Big Y Partners with UMass Amherst Student Farmers to Bring Local Summer Produce to Shoppers


DATE:           Monday, Aug. 14
TIME:           10 to 11 a.m.
WHAT:         UMass Dean Tricia Serio tours student farm as crops harvested for Big Y
WHERE:      UMass Amherst Student Farm, 89 River Rd., S. Deerfield, Mass.

Big Y produce manager Kevin Barrywill be on hand

The new dean of the College of Natural Sciences, Tricia Serio, will be the guest of honor for a tour of the UMass Amherst Student Farm as students harvest their summer produce for sale at Big Y World Class Markets. Crops they distribute include cantaloupe and watermelon, cucumbers, summer squash, potatoes, zucchini, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, onions and beets.

Students harvest on Mondays for sale at the Greenfield Big Y and on Fridays for the Amherst and Northampton stores. Farm manager Amanda Brown says, “The partnership with Big Y has been so good for our students. This is primarily an educational effort, and the students gain a tremendous amount of knowledge from their experiences. They study crop planning, management and marketing during the semester and apply those learnings on the farm during the summer. Thanks to Kevin Barry and the unique relationship between Big Y and UMass, student farmers get a firsthand look at the how the produce industry operates on a local, national and global level.”   

Brown says the small-scale student farm doesn’t represent competition for local farmers, who can deliver 2,000 lbs. of butternut squash compared to the students’ 100 lbs. Rather, local farmers benefit from having a pool of trained and experienced young people prepared to step into farm management. “They are the next generation of young farmers,” she notes. With their student farm experience, “they can step right in and manage a commercial operation.”

Now in its 11th season, the year-long class taught by Brown has grown from two students producing one crop to now engaging 15 students per year who produce 43 different certified organic vegetables on 10 acres for several different markets. The farm also supports a 125-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program on campus and runs a weekly farmers’ market in the fall.