The farm to table approach has just made its way to Seward County Community College. The SCCC Agriculture department has started producing the vegetables that are being used in the cafeteria.
The first set of locally grown lettuce and cucumbers were put out on Tuesday, March 12 and students are already beginning to taste the difference.
The day the fresh greens were put out a student responded with a positive note.
“The salad was great!” an anonymous student said.
The idea of the Agriculture department providing the vegetables for the cafeteria has been in the making for years, but the goal has stayed the same: “ to provide a local food source [for SCCC] with the highest quality,” Joshua Morris, SCCC agriculture instructor, said.
Morris is confident that the vegetables being grown are a quality food source that Seward will benefit from.
“These vegetables are as fresh as you can get,” Morris said.
The cafeteria and the Department of Agriculture are still adjusting to the partnership.
“Right now, since we’re still in the early stages, we’re all learning. I am learning how they produce the vegetables and they’re learning the quantities I need,” Jerry Odle, SCCC food service director, said.
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The way this partnership works is that the agriculture department provides the dining services with the fresh produce that they need, then SCCC pays the agriculture department. This allows the college to control the environment that the produce is grown in, while also allowing the agriculture students to see how they would deal with an actual client.
Odle believes that this new method will not only “provide the students with hands on experience, but it’ll also show them the business side.”
To grow this produce a greenhouse, high tunnels and a hydroponic system are used.
“Some of the vegetables are grown in the greenhouse. The greenhouse has a concrete floor, internal heat and cold forces. We also use high tunnels. A high tunnel has a soil floor and no internal heating force. We use the hydroponic system to grow our lettuce. The hydroponic system basically grows plants in a water based, rich nutrient soil,” Morris said.
As of right now, the vegetables being produced include: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.
The agriculture department has used this partnership “in hopes [that their] students gain better knowledge of food production and how to make it more sustainable for years to come,” Nick Noterman, agriculture instructor, said.