Community College Campus Goes Native

When you drive up the entrance road to Massasoit Community College in Brockton, MA, the first thing you see is a prairie!   That is, you see a lawn gone wild with natural grassland vegetation just before you see the College Administration Building.  Amazing!

Massasoit Community College has made a major statement about how a public space can be landscaped to provide habitat for native pollinators!

IMG_4049The Massasoit Meadow in the Making is the brainchild of faculty member Melanie Trecek-King and her landscape ecology students.  And her colleague, Michael Bankson’s students presented the results of their efforts at the Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, MD in August, 2015. Their work was entitled Restoring habitat with native flowering plants benefits wild bees in an urban landscape. The students have been conducting research about native pollinators under the Massachusetts STEM starter grant over the past year.

IMG_4046According to Bankson, as much as 12% of the grounds of the college has been turned into pollinator habitat and it has made a significant difference in the native bee and pollinator population on campus.

USDA/NRCS Chief Jason Weller said in a recent statement, “the foraging opportunities for honeybees — and native pollinators like butterflies, bumblebees, and other wild bees — are greatly enhanced when they can access vast fields of wildflowers and other native plants. But these fields are being broken up by agriculture and covered up by development.”   USDA recently announced a $4 million program to assist farmers create more habitat to support declining bee populations.

Like most college campuses, the standard landscaping right in the heart of the Massasoit campus used to feature typical sterile landscape plants and bark mulch.

bedsThese areas have been turned into native plant pollinator gardens by Trecek-King and her students, both making the campus more beautiful and more ecologically friendly.

bed2This important work offers students both the opportunity to gain real world practical experience in establishing and maintaining a sustainable landscape as well as research opportunities in landscape ecology.

IMG_4050Congratulations to Massasoit Community College for leading the way in Massachusetts toward creating a more ecological sound and educational landscape on their campus!

All Things Local welcomes college students

atlfrontAmherst’s own downtown cooperative market (and experiment in social justice) welcomes college students to stop by and participate in a real world form of “small d” democracy.  Easy to find at 104 North Pleasant St. (across from Barts Ice Cream).

Oh yes…. they also have some really good food!  Like fresh vegetables and fruit from local farms!

atlfoodAnd a really good cup of 75 cent freshly brewed coffee from the Pierce Brothers (with local milk and local honey if you like)!

atlcoffeeAnd local, natural skin care products too!

atlfaceDid I mention the locally made Kombucha?  They also have local beers, wines and hard cider!

atldrinkOn hot late summer afternoons, you MUST try the locally made ice cream sandwich!

atlsnowDid I mention the locally made cookies?

atlcookeAnd if you need gifts for friends and family, they also have local crafts!

atlcraftsIf you made it this far in this post, you may be a fan!  For more pictures, check them out on Instagram at:

Finally, they LOVE to have college student volunteers.  To sign up, fill out the form here:


Local is the “new organic”

Written by  Deena Shanker for Quartz


Local food is following organic into the mainstream

As consumers pay more attention to what they eat, the desire for food produced nearby is starting to gain more traction. In a survey of more than 1,000 US consumers conducted by Cowen and Company, 39% of respondents ranked “where food comes from/’what’s in my food’” as either very or extremely important, beating the 29% who placed the same level of importance on healthfulness. And while both “local” and “organic” labels are (often mistakenly) considered indicators of health, 43% of participants said that they would be most likely to purchase groceries with a “locally sourced” label, compared to organic’s 19%.

These consumers seem to be putting their money where their mouth is: Sales of local food increased to $11.7 billion in 2014 from about $5 billion in 2008, according to the USDA. “Local food is rapidly growing from a niche market to an integrated system recognized for its economic boost to communities across the country,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told NPR’s The Salt. (Sourcing foods locally also increases food security, even if its environmental benefits are sometimes questionable.)

Supermarkets and restaurants, meanwhile, are trying to meet this demand. Grocery stores are stocking local foods in their produce sections and offering customers the opportunity to sign up for shares in Community Supported Agriculture, Supermarket News reported earlier this month. (CSAs are subscription services between farms and customers, where the full season is paid for upfront and a box of fresh produce is delivered or picked up each week.)

Online grocer FreshDirect has a “Local” section of its site that even lets consumers shop according to the state the food is from.

Chefs see the growing interest in local ingredients, too. In a recent “What’s Hot” survey on restaurant trends conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 82% of the nearly 1,300 chefs surveyed identified locally sourced meats and seafood as a hot trend on menus, while 79% said the same about locally grown produce. That made them the top two trends out of the 198 listed. “Organic produce,” meanwhile was number 25. (The bottom two: Chicken wings at 13% and gazpacho at 10%. So 2012.)

To get in line with that trend, restaurants put the word “local” or “locally” on 11.3% of US menus in 2014, according to data from Datassential. That’s still behind organic’s 18.7%, but it’s catching up. In each of the past four years, “local” has been added to menus at a faster pace than “organic.”

atlas_NJe1wc1t@2x (2)While grocers and restaurants are trying to meet the demand for local food, factors like geography, logistics and weather can make this a challenge, especially if the menus weren’t originally designed with local ingredients in mind. LYFE Kitchen, a chain that incorporates sustainability into everything from its building design to the way it cleans tables, only realistically aims for 20-30% of its springtime ingredients in its New York location to be locally sourced, Fortune reported.

Startups like Good Eggs and Nextdoorganics can get local groceries to individual customers in a handful of cities, but anyone that cooks or sells in large quantities faces bigger hurdles. The NRA recommends cultivating relationships with nearby growers, shrinking menu offerings, and managing customer expectations—all local, all the time is a nearly impossible goal for even the most dedicated eatery.

Original Post

Local food could be a “big deal”

FarmersMarketBy Dan Nosowitz

Eating a local diet—restricting your sources of food to those within, say, 100 miles—seems enviable but near impossible to many, thanks to lack of availability, lack of farmland, and sometimes short growing seasons. Now, a study from the University of California, Merced, indicates that it might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. “Although we find that local food potential has declined over time, our results also demonstrate an unexpectedly large current potential for meeting as much as 90 percent of the national food demand,” write the study’s authors. Ninety percent! What?

Researchers J. Elliott Campbell and Andrew Zumkehr looked at every acre of active farmland in the U.S., regardless of what it’s used for, and imagined that instead of growing soybeans or corn for animal feed or syrup, it was used to grow vegetables. (Currently, only about 2 percent of American farmland is used to grow fruits or vegetables.) And not just any vegetables: They used the USDA’s recommendations to imagine that all of those acres of land were designed to feed people within 100 miles a balanced diet, supplying enough from each food group. Converting the real yields (say, an acre of hay or corn) to imaginary yields (tomatoes, legumes, greens) is tricky, but using existing yield data from farms, along with a helpful model created by a team at Cornell University, gave them a pretty realistic figure.

Still, the study involves quite a few major leaps of faith because it seeks not to demonstrate what is possible for a given American right now but to lay out a basic overview of the ability of local food to feed all Americans. It’s not just projecting yields for vegetables grown on land that is today dominated by corn and soy. The biggest leap of faith is perhaps an unexpected one and is surprisingly underreported: Why do we even want to adjust our food supply to be local in the first place?

“Local food is kind of largely rejected by a lot of scientists from earth and environmental fields because the greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation of food from the farm to the retailer is actually really small compared to all the other emissions,” said Campbell, an associate professor at UC Merced. (Zumkehr is one of his students; the two fused their research to attempt to answer this question.) We take it for granted that eating locally must provide a huge boost to our environmental bona fides, but if the only consideration is emissions from the trucks, trains, and planes that bring us food from elsewhere, we’re mistaken. Looking at our diet as a whole, the total amount of emissions that come from transportation is somewhere around 10 percent—hardly the biggest factor. The bulk of emissions emerge from the farm itself, from the actual growing and production of the food.

So, Why Should You Care? Campbell thinks there’s a distinct connection between eating locally and tackling those farm-based emissions. The elephant in the room, he said, is the move from an animal-based diet to a plant-based one. Environmental and food scientists trying to reduce emissions are focused much more intently on that switch than on local food, but Campbell sees the two as related, largely because those who eat locally also tend to eat a much higher concentration of plants. “You walk into a farmers market and into a grocery store, and it’s like two different worlds, you know?” he said. “A grocery store has some vegetables hidden off to the side, and at a farmers market it’s all about the vegetables. That’s not a trivial issue.”

To tie all of those new acres of vegetables imagined in the study to local consumers, each acre was assigned to a nearby city, with no overlaps. This is tricky, especially in dense megalopolises like the Northeast Corridor and Southern California; land in, say, northeastern Pennsylvania lies within 100 miles of both New York City and Philadelphia. “We added this optimization model that decided which units of land to allocate to which particular cities to maximize the total number of people in the U.S. who could be fed locally,” said Campbell.

So that 90 percent number doesn’t mean that any given American can have 90 percent of his or her food needs met by local food, nor does it mean that 90 percent of all Americans will have all of their needs met by local food. Instead it’s a national average: In some parts of the country, people could have all of their needs met, but in, say, New York City, only about 30 percent of the people could have their food needs met by local food (assuming that we tear up all current crops and plant more smartly). Oddly enough, not all major cities have this problem. Chicago, for example, is a wonderland in terms of local food potential. “Chicago stands out. All the high-population cities seem to have lower potential, but Chicago has a lot of cropland around it,” said Campbell. Chicago’s advantage is partly because, unlike in the Northeast, Southern California, or even South Florida, it doesn’t have any major satellite cities nearby. But it’s also because there are a ton of farms within even 50 miles of Chicago, much more than in the Northeast, for instance.

Dense cities aren’t just difficult to feed because they’re dense; the Northeast also suffered a huge collapse in nearby farmland as farming moved to the Midwest in the 20th century. But that farmland, or a lot of it, anyway, could still be resuscitated and used to feed the cities. Campbell sees that as a possibility with a huge amount of potential. “If you put the farms close to the cities, it opens up new opportunities to basically recycle water and nutrients between the cities and farms instead of relying on things that might require fossil fuels,” he said. A robust urban composting program, for example, could supply nearby farms easily, reducing the reliance on fertilizers that maybe aren’t so good for the environment. (Cheap synthetic nitrogen fertilizers put a massive strain on the environment in about a dozen ways; using less of them can only help.)

“This is kind of the first attempt to quantify what the potential is, so we decided with the first number to just see what the upper limit is, the greatest possibility,” Campbell said. This isn’t a change that we could just put into effect with a few clever laws or behavioral changes; it would require an overhaul of the entire economic system and would probably cause the collapse of the world economy as we know it.

But that isn’t the point. The point is to have a baseline, an upper theoretical potential, of whether feeding the country locally is even possible. It certainly seems that it is. The next step, both for Campbell and Zumkehr and for the others that will inevitably riff on their work, is to refine this data. Right now it doesn’t include any climate data, for example: An acre of land in Michigan does not have the same growing season as an acre of land in California’s Central Valley. (Currently, the model takes an average of the annual production of each acre, but it doesn’t include any tips for how to conserve the harvest so that it feeds people above the Mason-Dixon Line during the winter.) Another issue: Our food preferences now are significantly global, and there are lots of important and popular foods that can’t be grown in the U.S. at all (think coffee or chocolate).

It’s important to understand the limits of this study, but it would be equally foolish to disregard it. This is research that thoughtfully begins the conversation about legitimately feeding the country locally. It’s a conversation that’s going to get louder and more important in the years to come.

Original Post

Author Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. He has written for Popular Science, The Awl, BuzzFeeᴅ, Modern Farmer, Gawker, Fast Company, and elsewhere.

Please follow the “best little year-round farmers’ market” in downtown Amherst

Join us on

Join us on “the patio” from 2:00-6:00pm on Wednesday afternoons to meet your friends!

A little over a year ago, a small group of your neighbors opened a creative new venture designed to provide an outlet for small local farms and start-up crafters right here in downtown Amherst.  New producers don’t have many opportunities to sell small quantities of what they make and grow.  ATL gives them the chance to get a start!

But they need us!

All Things Local Cooperative Market is an experiment in localization, where neighbors support neighbors and a strong sense of community can grow.   Local farms and crafters provide us with the quality products that we love….. and we support those vendors by shopping at the local market.

Please stop by your local market!

And please help share the good news with your friends by “following us” on Facebook and Instagram.  Here are the links:

All Things Local Facebook (please become a friend)

All Things Local Instagram (please follow us)

Please follow us on Instagram!

Please follow us on Instagram!

Thanks for your support!

Veganism: A Solution to World Hunger

By Emilee Herrick; UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Student

Out of the 7 billion humans on this planet, 925 million of them suffer from the effects of hunger, and 870 million people are affected by malnutrition. Each year, five million people will die of starvation; 2.5 million will be children under the age of five. Based on these statistics, one might think that the world, as a whole, cannot produce enough food, however that is not the case. We produce enough plant-based foods to feed the entire world, so why are there people suffering the effects of starvation?


The meat, egg, and dairy industries are leading contributors to world hunger. A vast majority of plant foods produced each year, specifically corn, grains, and soybeans, are fed to livestock rather than people. The University of Minnesota conducted a study on the connection between agricultural resources and world hunger. They concluded that if all crops were grown for direct human consumption, there would be a 70% increase in the world’s food supply, and 4 billion more people would have access to food to eat. Such an increase would be able to sustain the world’s current population, as well as the estimated two to three billion increase by the year 2050.

endhungerAccording to the Worldwatch Institute, “Meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain—the grain is used more efficiently when consumed directly by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.” To produce one pound of meat: cows need thirteen pounds of grain, pigs require seven pounds of grain, and chickens must consume four and a half pounds of grain. If that grain were instead going directly to people, we would have more grain and fewer hungry people.   Another exemplification of this inefficiency is in the decrease of available calories when animals are processed.   Researchers of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment found that 36% of calories in crops are being fed to animals, but when the animal is processed into meat, only 12% of those calories are available to people.

feedingIn order to combat world hunger, we must reduce or abstain from animal-based products and rely more on plant foods.   In a world where the population is driven primarily by personal wants and excessive luxuries, we must think about the detrimental factors that our mere desire to eat and produce animal-based products has on us at an individual level as well as a societal level. As a population, we have all of the research and statistics to prove just how unsustainable our consumption habits are on all levels, but today people seem too focused on their own wants than about whether others have met their basic needs.


You may contact the author at: Emilee Herrick

An Agriculture Revolution – Back to the Basics

By Brent Holiday

A batch of oak and corn bread using some of the acorns that I gathered last fall. They tend to look like a loaf of super dense rye pumpernickel, and have become a significant part of my diet.

A batch of oak and corn bread using some of the acorns that I gathered last fall. They tend to look like a loaf of super dense rye pumpernickel, and have become a significant part of my diet.

My camera is zoomed in on the woodpecker at the top of the tree. As I am about to snap the picture, it hops to another branch. I will never be able to get the bird back into focus unless I zoom out and start all over again. Sometimes it is better simply to start over from scratch. This is where I believe we are at with agriculture. As our target is now increasing New England food production to 50% by 2060 (1), we might benefit from adopting a new form of agriculture to meet our future needs.

One of the major drawbacks of our current system is that it sharply contrasts with nature’s desires, especially here in New England. We have to fight to grow our food, and nature is a persistent opponent. Getting to 50% will be a battle, but it doesn’t have to be accomplished at the expense of the environment. I believe that if we work with nature, we can overcome some of the physical constraints that we face when growing food. The next few paragraphs illustrate how I believe we are fighting against nature as well as make suggestions for a new sustainable agriculture that mimics how nature functions here in New England.


In New England we have forests but this hasn’t always been the case. In the 1800’s large tracts of forest were cleared to graze animals and raise crops. This seemed to work for a while, but keep in mind that by the early 1800’s we had already decimated the salmon population in Southern New England through a combination of damming, pollution, and overfishing(2). Yet eventually, the farms reverted back to forests as the land was abandoned. Clearing the land was necessary to grow wheat, rye, oats, and corn. They can certainly be grown or raised in some places in New England, however if nature is any indicator, then these crops should not be part of the long term solution.

More appropriate would be using trees as food, since they naturally grow here. Opposed to eating wood? Considering that you already eat wood pulp (3) in your processed foods, this really isn’t such a radical suggestion. However, I think reaping the fruits and nuts that they offer might be more popular. We wiped out our most prolific source of forest carbohydrates, the American chestnut (Castanea dentata), by introducing a fungus about a hundred years ago. Yet the American/Chinese hybrid chestnuts are viable substitutes for the extirpated species. You might even see some of these already at your nearby farmer’s market or Co-op. We also have oaks, which can provide plenty of carbohydrates as well.


It’s pretty wet here, with precipitation year round. All of this water leads to wet soils. In the past we have spent a great deal of effort draining these wet soils so that we could grow grass crops and graze cattle, both of which are generally more adapted to well-drained soils. Turning the beavers into funky hats helped to reduce the amount of wet soils, as the beavers’ dams raised water tables and slowed the amount of time it took precipitation to drain out of the watershed. Some consider them a keystone species, as they drastically alter habitats, which serve to influence the populations of other wildlife species. Perhaps we should take a closer look as what the beaver provides (4). The ponds and marshlands that beavers create are some of the most productive ecosystems that we have on Earth, more productive than both deciduous forests and agricultural land. Farming beavers may entice some more than others (I won’t give away my bias), but we can replicate the systems that they create by forming our own earthworks to catch and store water. We could then take advantage of the productive capacity of marshlands by raising crops such as wild rice (Zizania palustris) and cattails (Typha latifolia). Don’t forget the potential for aquaculture.


Freshwater wetlands vastly out-produce our forests and cultivated lands in terms of primary productivity (vegetative growth), let’s harness this potential with aquatic food crops.

A New Frame of Mind

I have overlooked many other topics for the sake of brevity. My main purpose is to get you thinking. Increasing food production in New England will bring about major changes. Yards won’t be grass, and some of our beloved forests will undoubtedly have to disappear as we take on some of the environmental burdens that we currently externalize onto other areas. It is my hope that with a more regionally-suitable agricultural model we can mitigate some of the inevitable environmental impacts as we increase food production.

To see this become a reality, we need to abandon some of our preconceptions and traditional values. We readily accept change when it comes to other parts of our lives (how many of us still refuse to abandon the VHS, or are wary of trying the internet?), yet agriculture is something we are reluctant to see change.  A new agriculture will bring new foods. Are we willing to eat persimmons and chestnuts instead of bananas and bagels? Only time will tell.

This Northampton, MA resident moose relies on forests and wetlands for local food production. Maybe we should follow suit.

This Northampton, MA resident moose relies on forests and wetlands for local food production. Maybe we should follow suit.