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

Pete and Tobin

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. 

Julia, Maida, and Kaylee 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
Maida B. Ives

Maida B. Ives

Manager of Farm Education and Operations

I love sunshine, teamwork, food, and physical labor. I have been living and studying the intersection of food and education for years. After years teaching middle school math, I volunteered on farms while traveling, and learned vegetable production in Northern Virginia. While living there, I searched for farms that work with students to grow food. I moved here to work at Book & Plow Farm and love serving as the manager.

Kaylee M. Brow

Assistant Farm Manager

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.

Julia F. Herion-Cruz

Before graduating from Amherst and becoming staff, I found my love for farming at Book & Plow as a summer intern. As a student the farm was a source of community, a place to get away from the stress of academics, and a catalyst of learning and exploration. For that reason, I’m happy to work here now and create programming/initiatives that help introduce students to a space so important and positive for me during my Amherst days. I love talking about astrology, rodents, current events, and what it means to be emotionally vulnerable.