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UMass Amherst Permaculture 's Profile
UMass Amherst Permaculture
Amherst, Ma, United States
Climate Zone:
Cool Temperate

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Jake Hanson Richard G. Powell
Geoff Lawton
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About UMass Amherst Permaculture

The initial idea for the permaculture garden started as a student-led initiative in a 2009 sustainable agriculture class led by UMass Professor John Gerber. The group of students approached Ken Toong, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services and Enterprises at UMass, with the idea that the garden would be a beneficial addition to the already existing sustainability efforts on campus.

The lawn adjacent to Franklin Dining Common was chosen with the intention of producing food for UMass Auxiliary Services. Toong began talks with Ryan Harb, a certified permaculture designer and UMass Alum about overseeing the project. Ryan had recently transformed his Amherst lawn into a yard-sized permaculture garden for his graduate thesis project. His “yarden” served as a model for what the Franklin Garden could be.

In the September, 2010, Harb was hired as the Auxiliary Services Sustainability Specialist and began interviewing students with the determination and inspiration to assist him with the project. Harb created the UMass Permaculture Committee which composed of 12 undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines. Together, they facilitated the design, coordination, and implementation of the Franklin DC Permaculture Garden.

The project was split into three phases:

Phase I – In October 2010, the committee, with help from student and local volunteers, embarked on the arduous mission to transform the otherwise unproductive grass lot in front of Franklin Dining Commons into a highly productive, aesthetically pleasing, educational, sustainable garden.

The committee members’ goal was ambitious; they had to move more than 250,000 pounds of organic matter – by hand, using no fossil fuels on-site – and complete the sheet mulching is less than one month’s time before the ground froze. While daunting, with help of more than 150 volunteers from the campus and local area, including Amherst Regional High School and Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization, the initial phase of the garden was completed.

Phases II and III – Phases two and three of the garden include a campus design charrette (workshop) and a community planting day. The goal of the charrette is to encourage collaboration among students, faculty, administration, and outside community members and bring together diverse perspectives to continue the transformation of the quarter-acre lot into a model campus permaculture garden. The actual planting commenced in May, 2011.


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