So, what is Sustainable Agriculture?

sustagThe term ‘sustainable agriculture’ is used often, but what does it mean? The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently issued these five principles to define sustainable agriculture.

1. Improving efficiency in the use of resources is crucial to sustainable agriculture.

Modifying current practices can do much to improve the productivity of many food and agricultural production systems. This principle focuses on the engine of transformation. Further gains in productivity will still be needed in the future to ensure sufficient supply of food and other agricultural products while limiting the expansion of agricultural land and containing encroachment on natural ecosystems.

However, while in the past efficiency has been mostly expressed in terms of yield, future productivity increase will now need to consider other dimensions. Water- and energy-smart production systems will become increasingly important as water scarcity increases and as agriculture will need to seek ways to reduce emission of greenhouse gas. This will impact on the use of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs.

2. Sustainability requires direct action to conserve, protect and enhance natural resources.

Food and agricultural production depends on natural resources and therefore the sustainability of production depends on the sustainability of the resources themselves. Much can be done to reduce negative impacts and enhance the status of natural resources.

While intensification has positive effects on the environment through reduced agricultural expansion and subsequent limitation in encroachment on natural ecosystems, it also has potentially negative impact on the environment.

The most widespread model of agriculture intensification involves intensive use of farm inputs, including water, fertilizers and pesticides. The same applies to animal production and aquaculture, with subsequent pollution of water, destruction of freshwater habitats, and destruction of soil properties. Intensification has also led to the drastic reduction of crop and animal biodiversity. Such trends in agricultural intensification are not compatible with sustainable agriculture and are a threat to future production.

3. Agriculture that fails to protect and improve rural livelihoods, equity and social well-being is unsustainable.

Ensuring that producers have adequate access to and control of productive resources, and addressing the gender gap, can contribute significantly to reducing poverty and food insecurity in rural areas.

Agriculture is the most labour intensive of all economic activities. It provides, directly and indirectly, a source of livelihoods for rural households totalling 2.5 billion people. Yet, poverty is excessively associated with agriculture, and agriculture is among the riskiest types of businesses. Agriculture can only become sustainable if it provides decent employment conditions to those who practise it, in an economically and physically safe, and healthy environment.

4. Enhanced resilience of people, communities and ecosystems is key to sustainable agriculture.

Extreme weather, market volatility and civil strife impair the stability of agriculture. Policies, technologies and practices that build producers’ resilience to threats would also contribute to sustainability.

Several signals in the recent past have illustrated the risks that shocks can represent for agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Increased climate variability, whether associated or not to climate change, impacts farmers and their production. On the other side, increased food price volatility impacts both producers and consumers who don’t necessarily have the means to cope with them.

Rather than reducing these shocks, increased globalization has probably favoured their rapid transmission across the globe, with increasingly unpredictable impact on the production systems. Resilience therefore becomes central to the transition towards a sustainable agriculture, and must address both the natural and the human dimensions.

5. Sustainable food and agriculture requires responsible and effective governance mechanisms.

The transition to sustainable production can only take place when there is the right balance between private and public sector initiatives, as well as accountability, equity, transparency and the rule of law.

Mainstreaming sustainability into food and agriculture systems implies adding a public good dimension to an economic enterprise. Agriculture is and will remain an economic activity driven by the need for those practising it to make profit and ensure a decent living out of its activities.

Farmers, fisher folks and foresters need to be provided with the right incentives that support the adoption of appropriate practices on the ground. Sustainability will only be possible through effective and fair governance, including the right and enabling policy, legal and institutional environments that strike the right balance between private and public sector initiatives, and ensure accountability, equity, transparency and the rule of law.

Original Post


UMass Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture offers the largest, most diverse, progressive and flexible university degrees in Sustainable Agriculture in the world.  See: study Sustainable Food and Farming.

Living according to ecological “rules”

Original Post by Jonathan Foley – July 19, 2016

For most of my adult life, I have been a teacher of sorts, first as a university professor, and now as the director of a science museum. While the students and settings have changed, the job has remained the same — to share the wonders of the natural world, and teach the science we need to understand and sustain our planet.

Over time, I have come to believe that our environmental problems stem from too many people not understanding, or intentionally overlooking, the physical and biological systems governing this planet. We have gotten very good at ignoring nature’s laws, pretending that we are exempt from them.

But we’re not, and that’s where our problems arise. Whether we’re causing dangerous climate change, degrading the world’s ecosystems, or collapsing our natural resources, environmental problems begin when we ignore the physical limits of our planet, and act as if they don’t apply to us. This is a dangerous combination of ignorance and arrogance.


As a science educator, I feel we can and should do a far better job of helping people see and understand the systems that govern our world, and internalize the lessons they can teach us. In other words, we need to truly learn the lessons our living planet can teach us, and start living by them. Only then can we truly sustain our environment, and our civilization, into the future.

And we must share these “planet lessons” with as many people as possible — presidents and preschoolers, CEOs and cab drivers, parents and policy-makers. We all need to learn the lessons of our living world, and act accordingly.

I’ve decided to do my part by sharing some of the planet lessons I’ve learned so far.

Lesson One. Physics Trumps Politics and Economics. Every Time.

The first lesson I learned from the planet is about the absurdity of our “real world” politics and economics.

Despite what many people claim, politics and economics are arbitrary systems of belief that people in power have invented over the years. And regardless of what we have been brought up to believe, the planet does not actually obey the rules of politics and economics. It never has.

Although our beliefs about these systems are often useful, ultimately they are entirely negotiable. After all, people in power just made them up. Believing otherwise isn’t just lazy thinking, it’s an excuse people use to justify poor decision-making and maintain the status quo. When you hear someone dismiss something sensible and necessary — like protecting our oceans, shifting to 100% renewable energy sources, or making agriculture sustainable — because it “isn’t economical” or “isn’t political feasible”, what they’re really saying, whether they realize or not, is “that’s kind of inconvenient for people in power right now, so please don’t talk about it.”

Instead of allowing ourselves to be trapped by arbitrary economic and political systems, we should instead focus more attention on what really governs the planet: the physical systems that have been operating here for eons.

keep-calm-and-study-chemistry-physics-biologyUnlike politics and economics, Earth’s physics, chemistry, and biology are natural systems based on empirical, reproducible facts. And these facts are fixed and entirely non-negotiable. Nature doesn’t care what we choose to believe, and you can’t cheat the laws of physics. Ever. Ignoring them is at best shortsighted. At worst, it guarantees the demise of our civilization.

That’s why it is so alarming that some political leaders ignore the laws of physics and profess that climate change is not “real”. Of course it is. The greenhouse effect has been understood since the early 19th century, and we have overwhelming evidence that increasing CO2 levels are warming the planet. Denying those facts is either dishonest or delusional. While the basic physical realities of climate change are no longer debatable, the political and economic concerns are. For example, what should we do about climate change? What will it cost us, and who will pay? But let’s not confuse negotiable political and economic frameworks with the non-negotiable, inviolable laws of physics.

We can — and should — have debates about how our political and economic systems solve the problems we face. After all, economics and politics are meantto be debated. But for these debates to be rational and productive, we need to understand and acknowledge the physical realities of the planet. What we cannot do is pretend that the laws of physics are somehow ours to control or ignore, as we see fit. On that path lies delusion and ruin.

Lesson Two. Thermodynamics and Systems Thinking are Powerful Tools.

The next lesson I’ve learned over the years is that thermodynamics and systems thinking are very powerful tools for understanding and describing the workings of our planet.

Thermodynamics is the study of energy — how it flows through the universe, and how it changes from one form to another. It is also a good way to learn about life, as living systems are ultimately all about energy — energy gathered from the sun, converted to biochemical form, and consumed by countless creatures until it is ultimately released back into the universe. Energy is what fuels everything on this planet, and maintains its order, organization, and evolution. To understand Earth’s biology, climate, water cycle, chemical cycles, and so on, you must first understand the basics of thermodynamics.

systemsthinking2Systems thinking is another powerful tool for our mental toolbox, as it helps us organize our view of the world, seeing connections among all of Earth’s living and non-living things. Systems thinking provides a framework through which to view the planet — through the lenses of complexity, feedback loops, and the countless connections of stocks and flows coursing through the environment. Systems thinking also helps us build powerful models — whether conceptual models in our heads or numerical models running on a computer — that enable us to test our understanding of the world. Of all of the things I’ve learned in my education so far, systems thinking has been the most useful.

Thermodynamics and systems thinking, combined with some keen observations of the natural world, can give us many important insights, including:

  1. Earth is powered by renewable energy. The sun provides nearly all of the energy used to power life on Earth, as well as fueling all of our weather, ocean currents, and water cycling. Earth receives 1,370 Watts of heat and light per square meter of sunlit space — something we call the “solar constant” — and that’s been enough energy for the planet to do everything for billions of years. In fact, for all of Earth’s history, natural systems have lived on this “solar income”. And we can, too, if we put our minds to it. Sunlight — and associated energy from wind, waves, and biomass — can provide all the energy we need. Ultimately, it has to.
  2. Nature has almost zero waste. Earth is essentially a “materially closed” system. Short of the occasional meteorite, nothing much enters the planet, and nothing much leaves the planet either. That means there are only so many carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus atoms, water molecules, and so on, on the planet to work with. So natural systems have gotten very good at recycling everything. In fact, living things rarely create “waste.” What’s waste to one organism is quite often food for another. For example, a single phosphorous atom — a necessary ingredient for life — can be recycled hundreds of times within a forest, before it’s gently redeposited into Earth’s sediments, where geology will ultimately recycle it once again. Unfortunately, we humans use many goods only once before they become waste or toxic pollution. We need to mimic nature’s frugality with material, and get much, much better at emulating Earth’s “circular economy.”
  3. Earth’s ecosystems build strength and resilience from diversity.Evolution has created a remarkable diversity of life, which is extremely resilient in the face of change. Nearly every flow of energy and matter, and practically every ecological niche, functional trait, and space is being used by something. And if one ecological link fails, others typically pick up the slack. Sadly, humans seem to ignore this lesson. We tend to build monocultures, especially in agriculture, with only one link; if that one fails, the whole system fails. We need to realize that diversity is essential to building strong, enduring, and sustainable systems.

Click on the image to see a presentation on the three “rules” of ecology


Lesson Three: We Need a Big Dose of Humility.

The natural world has also taught me that we should be far less arrogant about the power of our science and technology. We still have so much to learn.

It’s humbling, but we have to admit that nature does things that we cannot yet do ourselves. Even the simplest pond scum is able to run entirely on renewable energy, with nearly infinite recycling, with extraordinary diversity and resilience. In short, nature is one hell of an engineer.

Sadly, we are still far from matching the capabilities of the natural world. We still use dirty fossil fuels, not renewable energy — leading to air pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, and other critical problems. We still recklessly extract raw materials from nature, far faster than they can be regenerated, so they inevitably run out. Our throw-away culture then uses something once, creating a dangerous waste product that is tossed into the environment. Unfortunately, we continue to ignore the lessons even simple pond scum can teach us.

What we need is a big dose of humility, and to admit that we have much to learn from the rest of life on Earth. The rest of life has learned the lessons of the planet, and we have not.

Lesson Four. Go Outdoors and Observe Nature.

Nature is the best teacher I’ve ever had. I learned about photosynthesis, carbon stocks, and nutrient cycling from my garden. And I learned about meteorology and oceanography by watching clouds and waves. While classroom learning is certainly important, it is crucial that we spend time observing and interacting with the natural world to truly internalize the lessons of the planet.


Thankfully, many people are beginning to look to nature as a source of inspiration and solutions. And we can follow their lead.

For example, keen observations of the natural world have led to the basic concept and innovations of biomimicry, which seeks to design products that emulate solutions already found in nature. Observations of nature have also spurred the development of agroecology and permaculture, which seek to design agricultural systems that emulate processes found in nature. We have also begun to more keenly recognize the flow of ecosystem goods and services and how they support human wellbeing.

We should look to nature for even more practical solutions for living sustainably on planet Earth. After all, if we just stop to look, and learn, nature can teach us how to build extraordinary things, with zero waste, amazing resilience, all powered by the sun.

Final Lesson. Get to Work!

Finally, the natural world has inspired me to roll up my sleeves, focus on the problems we can solve, and get to work.

Whether we realize it or not, the fate of the planet is now in our hands. We are a driving force on an enormously complex planetary machine, and most of the people in charge have no idea how it operates, or are still under the mistaken belief that political and economic systems outweigh the laws of physics. They simply don’t know the rules. Worse yet, they are obeying the wrong rules. This is a very dangerous situation.

Our leaders — hell, all of us — urgently need a crash course in how the planet really works, including the principles we need to follow in order to thrive into the future. We must learn the lessons of the planet so we can build a civilization that endures.

So far, there is no major, and no degree that teach these lessons of the planet. It’s not that simple. In the meantime, a mix of humility, a little training in physics and systems thinking, a keen eye for observation, and a lot of time in the natural world would be a good start.


Dr. Jonathan Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy) is the executive director of the California Academy of Sciences. These views are his own, and do not reflect those of the Academy or any other organization.

NOTE:  if you want to study farming systems based on ecological principles, see: UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Bachelor of Science degree.

Governor Baker Declares June 20 – 26, 2016 “Massachusetts Pollinator Week”


BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker, in support of National Pollinator Week, has declared June 20 – 26, 2016 as “Massachusetts Pollinator Week” – an opportunity to celebrate and protect our pollinator populations. Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) will also celebrate the opening of the first state apiary, a collection of beehives to be used for education and research.

“Massachusetts Pollinator Week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of pollination to our environment and agricultural industry, and the vital need to protect Massachusetts’ pollinators,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “I encourage all residents to learn more about our native pollinators and consider planting flowers, trees and other plants to provide pollinators with nectar, pollen and habitat.”

“This week, we appreciate the importance of pollinators to Massachusetts’ ecosystems, food sources and economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our administration is committed to preserving our native pollinator species and their habitats, and working with local beekeepers across the Commonwealth to ensure their hives are healthy and thriving.”

Pollinators include bees, birds, bats, butterflies and other species. Over 45 percent of agricultural commodities in Massachusetts rely on pollinator species for crop pollination and food production. There are approximately 4,500 honey beekeepers managing approximately 45,000 hives across the Commonwealth. Pollinator species provide significant environmental benefits that are necessary for maintaining healthy, diverse ecosystems, and produce valuable products including honey, propolis, royal jelly and wax.

club.jpgThe new state apiary at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will serve as a vessel for education, outreach demonstrations and research related to agricultural sustainability, pollination, honey bee health and hive management. The apiary consists of twelve honey bee hives located within an 80 foot by 30 foot plot situated adjacent to the UMass Pollinator Conservation Project.

The apiary will also be used by the UMass Beekeeping Club and for hives maintained for UMass beekeeping courses. The apiary was funded by appropriated FY16 funds for the DAR Apiary Program designated for projects that provide research, education and general support to benefit Massachusetts honey bees.


“Given the ability to do live, in-hive demonstrations onsite, this apiary will also be an important tool for providing outreach education to farmers, land managers, beekeepers and to the public in the Commonwealth on topics related to honey bees and agriculture,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Through the new state apiary and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Apiary Program, we are working hard to educate the public about honey bees and support the Commonwealth’s honey beekeepers.”

In Amherst on June 20, 2016, Assistant Secretary for Environment Daniel Sieger will be joined by MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux and representatives from UMass Amherst College of Natural Sciences for a tour of the new state apiary on the grounds of the UMass Agricultural Learning Center.

“The apiary has received considerable interest from students engaged in farming and sustainability,” said Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Currently several are doing an internship with DAR to assist in hive management throughout the summer as well as conducting their own individual research projects related to hive vitality and pest management.”

“Making sure bees stay healthy and productive is necessary for vibrant agriculture,” said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer). “I appreciate the focus of the administration and look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our many bee organizations to achieve that goal.”

“I applaud the initiative set forth by the Baker Administration and MDAR to recognize our vital pollinator populations here in Massachusetts,” said State Representative Paul Schmid (D-Westport). “We are incredibly fortunate to have so many active beekeepers that maintain thousands of hives throughout the Commonwealth in order to provide the well-known agricultural products that make our state so great and promote environmental stewardship.”

“This is an exciting collaboration for the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst,” said Frank Mangan, Director of the Agriculture Learning Center. “Maintaining a state apiary with DAR provides our students, growers and bee keepers with preventative learning tools.”

For more on the State Apiary, see:

The Stockbridge School of Agriculture offers a Practical Beekeeping class each spring for students in the Sustainable Food and Farming major.

Learning Through Gardening in School

Few things are more inspiring than seeing a young person create a meaningful place in society from scratch. That’s the case with Ava Bynum, who grew up near our home in Philipstown, N.Y., and — setting aside the idea of college — created a program for local schools, Hudson Valley Seed, built around incorporating basic learning with gardening and nutrition. The program now serves about 1,500 students a week in schools in several Hudson Valley counties.


These two videos tell the story far better than I could, so I hope you’ll spend a few minutes this Earth Day weekend watching and sharing them. (Here’s the program’s Facebook page.)

Are there gardening-education programs where you live? If not, I’m sure Bynum would be happy to spread the joy of learning.


About 25% of the students studying Sustainable Food an Farming at UMass Amherst are focused on community-based and farm-based education.  To learn more, see:

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 Melanie Trecek-King, 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!

Operation Harvest and Heal: one farm’s mission to nurture veterans, families, and local food

By Lily Sexton – April 14, 2015

In the Pioneer Valley, one can hardly travel a few miles without a farm sighting. Large dairy farms, small-scale organic production, lush displays of permaculture; this area grows amazing food. But though it may seem that the Valley has enough farmers as it is, Marcin Butkiewicz is settling farm land in an entirely unique way. Butkiewicz currently is working in Rwanda as a data systems analyst for Gardens For Health, a non-profit that partners with local health centers to aid malnourished children by teaching agricultural skills and nutritional knowledge to mothers and providing them with resources to improve their home gardens. It is easy to see his passion for food, farming, and the healing impact they can have on people.

On a sunny afternoon at the Montague Book Mill, Marcin and I met for a cup of coffee to talk about his project, Operation Harvest and Heal. Equal parts fully sustainable farm, non-profit CSA system, and therapeutic haven for returning veterans, it is easy to tell that the vision of Operation Harvest and Heal is the work of a man gifted with the ability to understand the ripple effects that positive change can have on a whole system. Perhaps this is because Butkiewicz has also seen the antithesis of this; the negative spiral of veterans returning from war. “[About] 75% of the homeless population in Boston is veterans. [A recent study] stated that 1.4 million veterans need to rely on food stamps to feed their children, which is ridiculous.” Marcin’s status as a veteran gives him unique insight into the struggles that men and women face upon returning from active duty, specifically the immense challenge of obtaining whole, healthy food when money is tight. “In Cambridge, [a CSA share] is anywhere from $700-1,000… This past summer I spoke at an event raising money for veterans to buy CSA shares. We started having conversations while we were raising that money for the CSAs [about the absurdity] of paying for commercial products when the structure behind them isn’t viable.” Conversations like these led Butkiewicz to create the Harvest portion of the Operation.

Harvest and Heal really go hand in hand for Butkiweicz, who found mental and emotional recovery in farming. “When I first got back I had a lot of trouble transitioning, like most veterans do, which is why most of them are not successful. The thing that helped me the most was gardening. I went out and just started growing and it was actually the most therapeutic thing that I’ve ever done… Emotionally, I was on a cocktail of medicines to ease anxiety when I first got back… Having something that I produced … that was self-sustaining and that I could take pride in, that I’d created- [and] it could sustain me too, if I wanted it to. It was an incredible revelation that woke me up in a sense.” Operation Harvest and Heal’s model will allow veterans and their families to take their recovery into their own hands, literally. Under Marcin’s leadership, veterans will be able to participate in the cultivation of a full array of vegetables and grains and many other tasks involved with growing food and materials to live off of. Says Butkiewicz, “Not only will they learn the skills, but they’ll have a trade, it’ll be official, they can get a job, they can get some therapy, they can grow their own food for their own family. [Then it can become] a group of people who are doing the work, so the size of the farm can grow more. I don’t care if I make a dime off of it. The idea also is to grow the local infrastructure and the local resources.”

Butkiewicz’s unique ability to communicate how his vision will benefit the local community is what makes local non-profits ultimately succeed. He seems to always be thinking four steps ahead, taking into consideration the community’s needs and wants and where it can improve. “A lot of people are disconnected from local food. There’s a lot of people who will go to the store, they’ll buy something, and that’s how they get all their food. Whereas up until the first markets in the fifties, up until then everything was local. So by growing awareness, by growing an identity with your local food sources, that becomes the meaning. [But] a lot of people can’t afford it; it’s only the upper echelons of society, unfortunately, that can afford resources like that… It’s kind of counterintuitive.”

By being an active presence in the local community, Marcin hopes to begin to bring healthy food to all by spreading awareness and education. “The idea behind [the local food movement] is good but with limited resources it creates more of a differentiation. If you create awareness, if you create appreciation through free education amongst the people who aren’t part of the [upper echelons of society], then it becomes part of their lives. They want to be local, they want to be able to grow local food.” Butkiewicz sees a major flaw in America’s reliance on supermarkets. Being able to buy many varieties of produce from all over the world has its perks, but ultimately this food has to travel very far to be offered. People do not have the opportunity to see the impact of their food, the farmer who grows it, the methods used; “There’s not a lot of identity with that.”

Operation Harvest and Heal is planning on having seeds in the ground by the spring of 2016. After the initial start-up costs, the farm should be able to sustain itself at little to no costs through seed-saving and sustainable practices, reasons Butkiewicz. The vision includes draft horse power down the road in order to maintain the farm’s non-mechanized policy.

As the Pioneer Valley continues to lead the region and the state in the local food movement, Operation Harvest and Heal, with its all-inclusive vision, will be a reminder of the core value that inspired the movement: local, healthy food is for everyone. It will aid veterans in discovering new skills in a healing environment and those who previously could not afford or have access to organic produce will be given that chance. Hopefully, one farm can begin to shift the negative spiral that too many veterans are faced with upon returning from duty.


You can contact Marcin at

MA Farm Bureau Invites UMass Agricultural Community to “Farmland” Movie Screening, December 4, 2014

farmland Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) has arranged for a special screening of Academy Award®-winning filmmaker James Moll’s feature length documentary, “Farmland” for their annual meeting, which will be held at the UMass Hotel in Amherst. MFBF is extending a special invitation to the UMass agricultural community to join them for this event.

The film offers viewers a firsthand glimpse into the lives of six young farmers and ranchers across the U.S., chronicling their high-risk/high-reward jobs and their passion for a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, yet continues to evolve.

“Farming in Massachusetts is growing and for the first time in many years more acres are being farmed, due in part to young farmers like those featured in this film,” says MFBF President, Rich Bonanno. “Farmland gives the audience real insight into what it takes to be a farmer nowadays. We think that the UMass agricultural community will find it informative and entertaining.”

Many Americans have never stepped foot on a farm or ranch or even talked to the people who grow and raise the food we eat, yet are increasingly passionate about understanding where their food comes from. “This is a film for anyone who eats,” says Moll. “It’s not what you’d expect. The world of farming is complex and often controversial, but the farmers themselves are some of the most hard-working and fascinating people I’ve ever met.”  

A limited number of seats will be available for the screening, which is scheduled for 7:15pm on December 4th. Please call 508-481-4766, or email by Nov. 20th to reserve a seat.


The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation is a non-profit, member-driven organization representing over 5,000 family members across the Commonwealth. Its mission is “to protect the rights, encourage the growth, and be of service to its members, in the best interest of agriculture.”