A Campus Farm-to-Table Movement: The Origins and History of the Book & Plow Farm

A pair of hands washing a yellow vegetable in running water

Book & Plow was officially established in 2013 through the collective efforts of a dedicated committee of students, professors, alums, and staff that wanted to see an on-campus farm that could both supply some of Dining Services' vegetable needs with local produce and foster educational and research programs that involved the entire College. 

A request for proposals from farmers wishing to lease a plot of campus land was sent out, and from roughly a dozen submissions, Tobin Porter-Brown and Pete Mclean (depicted left to right in the image directly right) were selected to spearhead this initiative. In 2017, Amherst College officialy took on ownership of the farm and hired Maida Ives and Kaylee Brow as managers (second and third from the left in image below; the individual farthest left is Farm Fellow Julia Herion-Cruz). Book & Plow is part of the Campus Operations Dining Program. 

Book & Plow Farm has been supplying Valentine dining hall with fresh produce, including carrots, onions, summer squash, kale, mustard greens, tomatoes, bok choi and more. Fostering a thriving community on and off the farm, Book & Plow’s ethos is rooted in community, sustainability and responsibility.

At our a student centered-farm, we prioritize student well-being, educational experiences, and community building. Farming requires creative problem-solving, resource management, real time adaptation to climate change, determination, and teamwork. It is also fun and empowering to grow high-quality vegetables. We are proud to offer students space to build connections with academic endeavors, to be celebrated as individuals, and to make a meaningful contribution to the health of our Amherst Community.

Learn more about Book & Plow Farm in our inaugural 2013 news story, “Campus Farm Takes Root.”

Sustainability in Production

Book & Plow believes strongly in long-term sustainability of the land and farm. What this means is B&P has been cover cropping, applying compost, and developing ways to increase soil health and the surrounding ecology. We follow integrated pest management and use organic growing practices.

A tractor underneath a greenhouse structure on the Book and Plow Farm
Spring preparation on the Book & Plow Farm

Kaylee M. Brow

Interim Manager of Farm Operations

Farm Greenhouse and Service Building

I discovered agriculture during my freshman year at UMass Amherst and was quickly drawn to the hard work and being outside. I studied Sustainable Food and Farming at UMass and spent two seasons as a crew leader for Many Hands Farm Corps. As a crew leader I discovered how much I like working with intern crews and the problem solving element of farming. Most people would describe me as crochet-obsessed and I love talking about yarn, sheep, and the history of fiber.