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Research and Outreach Interest Areas

The Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (CAFE) is focused on eight Research and Outreach Interest Areas:

AgricultureCommercial HorticultureEnergyEnvironmental ConservationFood Science, NutritionWater, and Youth Development & 4-H

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


Let’s Make Agriculture Thrive in Massachusetts!

What is agriculture like in Massachusetts? Almost 8,000 farms. Almost 8,000 farmers. Half a million acres. More farmers’ markets per head than software companies. Birthplace of the CSA (community-supported agriculture, or farmshare). Renowned for our cranberries, famous for our asparagus, beloved for local dairy products. Second in the nation in percentage of direct sales on farms. Origin of the Baldwin apple, the Waltham butternut, the Roxbury russet apple and the Concord grape.

What is the role of our Center in agriculture? Our UMass Extension unit helps make agriculture thrive in our Commonwealth. Bring the latest discoveries to farmers. Stimulate innovation. Research on new techniques. Helping the state produce delicious food with reduced amounts of chemical inputs, helping keep farmland open and our farm towns beautiful and vibrant. Growing employment. Thriving in an age of climate change. Better opportunities, sparkling fresh food for everyone in Massachusetts. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!


Massachusetts Commercial Horticulture

Commercial Horticulture

Let's Take Care of Our Special Places!

Do you value the special places in Massachusetts? Imagine… the sun shining onto a charming city park, onto neighborhoods framed by flower and shrub beds, noble shade trees, community gardens, and well-maintained golf courses or sports fields. The men and women of the “green industries” provide the expertise and experience behind many of these treasured places.  The 35,000+* people in Massachusetts who work for landscape and lawn care businesses, commercial arborist companies, garden centers, greenhouses, or municipal departments responsible for the care of parks and playgrounds… they keep our landscapes healthy and beautiful while simultaneously preserving environmental quality, and pumping $3 billion* into our state’s economy every year.

What is the role of our Center in commercial horticulture? Our UMass Extension unit connects green industry personnel with the most up-to-date research on successful, practical, sustainable, and environmentally sound landscape and plant care. We provide resources including manuals, workshops, educational short courses, tips and online newsletters. We do it for the good of our cities and towns, for the good of our businesses and residents, for the good of our trees, lawns and flowers. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!

*estimated in 2015 in Massachusetts Green Industry Economic Impact Study, Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association.


Clean Energy - solar panels


Clean Energy Can Mean a Thriving Commonwealth.

How much energy do we need in Massachusetts? Almost 7 million people. Almost 700,000 businesses, 351 cities and towns, close to 3,000,000 housing units… How are we going to transition to an energy future that allows our environment to thrive, our businesses to grow and our residents to prosper?

How is our Center involved in this transition? Massachusetts is a leader in energy sustainability and UMass has a unique niche in this transformative industry. A longtime leader in energy research, 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. This program serves Massachusetts cities and towns, commercial and industrial businesses, developers, institutions, housing owners and new businesses entering the clean energy sector. The Center sponsors other energy research related to biofuels and anaerobic digesters on farms. Many opportunities, real needs, and promising technologies for everyone in Massachusetts everywhere. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!


Environmental Conservation

Environmental Conservation

Nurturing the Natural Resources that Are Our Common Wealth.

What makes the natural world unique in Massachusetts? For one thing, a whole lot of forest very near a whole lot of people: we are the nation’s sixth most forested state and also the third most densely populated. A rich variety of environments, from 1,500 miles of coastline to a broad river valley with some of the world’s best agricultural soils. Rich in waterways and animal populations—some that have returned from the brink of disappearance—and diverse plant life.

How is our Center involved in the biodiversity of our state?  Educating residents to become stewards of the natural resources in their own communities…  opportunities for citizen scientists to gather information and contribute to understanding wildlife populations. Supporting research to create the new knowledge and tools that will enable biodiversity to be protected. Collaborating with agencies and non-profits to tackle big challenges. Providing technology-powered tools for local decision-makers to understand the impacts of the options before them. Making sure Massachusetts remains vitally alive for future generations. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!


Food Science

Food Science

Knowledge of the Science of Food is All About Power.

Can science enhance the power of what we eat? The power of food is much more than merely full bellies. 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 (about one in ten workers in Massachusetts, in fact). Food has the power to sustain agriculture and keep our environment open and healthy. Food is a great common factor in all of our lives.

How is our Center involved in advancing the science of food? Our Mass. Agricultural Experiment Station partners with our University’s Department of Food Science, one of the acknowledged giants in the global discipline, to advance knowledge and discovery in areas of functional foods, food safety, and foods for health and wellness. The Center helps support applied research and the application of research to stimulate entrepreneurship and new product development. We help our farms and food businesses follow safe, sound procedures so that we all thrive. The world of what we eat is moving ahead and we’re here to help. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!


Nutrition in schools


Moving from Hunger to Health Through Knowledge and Skills

Do you know know that in Massachusetts, 701,630 people are struggling with hunger—and 187,290 of them are children?* Hunger affects people in every area of the Commonwealth. Hunger and food insecurity (being hungry or at risk of hunger) is complex and linked to major health problems: diabetes and obesity. For the hungry and food insecure, likely choices are often less expensive foods. Foods with higher calories and fewer nutrients, and an eating pattern that impacts and undermines good health.

Our Center is helping to alleviate the impacts of food insecurity. UMass Extension’s Nutrition Education Program (NEP) works with local organizations and agencies to make a difference by creating programs that not only provide information about healthy food choices but that also develop how-to skills. Skills in stretching food resources, making healthier choices, and being more active. Evaluations show that these new skills translate into changed behaviors: eating more fruits and vegetables and increasing levels of physical activity. Both of which have profound effects in minimizing the impacts of hunger and food insecurity… and leading to better health. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!





Keeping Our Water Resources in Great Shape.

Where is the water in Massachusetts? It’s in lakes, rivers, and streams. Ponds and oceans. Wells. Reservoirs, tanks, and sewers… Water is all around us, and in many forms. We drink it, bathe in it, irrigate our 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 (here on the humid northeast coast of the continent) often take it for granted. 

What is the role of our Center in water resources? Work with municipal water resource authorities to help them with research and technical information on their work.  Help farmers, nursery operators, greenhouse growers and turf managers conserve use of water and make sure runoff and waste water is handled appropriately. Develop techniques for highway departments and others to allow wildlife to pass through the thousands of culverts in the state. Develop protocols and educate local officials on preparing for floods and other extreme weather events. Make sure the future includes safe, plentiful, and well-managed water supplies for everyone in Massachusetts. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!


Youth Development and 4-H

Youth Development & 4-H

Resilient and Involved Young People Are the Future of Massachusetts!

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.

How does our Center support youth? Through UMass Extension's 4-H Youth Development Program, young people learn skills for life and for work through ongoing 4-H clubs in their communities as well as short-term programs. 4-H has a full schedule of events throughout the year including summer fairs, fall community service activities, winter workshops and awards programs and spring public speaking contests. Through the Massachusetts Envirothon, teams of high school students explore a common environmental topic for a school year and then, in the springtime, come together in a good-natured competition to make presentations and hear the responses from judges drawn from environmental fields. In both programs there are opportunities for many people in Massachusetts to become involved. Join us, and in the words of an early Massachusetts educator, be ambitious!

Other Resources

National 4-H Council
National 4-H Council is a partner with 4-H at all levels. Stop by here to shop the 4-H Mall, research about 4-H Alumni or find out more about 4-H.

National 4-H Headquarters 
Official guidelines for the name and use of the 4-H emblem and other 4-H programatic

The Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network contains a wealth of information for youth, parents and others working with children, youth and families.

Envirothon (national)

Massachusetts Ag in the Classroom
Resources for teachers and other educators that teach youth about agriculture.