UMass Lowell launches farmshare program with Mill City Grows

Brigid Archibald
Connector Editor 

The Office of Sustainability is launching a Farmshare program which would provide the participants with locally grown food delivered to their office weekly for 20 weeks during the summer and part of the fall.

Last Summer the Office of Sustainability piloted the program under the title of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to 20 faculty and students with the help of center of public opinion and nutrition department. The program consisted of weekly deliveries of locally grown food and recipe card delivered to the participants’ offices.  In exchange for faculty and staff’s participation, they filled out surveys which determined the perception of the program and determined how they will structure it this year.

The program for this year is still in its planning stages but will run for 20 weeks from June to November and like last year has 20 slots, but there may be a possibility of more.

“Just based on word of mouth from last year, and expression of interest that we have gotten already,” said Ruairi O’Mahony the director of Sustainability” we are overwhelmed the interest which is a good problem to have, but we are trying to figure out if we can expand it.”

The program will cost $450 which employees of the university can pay through a payroll deduction, similar to how some pay for their parking passes. The $450 fee will cover 20 weeks of locally grown organic produce, and delivery directed to the participant’s office.

“If you look at what you pay in the grocery store for produce which is shipped from around the world it’s actually cheaper,” said O’Mahony. “If you split that 450 by 20 and then add the stuff you get in the box. It’s a good value for fresh organic produce, and many cases the produce that you get would have been harvested that morning.”

All the food comes within the city of the Lowell from the spaces previously established through mill city grows and UMass Lowell partnership cutting down on food miles. These places include the Achar farm and greenhouse on East campus, Community garden on Dane street. Crops will also come from Mill City Grows’ four-acre farm on Pawtucket Boulevard.

Some of the food will also come from the office of sustainability new 500 square feet rooftop farm on the second floor of UCrossing. The pace is slated to be finished by the end of the week and has been modeled off the Fenway farms at Fenway parks. Produce will be grown in milk crates in five rows of two and be watered automatically by a root water system connected to local weather data. As the growing seasons change the sign will change to inform those passing by what is growing and where the food will be going be it dining services, food pantries, or the Farmshare program.

“As the university reputation for being sustainable increases it’s important that we have more and more of these visual spaces,” said O’Mahony.

Those who cannot join the program or do not want to participate weekly will still have an opportunity to engage with the food. Through the Mill City Grows mobile market which the Office of Sustainability plans to have come to campus monthly throughout the summer to gauge interest in the program.

“Quite frankly the stuff tastes a million times better than anything you can purchase in the grocery store,” said O’Mahony, “and getting people aware of that and saying, ‘Oh, this is really affordable, and now I’m eating sustainably what else can I do to contribute to the sustainability goals of the university.’”

Another exciting change that comes through this program and the partnership with Mill City Grows is that it opens the door for fresh food donations to the Navigators food pantry.

“Urban food access is a big drive for what [Mill city grows does], so we want to replicate that on our camps. As we support Mill City Grows’ Mission, they support our students who may have food access issues.”

Those interested in joining the program over the summer should keep their eyes on the Office of Sustainability’s social media and website were they will be announcing signups and the final details about the program

“Everybody eats, right? So, you got to engage on the food system level, and it’s a great way for us to message a larger piece of what we are doing on campus to be more sustainable on campus. Though energy conservation, through transportation, through everything,” said O’Mahony, explaining why this program is so important.

 

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