UMass basketball: Minutemen tour Hadley’s Mapleline Farm as part of community service, outreach

The UMass men’s basketball team spent their Monday at Mapleline Farm in Hadley as part of their community service tour through Western Massachusetts.

The UMass men’s basketball team spent their Monday at Mapleline Farm in Hadley as part of their community service tour through Western Massachusetts. PHOTO BY SAM ALLARD/UMASS ATHLETICS

UMass guard Rahsool Diggins feeds an animal during the Minutemen’s community service trip through Mapleline Farm in Hadley on Monday.

UMass guard Rahsool Diggins feeds an animal during the Minutemen’s community service trip through Mapleline Farm in Hadley on Monday. PHOTO BY SAM ALLARD/UMASS ATHLETICS

Incoming UMass freshman Nate Guerengomba takes part in the team’s community service appearance at Mapleline Farm in Hadley on Monday.

Incoming UMass freshman Nate Guerengomba takes part in the team’s community service appearance at Mapleline Farm in Hadley on Monday. PHOTO BY SAM ALLARD/UMASS ATHLETICS

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 06-24-2024 8:40 PM

Modified: 06-24-2024 9:03 PM


HADLEY – Jessica Dizek pulled out a four-pint bottle of milk and posed a question to the barn: any takers?

The UMass men’s basketball team was on a tour of Mapleline Farm, where Dizek is a co-owner, and they had reached the barn full of Mapleline’s new calves. One was just born on Saturday, and it was feeding time.

At first, the Minutemen were hesitant. Only one member of the team had ever been to a farm before.

But after a few seconds of friendly peer pressure, new transfer Daniel Rivera stepped up. He fed the calf for about 30 seconds, and soon, UMass players were hopping in line to take his spot. Marqui Worthy stepped in for a shift, then Rollie Castineyra, then Rahsool Diggins, Jayden Ndjigue and Akil Watson. Ndjigue stepped in for a second shift, and in the span of just five minutes, the bottle was finished.

“I like the baby cows more,” Jaylen Curry said. “They’re just more smooth… and they don’t stink as bad.”

As part of two weeks of practice and community service, UMass took a tour of Mapleline Farm, fed cows hay and milk and learned about the dairy farm’s operations. Dizek led the tour and talked to the players about the differences between Mapleline’s jersey cows and other dairy cows (jersey milk is higher in butter fat and easier to digest), the pasteurization and bottling process and the technology the farm uses to keep track of its cows.

“It was fun. Very smelly. Very different,” Diggins said. “It was a good experience though, it’s nice to know where the milk we drink comes from.”

Mapleline Farm’s milk is stocked in UMass dining halls and Diggins said the men’s basketball team had it stocked for a time in the team facility two years ago. Though the women’s basketball team had visited before – and Destiney Philoxy had a cow named after her – the men’s basketball team had never taken the trip to the farm, which is just four miles from the Mullins Center.

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“It’s always good for people to see where their food comes from,” Dizek said. “When you’re in a small school environment and you’re going to the dining hall and going up to that dispenser, now they can put two and two together. It doesn’t come from a refrigerator.”

Curry was uncertain whether he’d eat hamburgers again after seeing the process up close. The Charlotte, N.C. native had never been to a farm before.

“Back at home we don’t really got farms like that unless you go to South Carolina,” Curry said. “Just to see the process of it though and how they make it every day was great.”

The players got to tour a few different barns, and also received an up-close look at where the cows get milked. When the cows mooed, the players mooed back.

“He heard it,” Diggins said. “He talked back to me.”

The trip to Mapleline Farm was one in a long string of events set up to help the team’s seven returners, four new transfers and four new freshmen bond. Head coach Frank Martin called the two weeks of practice and community service a “boot camp.” The players will head back home on Friday before reporting back to campus for the rest of the summer the week after July 4.

Last Tuesday, the Minutemen traveled to Brightwood Elementary in Springfield and on Thursday they went to the Holyoke Summer League. On Saturday, the team ran a car wash at Hopkins Academy to help raise money for a new playground at Hadley Elementary School and on Sunday, they ran a clinic at Hooplandia, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and festival hosted by the Basketball Hall of Fame and The Big E.

They’ve got more plans for the rest of the week, including a clinic in Holyoke on Tuesday and a trip to Boston later in the week, where they’ll catch a Red Sox game.

Mapleline Farm often gets visitors from UMass’ pre-veterinary and sustainable food and farming programs, but Dizek said it’s key for students in all majors to know where their food comes from.

“If you’re not in one of those majors, you sometimes don’t even know what’s around campus,” Dizek said. “So it was a cool experience for us, but even better for them.”