growing food sustainably on campus. Run by 500 volunteers, the Permaculture Garden is about a quarter-acre directly next to the Franklin Dining Commons. UMass is one of the first public universities to have a Permaculture Garden that supplies food to its students. The garden was created to decrease the campus greenhouse gas emissions and help the university reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Over the years, UMass Dining has been looking to local farmers to produce the produce needed in the Dining Commons. By utilizing the local farms and the Permaculture Garden, we are supporting sustainability and promoting the local economy,” said Dianne Sutherland, umass dining services dietitian.

As local farms distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to the university, the Dining Services then renew their waste. In 2007, the Dining Services collected 475 tons of food wastes and shipped it to three local farms.  The wastes were turned into useable food compost.

UMass continues to buy locally, recycle, and promote a healthy environment.

UMass’s strong partnerships with local farms, support small businesses and provide the UMass community with healthy choices and a cleaner environment

“It helps a lot of business in the area,” said Czajkowski.  “It helps keep money in the local economy.”

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About LSinclair

I am a Junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying Journalism and Anthropology. I am interested in photojournalism. I hope to some day travel the world and write for National Geographic
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