Housing and Dining Services will serve food grown on campus for the first time at the University Fall Picnic Wednesday.
The lettuce on the sandwiches to be served at the picnic are the first product to be grown entirely on the CSU campus by the department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
Lettuce grown entirely on campus will be served at Corbett/Parmelee dining center salad bars beginning in October.
Royce Lahman, the meal access coordinator for Housing and Dining Services, said this farm-to-table initiative has been in the works since the last spring semester, but the idea was born when he was a freshman student at CSU working with Dr. Steven Newman, a floriculture, greenhouse crops and stress physiology professor.
“Royce has a bachelor of science degree in horticulture and I was his advisor,” Newman wrote in an email to the Collegian. “This was always a dream that he had while he was a student … It has been his passion that has driven this project.”
Dr. Tony Frank’s presidential address will be the first test of the program, and Lahman said he hopes to expand the initiative to the rest of campus.
“This will be our debut of University-grown lettuce,” Lahman said. “(The initiative) is going to expand and develop to other locations and events as well.”
The gardens will be able to grow about 25 pounds of lettuce weekly, which Newman says will provide the basics for a salad bar, but is only a fraction of what the dining halls need. However, during the summer months, an outdoor student garden will be able to offer more products as the program grows.
Lahman said the new Horticulture center, which was completed in May 2015, helped make their dream a reality.
“(This allowed us) to see if we could have local and sustainable food options grown on campus,” Lahman said.
While lettuce is the first product to be entirely grown and served on campus, the initiative may expand to other products in the future.
“We are hopeful that this continues… to offer other items in select areas,” Lehman said. “We’ve been thinking about going to a soft fruit crop, like tomatoes. The farm-to-table trend is growing across the nation, and we want to bring that to campus.”
Newman wrote that lettuce was specifically chosen because horticulture students will be able to work with the crop from seed to harvest.
“Lettuce is a good crop for students to learn vegetable production in the greenhouse,” Newman wrote. “A typical (lettuce) crop takes about 50 days from sowing the seed to harvest the crop. This way a student can see a crop from start to finish during one semester.”
The initiative is also in line with the University’s commitment to sustainability, Lehman said.
“We want to be as sustainable as possible and drive our students to sustainable food,” Lehman said. “Our link to sustainable food buying options not only benefits the environment, it benefits students to see that those options are out there.”
While Newman says the program can only grow a fraction of what the dining halls need, the project will be a learning opportunity for students consuming and producing the crops.
“The bonus is that our students are the customer,” Newman wrote. “What we are teaching our students is how to grow vegetable crops efficiently and professionally. The modern consumer wants to know where their food comes from and that it is produced with sustainable practices.”
Consumers want more farm-to-table crops, but right now, most of the produce sold in the U.S. is shipped from regions with milder climates, Newman wrote. One of the goals of the project is to teach students how to grow crops closer to consumers.
“Dr. Newman and I have always had this awesome idea to provide farm-to-table food (on campus), Lahman said. “It was really a dream of both of us to connect those two worlds (of horticulture and dining) for collaboration.”
Collegian News Editor Erin Douglas can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @erinmdouglas23.