Wanted: Pre-Proposals – Amherst College and Book & Plow Farm

Amherst College seeks pre-proposals for consultants available to help develop a shared vision between Amherst College and Book & Plow Farm for the future sustainability and growth of the Book & Plow enterprise, for optimizing use of locally sourced food at Valentine Dining Hall, and for increasing student awareness of and engagement in local food systems.


In 2012, Amherst College solicited proposals from farmers willing to try a new institutional farm model: a production farm that provides quality produce for the dining hall as well as educational programs and community engagement, but that runs independent from the school and therefore has flexibility to grow its markets outside of the campus.  Book & Plow farm was chosen, and ground was broken in 2013. The last two growing seasons have demonstrated that this model can be very beneficial to both parties, particularly through its engagement with the student community. Lessons learned over the last two seasons also indicate that for Book & Plow to succeed as a for-profit, independent entity, it needs to become financially sustainable. This requires smart farm management, prudent infrastructure enhancements, access to growing and untapped markets, and clear investment, engagement, and incentives for growth from Amherst College. Amherst College also needs to determine its goals for incorporating local and sustainable food into the dining system, and what investments or systems changes may be needed to meet these goals. The time is right to act upon these lessons and to re-engage the stakeholders of this partnership to craft a sustainable growth plan, one that can be shared and used as a template for widespread farm-to-institute success.

Thanks to the generous support of the Henry P. Kendall Foundation to test the ability of this model to be successful and scalable, we are embarking on a shared visioning and plan development process.  We are searching for consultants that can help develop and implement and successful process that engages all relevant stakeholders and experts, builds upon our successes, and addresses our current limitations with creative and innovative solutions.  The process outcomes should include the following key elements:

  • Expanding, updating, and enhancing the current Book & Plow business plan and contract with Amherst College based on the last two seasons of experience, to more fully reflect the financial sustainability goal of Book & Plow and the financial, educational, and dining services goals of Amherst College.
  • Creating short-, medium-, and long-term implementation plans for addressing the capital, and infrastructure needs for Book & Plow (e.g., barn structures) and Amherst College (e.g., dining hall enhancements), engaging with outside experts as needed.
  • Developing a sustainable funding strategy for Amherst College to support the activities of Book & Plow, including student labor, educational compensation to the farmers, infrastructure, and dining procurement.
  • Identifying a solid and financially viable market for Book & Plow products, both within and outside of Amherst College.
  • Creating a template based on the Book & Plow model that can be used by other educational institutions as a road map for success, broadening the impact beyond Book & Plow and Amherst College to support the regional goal of local food resiliency.

Pre-Proposal Details

At this time we are requesting pre-proposal of no more than 3 pages in length including the following information:

  • Brief description of who you are and why you are interested in this project
  • Brief explanation on how you might approach this project, given the background provided above
  • Short description of experience working on this type of stakeholder engagement, facilitation, and plan development process for other small businesses or colleges (farm experience is helpful, but not a requirement)
  • Estimate of time and resources required to accomplish this

We are requesting these pre-proposal be submitted electronically to Laura Draucker ( and Tobin Porter-Brown ( by July 24th, 2015.

Proposed Timeline

July 27 – July 31st  – Review pre-proposals

August 1- August 15th –Invite selected candidates to provide full proposals (short interviews may be requested prior to selection)

September: Interviews and final selection process

October: Project kickoff

Winter 2016: Finalize process and plan

Spring 2016:Implement plan

Find It Locally

Search CISA’s online guide to local farms, food, and more!

Find Local Food