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An important takeaway from this challenging year is gratitude for the community that the farm nurtures and is nourished by. This community comprises the students who work at and spend time at the farm, the faculty and classes who visit, the Amherst staff who help with infrastructure improvements, the Dining Staff who process and serve the produce we grow, Students Affairs who collaborate on events, the CSA members, the Survival Center, the other farmers who we give and gain advice from, the farm staff, and more. 

As important as having community is showing care for the community. How do we show care? We accommodate our needs around navigating the pandemic safely; make room for mourning and anger; learn from and show up for the Black Lives Matter movement in person or virtually; remember that the country’s food system has exploited and displaced BIPOC communities both as food producers and consumers through history and support reparation; celebrate movements and leaders in food justice; take time to check in with each other; offer frequent praise and respectful critique; greet each other enthusiastically; use preferred pronouns; remind each other to hydrate, stretch and breath. How do you show care?

And wow, in the midst of all of that, we grew a lot of vegetables and built soil health. 

The Land

Over 700 acres of Amherst College land are leased out to local farmers to grow corn and maintain pasture as food and bedding for livestock. Of the 22.5 acres of  land we manage directly (with mowing and plowing help from Landscape and Grounds), we had 4.5 acres under production and 4.5 acres in cover crop during the year. The rest of the land is fallow and/or roadway, field edges and infrastructure sites. 

We share a portion of our field with a local beekeeper--it is a great mutual relationship where the bees pollinate our flowering crops and other wild growing plants and are in turn fed by that process. We maintain our own hive at the farm core site with the help of Brian Holley, Assoc CIO of the college and a generous and experienced beekeeper.  

A constant highlight of the farm is the rich wildlife with whom we share the space. It is great to see the turkey families on Mill Lane, the foxes at the Core Site, the Red-Tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers that keep watch on tents and straw bales. It is even exciting to see the deer, especially this year since we set up an effective fence around our lettuce crop.

Vegetable Production and Sales

This year we sold 9,300 pounds of food to the dining hall. Our top crops were kale, winter squash and potatoes. This was a year where we also cracked the code on growing larger sweet potatoes and onions (weed suppression with mulch, proper irrigation intervals and keeping deer off the sweet potato greens). We also adjusted our CSA practices for covid safety and sent 47 members home with a box of vegetables every week from August through November. We were able to donate 6,270 pounds of food to the Amherst Survival Center, where it is used for daily community meals and to stock the food pantry and delivery boxes. We also sold food to the newly formed Amherst Mobile Market which brings wholesale-price produce to areas of Amherst that don’t have easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables. 

This was Book & Plow’s last year in the Pest Management mentorship program with UMass Extension. We have gained practice in how and when to scout for pests, and which cultural and chemical practices are necessary at the farm to protect our crops. It is great to know Maida can still text Genevieve pictures of the new bugs we spot in our vegetables. 

While the campus shutdown interrupted the timing of our no-till winter squash experiment, we were excited to start the process, learn from it and continue in 2021. In our field, Kaylee and summer interns patiently tapped the well point for a new location for our solar-power well funded by the Grinspoon Grant award in 2018. We will use that to irrigate our 2021 allium crop. 

With the help of Mary Strunk from the Grants Office, Book & Plow was awarded funds from the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs to purchase and install a new shipping container. This project will open up much needed space in our crew work and wash/pack area.

Student Farmers

The Farm employed 30 students who put in work days over the Spring Semester, half of whom worked for just a few shifts before the campus shutdown, and the other half from those who remained on campus. There were another 31 students who worked with us over the Fall Semester. We also want to recognize the students who showed up through the heat and drought for the summer farm work: Rodrigo Aguilera-Croasdaile ‘23, Noni Akintunde ‘22, Lianbi Ji ‘21, Gregory Kaplan ‘21, John Koomson ‘23, Lovemore Nyaumwe ‘23, Lorraine Oloo ‘23, Yang Sun ‘23. Additional thanks to Dining Staff K Russell for coming out to work during the big tomato harvests!

Each student farmer was remarkable in following new covid safety requirements and staying flexible. It was absolutely a highlight of the farm staff’s year to get to be in a safe, outdoor community with that great group of people.  

Programming at Farm

Amherst students were required to stay within the quarantine bubble this year, so the farm saw a big increase in daily, casual visitors. Students would come up to pick flowers or cherry tomatoes, enjoy the view from Tuttle Hill or explore the Self-Guided tour that Julia set up with the help of great student artists. 

We were able to host some events at the farm and on campus this year:

  • 3 Natural Tie-Dye Events
  • Mural and Still Life Painting
  • Pressed Flower Bookmarks
  • Plant Care/Self Care Collaboration with the Wellness Center and RCT
  • Peer Advocates for Sexual Respect hosted Herbal Tea and Flower Wreaths
  • The Outdoor Club had two weekend camping excursions
  • The Farm held 5 Community Gleaning Events
  • The Farm was a destination during Fall Fest with a big distanced pumpkin carving patch. 


The courses we collaborated with in 2020 were: 

  • GEO112 Surficial Earth Dynamics: Climate, Environment, and Life with Dave Jones
  • CHEM 100 Molecular Gastronomy with Pat O’Hara
  • ECON111E with Kate Sims
  • BIOL104 with Rachel Levin
  • DAN Contemporary Dance Technique with Jenna Riegel
  • SPAN101 with Sarah Piazza
  • ENST226 Unequal Footprints on the Earth with Hannah Holleman
  • ANTH 325 Protest! with Hannah Holleman
  • ENG162 Black (On) Earth with Rhonda Cobham-Sander
  • FYSE101 The Soviet Experiment with Cathy Ciepiela
  • FYSE Encounters with Nature with Nicola Courtwright

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Book & Plow Farm · 301 E Hadley Rd · Amherst, MA 01002 · USA

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