May 03, 2010

Local Food Being Grown at University Farm

As part of a new initiative at the University Farm, a SAGES class that recently wrapped up was at the forefront of growing local food.

Harvested produce is now available in all Bon Appetit cafes at Case Western Reserve University.

Discussions on a farming partnership between Case Western Reserve and Bon Appetit began last fall. Members of the SAGES class made recommendations to the University Farm committee in late April.

Ana Locci, University Farm director, said the goal of the farming initiative is to provide new educational opportunities to faculty and students; to study local food production in a sustainable way using mostly organic methods; and to deliver fresh food and herbs to the campus, and eventually the area surrounding the University Farm.

The Future of Food class was taught by Mary K. Holmes, a SAGES Fellow. "I have been involved with the local food movement since 1995 when I helped start the North Union Farmers Market," said Holmes, who is especially concerned about industrial food production and land use issues. She said more students have begun expressing a desire to grow local food as a way of maintaining a sustainable lifestyle.

The students researched examples from other universities, conducted a campus survey and explored local and organic farming options. "Our presentation addressed the rationale of why it was important to restore farming. We looked at how to promote produce and get the campus community involved," said Laura Gabster, one of the students.

Some of the recommendations from the class included holding farmers markets in the summer, investing in new technology and making sure students have a role in the farming. "Students are an integral part of making farming a success," Gabster added.

Chris Bond, University Farm horticulturist, worked on the design of the pilot project to start food production in February. University Farm administration submitted a proposal to Bon Appetit that resulted in a $2,000 gift to help with the initial costs associated with implementing the program. The gift covered the acquisition of materials such as growing media, containers, appropriate fertilizers, seeds and plants. Other costs associated with the initiative were funded by the University Farm Administration, including labor costs, heating, cooling, maintenance, water and other equipment. Supplies were obtained from local vendors and establishments.

Bon Appetit staff members participated in the initial greenhouse plantings. The first harvest resulted in several varieties of greens, spinach and basil. Bon Appetit staff members used the produce to create a leafy mixed greens salad and a special pizza offering.

"Bon Appetit is looking forward to a productive growing season and a long lasting partnership with the University Farm," said Beth Kretschmar, the company's marketing manager based at Case Western Reserve.

The initiative, which is expected to yield more than 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables this year, is ongoing. University Farm staff, Case Western Reserve undergraduates and local high school students will provide spring and summer help. In addition, Bond and the University Farm administration are hosting one volunteer day per month. The first one is Saturday, May 22. Learn more.

For more information contact Kimyette Finley, 216.368.0521.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, May 3, 2010 08:37 AM | News Topics: Administration, Faculty, Students, news

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