This fall, beginning farmers and established growers from across the state have gone back to school to learn the science of sustainable vegetable production. They’re participating in UMass Green School, a highly regarded, comprehensive 12-day certificate short course taught by UMass Extension Specialists and University of Massachusetts faculty. The Green School’s Sustainable Vegetable Production track covers specific practices used for the major vegetable crops grown in New England, water and soil fertility management, season extenders, and crop rotation. Other Green School tracks include Landscape Management, Turf Management and Arboriculture. Each track emphasizes environmental stewardship, a systematic approach to sustainable best management practices (BMPs), and integrated pest management (IPM). The 2012 Green School was held in November and December. The next Green School will be held in November - December 2014.
Kathleen Carroll, UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape Program Director said, “The Sustainable Vegetable Production track was added to Green School in response to the growing number of beginning farmers in Massachusetts and New England and increased efforts by municipalities, schools, and institutions to source food from local farmers and food producers. New farmers need a solid understanding of the science involved in producing vegetables. And, we need more well-trained farmers to respond to increased demand for locally grown and produced vegetables. Green School programs are academically rigorous and Green School certifications are sought-after credentials. We’re pleased to add a track that helps meet the educational needs of the agriculture community in Massachusetts.”
The 22 students in this year’s Sustainable Vegetable Production track come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some own commercial farms, while others work in urban agriculture and community gardens. Some have just started new farms and some work on long-established farms and farms owned by family members. Some are career changers. Some have employers who send their up-and-coming staff to Green School to enhance their knowledge and skills. While many of the students have academic backgrounds in other fields of study, some of the students have formal academic experience in agriculture. Most of the students are from central and eastern Massachusetts.
Dr. Frank Mangan, UMass Extension Associate Professor, is the lead instructor for the Sustainable Vegetable Production track. Mangan said, “This Green School track is a great opportunity for people who want to learn the science of horticulture, who want to use sustainable vegetable production practices that are based on science. Green School instructors are all experts in their particular subjects, including soil science, entomology, plant pathology, and more. The in-depth classes highlight all aspects of research-based, sustainable production relevant to both organic and conventional systems. While Green School is geared toward people who grow vegetables commercially, the information we cover in this course is useful for all vegetable growers, from those with backyard gardens to those who grow on a large commercial level.”