UMass Amherst Establishes an Agricultural Learning Center

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst announced today [Monday] it is establishing an “Agricultural Learning Center” on the north side of its campus to give hands-on farming experience to students.

The new center will be established on a farm owned by the university just north of the main campus in Amherst. The school intends the program to be a living classroom 200 students and twenty faculty. Stephen Herbert is director of the UMass Center for Agriculture. He says the Agricultural Learning Center brings the University back to its roots as a land-grant college. He says UMass will move a horse barn and farm house built on campus in the 1890’s to the new farm to be used as classroom space. Herbert says unlike the five off-campus research farms the university operates throughout Western Massachusetts, the new farm will be open to the entire community.

“I want it to be a destination on campus that people will be proud to go [to]. We want it to be open to the community, we won’t have gates on it locking people out, we’re going to have these access roads.”

The Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation has pledged $500,000 to establish the program and move the barn and farmhouse to the property. Herbert says the University hopes to raise $5 million to make the program fully operational by 2014.

A similar program has been in existence at neighboring Hampshire College, a member of the Five College Consortium, since the late 1970’s. But Herbert says the new UMass program will be in cooperation, not competition, with the other four colleges.