The former University of Massachusetts Amherst campus horse barn, now part of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture’s Agricultural Learning Center, was officially unveiled to the public with a ribbon cutting and opening celebration September 25th. Stockbridge School Director Wes Autio acted as emcee of the event, recapping the barn’s history and introducing speakers including Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, UMass Trustee Mary L. Burns, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation President Mark Amato, Agricultural Learning Center and Student Farm Director Amanda Brown, and current student Morgan Reppert.
Built in 1894 and unused for years, the Queen Anne style horse barn was carefully dismantled, moved to its new foundation, and reconstructed with additional materials to provide a central facility enabling Agricultural Learning Center activities. To retain the original exterior appearance, windows and doors were replicated to original measurements, and details such as eyebrow windows were recreated. The project was made possible thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Richard Bonanno and the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation. Autio also recognized the efforts of the UMass Amherst Design and Construction management team and Preserve UMass for their roles in bringing the project to fruition.
Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy recognized these contributions in his remarks at the event, noting that, “Through their efforts, this new facility offers the university expanded opportunities to build on our historic strength in agriculture. In the same tradition of Levi Stockbridge, whose research pioneered ways for improving crop production, our faculty and students are advancing agriculture science through learning, research and engagement.”
In its new life as Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation Hall, the barn supports student agricultural activities and houses industry-standard equipment for washing and packing the approximately 75,000 pounds of vegetables produced by student farmers each year. Director Amanda Brown says, “The barn has given us a home.”
The Agricultural Learning Center as a whole provides a hands-on, living classroom for students to learn about farming and the horticultural, nursery and landscape industries. Created in 2013 on 75 acres of land immediately north of campus on the former site of the Dakin and Wysocki family farms, the center quickly grew to host initiatives from agronomic field crop sites, an organic vineyard, carbon farming experiments, fruit crops, an apiary and pollinator gardens, and the Utility Arboretum, to the UMass Student Farm Enterprise.
To the assembled crowd, College of Natural Sciences Dean Tricia Serio said, “We are so pleased to add this facility as an essential component in our ability to serve Massachusetts agriculture and to fulfill the College of Natural Sciences’ mission. Having one of the oldest buildings on campus reborn and reinhabited by the next generation of farmers provides a visible reminder of our continued commitment our land-grant foundation and our long history of successful agricultural partnership with those beyond the borders of our campus. Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation Hall now becomes part of our ecosystem of innovation and discovery, furthering our ability to implement revolutionary scientific solutions to the grand challenges facing our society.”
Remarks were followed by a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony and a reception within the barn, where students were on hand to show attendees some of the barn’s new functions and talk about their experiences with the Agricultural Learning Center.
Agricultural Learning Center