At a Glance

Year: '07, '09
Major(s): Psychology

Psychology BA

As a psychology major, you will develop the skills and knowledge to understand human behavior and cognition, contribute solutions to human problems and respond to a changing world.

Surrounded by row upon row of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula and more on her half-acre backyard farm in Dracut, Massachusetts, Emily Makrez ‘07, ’09 can barely get through a sentence when talking about her past career as a sales operations manager.

“I was doing soul-crushing work for an identity security company, managing a sales team – There’s a bird chasing a bird! – doing project management stuff,” she says while giving a tour of her thriving plot of land, which she started in 2019 and cheekily named “F-Word Farm” because of her love for farming, fermenting and foraging.

Makrez was working on a master’s degree in community social psychology at UMass Lowell when she read an article about factory farming.

“That’s when I really started to consider the impact that big agriculture makes on the environment,” says the Lowell native, who went on to earn a second master’s degree in dietetics and clinical nutritional services from Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington.

There, she took a class on organic gardening and learned about sheet mulching – a way to develop healthy soil (and kill weeds) by laying wet cardboard on the ground and letting it decompose beneath compost and wood chips. She started reading all that she could about organic farming.

“I started this farm because it was my way of doing what I could. Maybe I can’t affect the big factory farms, but I can take care of the soil that I’m currently on,” she says. “The more that people do for themselves on the local level, the better off we all are.”

Besides supplying fresh produce to a local restaurant, Makrez sells craft vinegars at farmer’s markets. She also helped start a community kitchen at a nearby church, where she uses koji – “the Edward Scissorhands of food molds” – to make a fermented Asian marinade, shio koji, that is gaining popularity in the U.S.

Makrez teaches classes on fermentation and constantly shares tips about things such as mushroom foraging on Instagram. She was also invited by the Office of Sustainability to teach students how to make vinegar from fruit scraps.

“It’s cool to see young people who are so interested in sustainability. They’re the future of this planet, and we obviously need that,” says Makrez, who is thinking of “moving more toward education and recipe consultation.” 

“Being in nature is my happy place,” she says as she pulls a handful of wine cap mushrooms from the soil. “I love being outside and caring for nature – and really making that a career.”