Posted December 15, 2014
Ultra Local-Grown on Campus
There are many opportunities to integrate academic teaching and learning with food production and procurement on campuses. One example is the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems major at the University of New Hampshire. Within this recently created major is a course called Food Production Field Experience. Students plan, grow, market and deliver food crops as well as manage the finances. The food is grown on campus agricultural land in two high tunnels and The Dairy Bar, a year-round restaurant operated by Dining Services, is the primary customer for the crops.
Name: University of New Hampshire
Foodservice Type: self-operated
Location: Durham, NH
Daily Meals Served at the Dairy Bar: 300 to 350 meals
Initial Capital Investment: $85,000 for high tunnels, tractor
Annual Operating Budget: $40,000 annually to support expenses including utilities
Annual Utility Cost for 2012-2013: $4681.40 (water, electric, propane)
COURSE STRUCTURE & HISTORY
The Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) received a small grant to develop the curriculum for the Food Production Field Experience course. The two-semester, eight-credit, 600 level course was first offered in the fall of 2012. In the summer of 2012 the high tunnels went up and the first crops were delivered to the Dairy Bar by early November.
Growing food on campus for Dining Services went from idea to implementation in approximately a year and a half. During this time, multiple campus groups and individuals had meetings to discuss the idea and the plan for moving forward, and ultimately high tunnels and other equipment were purchased and installed on campus agricultural land. One of the larger obstacles to overcome was connecting an academic course and program to a non-research based project. Prior to the development of this project, products grown at UNH were always part of faculty research projects and the Agriculture Experiment Stations. The installation of the greenhouses that were tied to a course offered a different avenue for food production, learning, and food service at UNH.
Dining Services at UNH supplied the initial funding in order to purchase the high tunnels and a propane system to keep one of them heated and in production through the winter. The College of Life Sciences and Agriculture (COLSA) had to create this new academic program with a focus on production and retail sales of the crops, rather than offering experimental research opportunities for students.
In exchange for the investment made by Dining Services for the high tunnels and their ongoing operation, they receive the produce that is grown at no cost. The crops that are grown are determined by both the needs of the Dairy Bar and of the academic program. Consistency and quality of the products is important for retail sales. Staple crops include lettuce, onions, spinach, kale, beets and carrots. Other crops were also grown like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Excess produce that is not used by the Dairy Bar may end up in other dining halls or for catering.
The high tunnels are under production 12 months of the year. One of the high tunnels is minimally heated and produces salad mix and head lettuce all winter long. Other cold hardy crops like carrots and beets are planted in the fall and protected with row covers when necessary. These crops are also harvested all winter long. The high tunnels are 96 feet x 30 feet. One is heated by propane, the other by the sun. There is a goal of both being heated by methane from cow manure produced at Fairchild Dairy. Food scraps from the Dairy Bar and other campus dining halls are composted at UNH’s Kingman Farm and then the finished compost is used to feed the crops grown in the high tunnels.
There is room for additional production in the high tunnels and the adjacent field. Therefore, there are plans to expand the ultra-local crops to other dining outlets on campus in the future.
The upfront costs were a large expense and had to be well planned for. A number of departments participated to make this happen including COLSA, Dining Services, Kingman Farm, the Sustainability Institute, and Fairchild Dairy (where the high tunnels are located).