Research and Outreach Interest Areas
The Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) is focused on eight Research and Outreach Interest Areas. In these areas, faculty and staff are engaged in both research and educational outreach although some areas lean toward one or the other. Educational outreach is the purview of CAFE’s UMass Extension unit while supporting scientific research is that of the Mass. Agricultural Experiment Station. The Water Resources Research Center is involved in both research and educational outreach.
Massachusetts agriculture: almost 8,000 farms, almost 8,000 farmers, half a million acres. One of the birthplaces of the CSA (community-supported agriculture) and second in the nation in percentage of direct sales on farms. UMass Extension helps make agriculture thrive by bringing the latest discoveries to farmers and stimulating innovation; the Mass. Agricultural Experiment Station leads research on new techniques. CAFE is helping the state produce delicious food with reduced amounts of chemical inputs, helping keep farmland open and helping our farm towns beautiful and vibrant.
Imagine… the sun shining onto a gleaming city park… a neighborhood full of flowerbeds and towering trees, a great golf course bordering a clean sparkling river. The hidden heroes behind many of these treasured places are the 35,000+ people in Mass. who work for commercial arborists, garden centers, greenhouses, lawn care businesses, those who take care of our parks and playgrounds… We support research to keep the industry healthy while keeping our environment thriving. UMass Extension connects the “green industry” with research on successful landscape care in sustainable environments.
How is Massachusetts going to transition to an energy future that allows our environment to thrive, our businesses to grow and our residents to prosper? Mass. is a leader in energy sustainability and UMass has a unique niche in this transformative industry. UMass has recently inaugurated a Clean Energy Extension program, whose aim is to break down the barriers between research and adoption of new clean energy practices by municipalities, businesses and individuals. In addition, the Center sponsors other energy research related to biofuels and anaerobic digesters on farms.
We are the nation’s sixth most forested state and also the third most densely populated... with a rich variety of environments, from 1,500 miles of coastline to a broad river valley. We educate residents to become stewards of the natural resources in their own communities… and create opportunities for citizen scientists. CAFE supports research to create the new knowledge and tools that will enable biodiversity to be protected. We create technology-powered tools for local decision-makers to understand the impacts of the options before them.
Can science enhance the power of what we eat? Food has the power to help keep us healthy and food may sometimes have the power to heal. Food has the power to start businesses and to bring communities together. Food employs people and food has the power to sustain agriculture. CAFE partners with our University’s Department of Food Science to advance functional foods, food safety, and foods for health and wellness. We help stimulate entrepreneurship and new product development and help our farms and food businesses follow safe, sound procedures.
Food insecurity (hunger or risk of hunger) is a problem with consequences: a range of health problems including diabetes and obesity. Problems in school and problems at work. Many of these problems have roots at home, without enough food or where poor nutritional choices may seem like the only option. UMass Extension’s Nutrition Education Program (NEP) brings knowledge to low-income residents (about 208,000 contacts in 2015) so that they can make the very best choices about how to use their limited food resources.
We drink it, bathe in it, irrigate farms and gardens with it, swim in it, use it in manufacturing, fish in it. We also pollute it, use an awful lot of it, often act as if it’s unlimited, and often take it for granted. Our Center works with municipal water resource authorities to help them with research and technical information. CAFE helps farmers, nursery operators, greenhouse growers and turf managers conserve use of water and make sure runoff and waste water is handled appropriately. We educate local officials on preparing for extreme weather events.
Can we work together to help young people thrive and grow strong? There are almost 1.4 million young people under the age of 18 in Massachusetts and every one of them can benefit from positive opportunities to learn and explore together… Explore the natural world, explore topics of common concern, explore how to express themselves clearly, explore caring for animals or for communities. In UMass Extension's 4-H Youth Development Program and the Massachusetts Envirothon, there are opportunities for many people in Massachusetts to become involved.