Posted March 7, 2017
As one of the oldest CSA programs in the country, Hampshire College offers a vegetable and meat share from its on-campus farm to students, staff and faculty, and provides job opportunities for students.
All photos by Jess Marsh Wissemann, except where noted otherwise.
Institution Name: Hampshire College
Institution Location: Amherst, MA
Number of Students: 1,400
Percentage of Students living off-campus: 10.7 percent
Meal Plan Requirements: required meal plans for students living in dormitories
Organization Name: Hampshire College Community Supported Agriculture
Organization Location: Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
Number of Employees: five employees, up to 50 student workers and volunteers
Distance to Farm That Supports The CSA Program: on-campus
Name of Farm: Hampshire College Farm
Structure: campus-run farm offers weekly CSA to campus community tailored around academic year
Cost: pay in advance
- Vegetable - $360 for weekly pick-ups for three months
- Meat - $330 for three pick-ups once a month
(Photo Credit: Amanda Schwengel)
Over 20 years ago, Hampshire College students predicted the popularity of fresh farm foods with weekly pickups, long before CSAs were a popular trend. In 1992, as part of a capstone project, students decided to start a program at their school where students could buy weekly shares from the school’s farm, which had been in operation since the early 1970s. At Hampshire College, there are no majors, so the project was the culminating experience or “final” for the students. That year the farm supported 30 shares with student interns and a farm manager running the farm.
By 1999, the CSA grew to 100-120 members and the farm transitioned from a part-time manager to a full-time manager to run the program.
The program now hosts around 200 shares, 75 of which go to dining services at Hampshire College. Of the remaining 125 shares, about half go to students and the remainder go home with staff and faculty. Most of the student shares are sold to groups of students who live in on-campus apartments.
The program hosts 20 acres of vegetable production and 65 acres in pasture and livestock. With a lot of other farms in the area, the CSA program doesn’t extend beyond the campus market and finds no need to. The farm produces approximately 75,000 pounds of vegetables a year.
In addition to shares, the Hampshire College Farm taps over 100 maple trees across campus to produce 220 gallons of sap each spring and cares for a variety of livestock, including chickens, lambs, and heritage breed cows and pigs.
Seasons are geared toward the academic year. This past season, Hampshire hosted 210 shares with once-a-week pick ups from late August through late November. Starting in late July, shareholders who sign up early have unlimited access to pick-your-own heirloom tomatoes (another student project), herbs, and flowers.
The farm offers limited sales throughout the winter and early spring at pop-up farmers markets across campus featuring winter salad greens, root vegetables, honey, eggs, maple syrup, and popcorn - all produced on campus.
The Food, Farm & Sustainability program at Hampshire has both a Director and a Program Coordinator who are involved in a variety of food and farm related work on campus. The Director oversees the entire Hampshire College Farm and all farm staff, amongst other responsibilities. The CSA is run by a full-time Hampshire College employee. The program also has an assistant vegetable grower, livestock and pasture manager, director, and a program coordinator.
The CSA and farm are additionally supported with the help of work-study students, student interns, and volunteers. Student positions include four full-time interns from May to September, and two full-time livestock interns. In the fall, the program has 40 to 50 students on payroll (many who are work-study) who work a few hours each week. By November, there are around 15 to 20 student workers, and 10 to 15 in the winter. Hampshire College also requires students to meet a community engagement requirement on campus, so the farm garners volunteers through that program as well. The CSA program has had little trouble finding students, as they get a lot of interest from first-year students. Student interest has increased since the program’s start.
In addition to the vegetable CSA which runs late August through late November, Hampshire also has a meat CSA. In 2015 the meat program had 30 shares in the fall and 30 in the spring. Hampshire College hopes to increase that number to 60 shares this fall. The spring and fall meat CSAs consist of three monthly pickups of frozen meat. Shareholders receive 12 to 15 pounds of frozen meat at each of the three pickups including a variety of cuts of grass-fed beef, heritage breed pigs, and lamb. All the meat is grown on campus by the livestock manager and interns.
Hampshire College covers half of the CSA’s budget and the other half comes from sales. Half the total budget is dedicated to full-time staff, 25 percent to student labor and 25 percent to operating expenses. The CSA program searches for grants to do additional projects such as greenhouses. The educational programmatic side of the CSA is funded by grants and gift funding.
“The Hampshire College Farm provides educational opportunities for the community and welcomes student and faculty projects, research, and coursework. The farm is also a place to enjoy the landscape, visit with animals, study, and host events.” -Hampshire Farm website
The number one lesson that the CSA Manager, Nancy Hanson, learned is: “Don’t expect a campus farm to operate like a regular farm." She notes that the labor, funding, and timing are all different than that of a regular farm — they are more malleable and change more quickly.
“It’s not like you can take a commercial farm and plop it down on a college campus,” she said.
Hanson also warns, funding is never guaranteed and it is important to build a sustainable financial model as well as a supportive student body.
Nancy Hanson | CSA Program Manager, Hampshire College
Jess Marsh Weissemann | Food, Farm, and Sustainability Program Coordinator, Hampshire College
Beth Hooker | Director of Food, Farm, and Sustainability, Hampshire College
Farm & Sea to Campus Co-Coordinators:
Case Study Contact:
Nancy Hanson | CSA Program Manager, Hampshire College