December 17, 2018

Horse Barn Redux

New home for UMass Amherst student farmers

As the campus celebrates the centennial of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, an 1894 horse barn has been put into 21st century use and is now a centerpiece of the Agricultural Learning Center and the University of Massachusetts Amherst student farm program. The barn, built in the Queen Anne style and originally home to campus Percheron workhorses, now serves as the student farm’s vegetable washing and packaging facility.

“Our efficiency has tripled since we have gotten into this building and students now have this amazing classroom experience”

Amanda Brown ’00, ’08G, director of the Agricultural Learning Center and student farming enterprise program.

Each week during the growing season, student farmers harvest, wash, and package 2,200 pounds of produce for distribution to Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) shares, UMass dining commons, businesses, farmers market, and Big Y grocery stores. The organic produce is also sold at Friday farmers markets on campus and donated to nonprofit organizations in the Amherst area.

The barn was originally built on Grinnell Way near the heart of campus and this past year was disassembled and rebuilt at the Agricultural Learning Center, a 40-acre outdoor classroom on North Pleasant Street. Students began using the barn in May. Many pieces of the original structure were reused, including support beams, horse stalls, and roof beams. Features such as a grain closet were retained in the structure as was the barn’s original paint color. Windows and double-leaf barn doors are replicas of the originals. The barn was in use until 1991 when Morgan horses were relocated to the Hadley farm.

Students grow vegetables on 15 acres near the barn, located on the former Wysocki Farm, and on 10 acres at the campus research farm in South Deerfield. In total, the approximately 20 students enrolled in a two-semester farming program produce 40 tons of food each year. In the program, the hands-on experiences include learning how to use farm machinery, take soil tests, experiment with growing food, marketing, and the ins and outs of running a farm venture.

The equipment at the barn is the kind other farms use, giving students on-the-job training. “This just gives our students that next step up in terms of being professionals,” notes Brown. Previously, students set up tents in fields to harvest, wash, and package vegetables from garlic to kale. “The barn has given us a home,” says Brown.