Combining Forces with the UMass Student Farm


2018 UMass Student Farmers

For the past four seasons, the Food for All program has managed nearly an acre-large donation garden and has grown and donated hundreds of pounds of food each year.  This season, Food For All is scaling back our production to focus more on distributing food being grown on campus that is already in excess. Through our transition from production to redistribution in 2018 we intend to create a more sustainable campus food system by using time, energy, and resources more efficiently. We are still growing sunflowers, herbs, and raspberries in the Food For All garden but the UMass Student Farm has put most of the garden in flower production.


Student Farmers harvesting swiss chard at their South Deerfield farm.

Food For All is working primarily with the UMass Student Farm to integrate food donation and waste reduction more efficiently and effectively into their production systems. The Student Farm manages over ten acres of land and sells most of their produce to Big Y and UMass Dining. For many different reasons, there is inevitably food that cannot be sold through these two markets. This summer Food For All and the Student Farm have been working to develop a sustainable donation system that can be passed down to future student farmers to recover excess food the Student Farm is producing. So far this season over 2,000 pounds have been recovered from the Student Farm and donated to Not Bread Alone, the Amherst Survival Center, the First Baptist Church in Amherst, and the Food Bank of Western MA.



Oregano, chives, sage, and raspberries from the Food For All garden.

A huge thanks to Not Bread Alone, the Amherst Survival Center, the First Baptist Church in Amherst, and the Food Bank of Western MA for partnering with Food For All and the UMass Student Farm. We appreciate your collaboration in the fight to reduce food waste and address food insecurity in Amherst. To learn more about these organizations or volunteer, visit their websites listed below:
Not Bread Alone:
Amherst Survival Center:
First Baptist Church Amherst:
Food Bank of Western MA:

From the field to the Not Bread Alone Kitchen

At Food For All, our goal is to communicate with community members and figure out exactly what they need and desire at local food relief organizations. In doing so, we believe it provides a stronger connection between the volunteers and members of the community. We also hope that it gives them a sense of power to choose so that they also play an important role in what they are eating. Food for All has a unique role in the community compared to others farms because our sole purpose is to donate nutritious foods and help provide meals to the community.


Mikaela Thiboutot (left) and Anna Plewa (right) getting Food For All butternuts ready for a meal at CHD’s Not Bread Alone 

As we volunteer at CHD’s Not Bread Alone as part of our work with the Food for All Garden, we’re excited to see farm to table play out in a real, hands-on experience. Not only do we harvest the vegetables, but we get to prepare them at Not Bread Alone, make a delicious meal, and then serve them to our community members. It makes us feel truly connected to the food and the purpose of the garden. It’s rewarding to participate in community work centered around food, because it brings people together in a unique way. We have to work together to make both appealing and nutritious food. There are also various levels of cooking knowledge in the kitchen, so it can be fun to learn alongside community members and our peers. We’ve both also learned so many new recipes!

How does it feel to be a student participating in the community?

Mikaela – I am from Southeastern Massachusetts. I feel that I am a temporary member of the community, since I am student at UMass Amherst and not here for a very long time. In some ways, that creates a layer of separation in community work. Most volunteers at Not Bread Alone are students, maybe getting community service hours for a class or for an organization on campus. Whether they volunteer once or for an entire semester, they are not actually a long term part of the community that will see change or the lack thereof. This might make students less invested in coming back, or make the community members feel like a charity project. However being students, especially in the Nutrition and Sustainable Food and Farming majors, we have a direct interest in learning from the community and creating solutions to improve certain situations in it. We have resources on campus, which enables Food for All to exist.  We surround ourselves with energy and creativity from our classes and peers who are also passionate about such topics like food justice. For these reasons, I think being a student actually gives us a beneficial perspective in community work.

Anna – I agree with Mikaela! As for me, although I am not a permanent resident of Amherst, I live closeby near Springfield. It’s interesting to see how the differences between communities can affect food relief organizations. It’s no surprise that Amherst relief efforts can provide fresh, local produce, since it is surrounded by farmland and numerous supermarkets. Many of these supermarkets make generous produce donations to Not Bread Alone. On the other hand, other surrounding areas, particularly in Hampden county, do not have as many local and fresh resources. Therefore, from my experience with food relief organizations in that area, donations are usually canned goods and other non-perishable items. Working in various areas with distinct differences in economic demographics and accessibility to resources has broadened my curiosity of how community building can affect food systems.

As students who study both nutrition and SFF, we constantly see connections between the two fields. It would be difficult to consider one and not the other. Agriculture and the food system play an immensely important role in nutrition and health outcomes. Food justice work can help impact a community for the long term, decreasing the prevalence of disease. Working with the Food for All garden and Not Bread alone, we get to work right at the intersection of these two fields. We hope to not only improve community access to nutritious foods but also improve health outcomes of community members.

In these two majors, we also see differences in the discussion of food sovereignty. In the nutrition major, food systems and food justice are only discussed in some classes, mostly electives. The major requirements are focused on content-heavy science courses, such as biochemistry, microbiology, and organic chemistry. Therefore, knowledge from our SFF classes has truly enriched many discussions in our nutrition classes more than the other way around. We admire our nutrition professors that stir up a discussion on food justice in their classes.  


Peak Summer @ F4A

I am surprised this blog is even getting written amongst all of the weeding, harvesting, weeding, and growing (and weeding) happening in the garden. Grace, our student production manager this season, has been doing an incredible job in navigating all the tasks and miscellaneous emergencies that happen being a near full-time farmer.  This last month has been full of Grace working hard alone in the field, with Kate’s assistance, and with 20 sets of hands in the garden with the HCC/UMass Clean Energy & Sustainable Ag Summer course visiting the Food for All Garden learning about social/food justice. Amazing to see what many hands can do in just 1 hour!   We are also grateful for the help of UMass Student Farm. 

Last Friday, Grace, Kate, and I ate lunch together at Paul & Elizabeth’s to indulge AND reflect on how the season is going so far. July is a time when things can really get out of control and it can be a struggle to just keep up with the day-to-day, and not pause to reflect on what is going well, and what could be better. The 3 of us are working together really well, piecing together our schedules amongst other jobs, projects, and trying to have some summer fun.

On Friday, before our lunch, we spent some time with Bob Stover, CHD Not Bread Alone’s Meal Program Supervisor, and delivered some lettuce, kale and bunches of fresh herbs to be used in the meals over the weekend. Bob’s passion for his job and the Not Bread Alone community is contagious. We’ve done several deliveries so far and look forward to more and more as the crops grow in the field.


We are excited to announce our first official COMMUNITY WORKDAY of the season on Monday 7/24, 4-6pm.

Stop by for 30mins or the whole time! We’ll be weeding (by hand and with tools), harvesting, clipping and trying to keep up with all the plants growing in the garden. More info here. Hope to see you there!

Be sure to check out our FACEBOOK PAGE for more up-to-date info & spontaneous work day announcements.  Happy summer!

Welcoming 2017!

Today was an exciting day! Our new crew visited the garden, prepared it to begin FILLING it with plants that will grow to nourishing food to be donated to CHD’s Not Bread Alone & Amherst Survival Center for the fourth season!

This year, Grace McKay (left) will be our Student Production Manager and Kate Brodsky (right) will be our Student Production & Education Assistant. See the garlic behind them?!

IMG_4489.JPGWhile it is always hard to say goodbye to our AWESOME production managers, it is a great opportunity to welcome  new SFF students into these leadership roles to learn how to grow food organically AND make an impact to address hunger in our community.  It seems like just yesterday we were planting the garlic and putting the garden to bed.

IMG_2939 2

The raspberry plants have soft fuzzy leaves, weeds are starting to grow taller each day and we are bright-eyed & ready for the season ahead. STAY TUNED to hear about community workdays & summer events!

A note closing our season

With the New Year right around the corner and a fresh layer of snow covering the garden, I can’t help but already get nostalgic of all the beautiful moments shared and the inspiring people I was able to meet this past summer. Food For All is an amazing and unique project that I will always hold true to my heart, and I know for a fact that with every new year it will continue to prosper and grow into a thriving community environment. I gained a LOT of knowledge and made even more mistakes, but I realized that is THE true beauty of organic farming systems. A special thanks to  CHD’s Not Bread Alone and Amherst Survival Center for doing what they do and accepting all the food we were able to deliver. To Michelle Nikfarjam for being my warrior woman, co-manager. To The Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst for funding and land. And last, but NOT least to Sarah Berquist for being the catalyst and backbone of this whole project. It truly takes a village! Stay tuned, but till then; peace, love, and vegetables .

-Hannah Smalls, 2016 Production Manager

Many hands making light work

Our vegetables (and weeds) are loving life despite the hot, dry weather.  Hannah and Michelle have been hard at work, cycling plants through the garden and sharing abundant deliveries of lettuce, spring onions and herbs to CHD’s Not Bread Alone in Amherst.  We are grateful for Bob Stover’s committed collaboration with Food For All.

To keep up with it all, we’ve reached out to our community members, students, friends and families to join us in our effort to get more fresh food where it needs to go in Amherst.  We’ve hosted two of our monthly community workdays and have really appreciated additional helping hands in our garden.

Good conversation, laughter, relaxation, and connection with community & nature are all reasons why we keep hosting these events.  There is something so satisfying about rescuing a long row of carrots getting taken over by grass. A task that would take 1 person nearly 10 hours can take a small group 45 minutes!

Please join us in July & August. STAY TUNED for more updates and announcements of our summer workshops, including a tour of the garden!

2016 F4A Comm Work Day

Welcoming Spring!

Spring is here and we are grateful to get growing!   We’ve been getting our hands dirty in both the greenhouse and the field. Spring is the time for PLANTING SEEDS. Ideas, intentions, goals, and these life-filled seeds that will nourish us and our communities in the summer and fall.

We are also excited for you to meet Hannah Smalls, our new Student Production Manager at Food For All.  With the leadership and assistance of last year’s manager, Jason DePecol, Hannah has begun seeding, planting, and lovingly caring for our crops this season.  Hannah is a UMass Sustainable Food & Farming major.

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Hannah (left) and Michelle (right) seeding carrots

Michelle Nikfarjam, recent Sustainable Food & Farming graduate, will also be on board helping Hannah with our crop production as well as giving tours of the UMass Agricultural Learning Center. If you have a community group or class that you would like to bring by the garden, please contact us:


Beyond the field and in the community, Emma Golden, UMass Sustainable Food & Farming student, is our Education Intern this season.  She is designing and organizing (free!) community workshops this summer and fall.  Workshops will take place at CHD’s Not Bread AloneAmherst Survival Center, and at our garden. STAY TUNED for more info about our summer workshops and workdays.


Emma Golden hosting a Food for All workshop

JOIN US for our first Community Workday Monday May 23, 3-5pm to meet our new crew, get your hands dirty transplanting lettuce, kale, broccoli and more.

*Workday is RAIN or SHINE but will be canceled for thunderstorms.




Community Fermentation workshop

FullSizeRender 53Last month, the Food For All team hosted a fall Fermentation workshop at CHD’s Not Bread Alone , a local  community meal program located in the First Congregational Church on Main St. The workshop was a two part community event. Bob, a community member and volunteer at Not Bread Alone presented first, sharing his vast knowledge of pickling. Bob’s pickling process involves vinegar, spices, cucumbers, and the occasional hot pepper. Bob shared how he became involved in pickling, the mistakes he’s made and tips he’s learned with pickling throughout the years–we learned the tricks of the trade and most importantly, got to leave with some beautiful jars of pickles!IMG_0414

Bob Stover (the other Bob who runs the Meal Program at NBA) also shared
information on the
Pickle Club, a group that feature’s Bob’s passion for pickles to help support and fundraise Not Bread Alone. It was a great example of community members gathering for a great cause! Thanks to both of the Bobs!

Erik Cullen, a UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Major, and Robert Eastman, a FullSizeRender 52community member and Master Gardener presented on the subject lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation uses bacteria to break down the composition of the food, resulting in food that contains healthy bacteria and that is easier to be digested. The two led a Kimchi demonstration using carrots, red cabbage, and other ingredients, most of which came directly from the Food For All garden! After compacting the vegetables, and adding salt, water, and spices.   We sealed jars with a lid to take home, but learned that once home,  using an object (like a smaller jar filled with water) to  keep the ingredients submerged until they are ready promotes the positive bacteria needed in facto-fermentation. The kimchi will ready to eat within a couple weeks. It was a great hands-on experience that resulted in good food and good laughs!  

FullSizeRender 55The event reflected the community aspect the Food For All garden strives for. Not only was our event hosted by community members sharing their knowledge and their passion, but audience members, friends of the garden, and the Food For All team added their knowledge that drove  the conversation from a workshop to a space to share knowledge and build connections. Thank you to everyone who supported the event! Hope to see you next time!

-Brian Horrocks, Food For All Education Intern

Savoring Summer

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the garden is growing! The Food For All team has been working hard both in and outside the garden.

At the garden, food has been coming out and seeds are going in! Our potatoes were 11807223_10154121364628136_4856684636349102913_opulled and harvested at our last volunteer days. We think about 40 pounds of gold and about 20 pounds of both red and blue potatoes were harvested. This food will find its way to CHD’s Not Bread Alone, The Amherst Survival Center, and community members and volunteers alike. Potatoes are a great crop for us to grow- they’re low maintenance, and can be stored for long periods of time.

In place of the potatoes, our garden manager Jason created some raised beds. In its place were planning to plant some late season crops: lettuce, carrots, beets, and broccoli. Come join us at volunteer hours to help put some of these in the ground! Our last one (for the summer season, at least) is August 25th 10am-12pm.

IMG_0046In the next coming days and weeks, we’ll be doing a couple things. First, our carrots are nearly ready to come out of the ground- hopefully within the next coming days! We have three beds of carrots each holding three rows. In addition, our onions are also ready to come out of the ground! Our smaller variety of onions still need a couple weeks to mature. We also have a large amount of kale at the far end of the garden bursting with leaves and ready to be harvested! This season we grew two kinds of varieties, including Red Russian and the classic Green Curly. Our kale plants will continue to grow well into the fall, and can even withstand some snow.

Our sunflowers are blooming, our herbs, including Thyme, Basil, and Sage are growing steadily, and the garden bursts with more life everyday!  Outside of food production, the Food For All team has been hosting and planning some different community activities.

2015-07-29 15.25.18Two of Sarah’s summer courses stopped by for two days, helping to harvest and
weed our garden, while also participating in a discussion with the Western Mass Food Bank about food policy and food security. Volunteer days have been successful with good company and good snacks, and the Food For All team continues to meet and ruminate over new ideas.

With harvesIMG_0038table crops appearing our education team is planning workshops, partnering with Not Bread Alone, and our volunteers, to continue to learn and work hard rowing food
for the food banks and kitchens in our community.
Hope to see you soon!

– Brian, Food For All Education Team

Approaching Summer at Food For All

The season is flying by and we’ve been busy planning and planting the garden with crops for our second season.  This year, UMass Sustainable Food and Farming student Jason DePecol, has taken over as Production Manager of Food For All Gardens.  We are grateful to have him on board!  In just one month he has filled the garden with food (with the help of friends, fellow students, and community members)!  Slide1

This year, we are hosting VOLUNTEER WORKDAYS every other week on Tuesdays and Fridays 10am-12pm.  Our next one is THIS FRIDAY June 19th.  During our first two workdays, we put a call out to the community and were delighted to have help from local community members, students and friends.  We planted TONS of onions, shared good conversation and enjoyed some iced tea and snacks together.

Brian Horrocks and Emma Golden planting basil

Brian Horrocks and Emma Golden planting basil

We learned a lot in our first season and are excited to work even more closely with CHD’s Not Bread Alone and Amherst Survival Center this year to fulfill our mission of growing food with and for these community centers as well as providing meaningful community education opportunities.  Plus, we are excited to enjoy some deeee-licious meals at both places that feature our food!

Brian Horrocks and Emma Golden, both UMass students, are helping as community education leaders this season.   We are excited to continue with our workshops this summer and are working with Not Bread Alone and Amherst Survival Center to complement meal times and other community events.

Bob Stover (Not Bread Alone), Jason DePecol, and Brian Horrocks

Bob Stover (Not Bread Alone), Jason DePecol, and Brian Horrocks

STAY TUNED for more details about our workshops. We are calling all community members…WE NEED YOUR HELP to make this happen!

Join us for a volunteer day and help spread the word.  We’re located at 911 North Pleasant Street in Amherst. If you’d like to get involved or be added to our mailing list, contact us: