photo of a wooded area

Land Use and Natural Systems

30% of Amherst's land is permanently protected open space.

a person sitting on a bus holding groceries

Local Healthy Food

What are Food Deserts?

Food deserts are places, usually in cities or rural areas, where it's hard to find good and healthy food. This happens because there aren't many grocery stores or markets nearby that sell fresh and nutritious food. People who live in these areas might have to rely on stores with less healthy options like fast food or snacks. This can lead to unhealthy eating and health problems. Food deserts are a big worry for public health because they can make some communities less healthy than others.

In Amherst, we have the Farmer's Market, Community Gardens, and Mobile Market to address food deserts and bring healthy, local produce to our community members. 

Local Healthy Food

Farmer's Market

Access to local, healthy food is important for a sustainable community. When the food you consume is from local farmers, travel-related emissions are reduced compared with how far groceries have to travel to the store from their point of origin. 

The Amherst Farmer's Market is one of the ways residents can find such access. Located in Downtown Amherst on the Amherst Common, visitors can shop at the market every Saturday through November. 

Visit Amherst Farmer's Market online to subscribe to the mailing list to stay updated. The Facebook page is updated weekly throughout the market season. Make sure to visit the Facebook page as well. 

photo of people shopping at the Amherst Farmer's Market
close up of a monarch butterfly in a garden

A monarch butterfly in the Amherst Fort River Farm Community Garden. 
Photo credit: Stephanie Ciccarello 08/2023

Local Healthy Food

Community Gardens

A community garden is a shared outdoor space where people from the neighborhood work together to grow plants and vegetables. Community gardens contribute to sustainability by promoting local food production, reducing the need for long-distance transportation and its associated environmental impact. 

In Amherst, we have two community garden sites

  • Amethyst Brook Conservation Area
  • Fort River Farm Conservation Area

If interested in signing up for a space at one of these two sites, make sure to visit the Community Gardens website at the link below. 

Registration for the 2024 Gardening Season will open in early February 2024

Local Healthy Food

Mobile Market

Amherst's Mobile Market is a community driven, bilingual mobile farmers market bringing affordable, organic fresh produce to Amherst's food desert neighborhoods. For many folks, getting to the supermarket is not convenient so the Mobile Market brings the food to them! 

Make sure to watch the video to learn more about Amherst's Mobile Market. And don't forget to visit the website where you can learn about the four easy ways to shop at the mobile market, including getting groceries delivered do your door!

photo of Amherst downtown area with lots of pavement and buildings

Open Space

Urban Heat Island

Urban heat islands happen when cities get much warmer than surrounding rural areas because of all the buildings and roads. The concrete and asphalt in cities trap heat, making it hotter, and this can cause problems like more energy use, discomfort, and even health issues for people living there. By planting more trees and providing more shade, we can reduce the Urban Heat Island effects. Ensuring plenty of open space is important for long term sustainability. 

Open Space

Amherst Land Cover

Thankfully in Amherst, only 8% of our total area is considered impervious.

An impervious surface is something like pavement or concrete that doesn't let water soak into the ground. Instead, rainwater runs off these surfaces, which can lead to issues like flooding because the water can't be absorbed by the soil.

photo of rolling green apartments sign in the foreground and a row of attached apartments in the background

Source: Rolling Green Apartments, 1/2024

Open Space

Community Greening

Even still, we can do more work to add more green space to Amherst. In our current plan, one of our actions is to "Collaborate with apartment complexes to develop a pilot Community Greening program." The idea is to work with residents to evaluate potential locations for pocket parks, playgrounds, community gardens, tree planting, and other forms of greening as applicable on apartment complex-owned property. We could also create policies and incentives to facilitate and encourage desired types of greening based on community input.

What You Can Do

Investing in Local, Healthy Food

There are many ways you can get access to local, healthy food in Amherst. Here are some resources to get started. 

Shop at the Amherst Farmer's Market
Sign Up for a Space at the Community Gardens
photo of the amherst history mural with a painting of emily dickinson in the forefront