Food Management Digizine - Q1 2023


Mike Buzalka

The University of Nebraska Lincoln recently installed a micro-farm in one of its dining halls to provide ultra-fresh herbs and microgreens to dishes served in the venue.

FM: What crops are you growing and why were they chosen? Jewell: “We are currently growing Thai Basil, Mint, Pea Shoot microgreens, a lettuce “crunch mix” that consists of Romaine, Green Butterhead, and Iceberg lettuces, and another lettuce called Lolla Rosa. We chose these items for two primary reasons. First, they are all things we can utilize in more than one of our venues in the dining hall. We have one venue that is exclusively gluten-free that offers our customers the option of building their own salad, as well as pizzas and noodle bowls which allow us to utilize everything we are growing. In addition, our Grains and Greens grab and go salads offer another opportunity to use what we’re growing. The second reason we chose these items was for presentation in the micro-farm itself. The diversity of the items grown provide an attractive visual for our customers to see as they eat in our dining hall.” FM: What are the main benefits of the dining hall micro-farm program to student customers, the campus dining program and the university? Jewell: “We feel the primary benefits are the quality and freshness of the ingredients we can offer, the ability to demonstrate our commitment to local and sustainable produce, which we believe is an increasingly important part of responsible environmental stewardship.”

Being sustainable and procuring more ingredients from local sources have been growing trends in most onsite dining markets and one offshoot has been the deployment of cutting edge hydroponic growing techniques to bring crop production literally to the dining venue in the form of micro-farm units. One debuted last September in the Selleck Dining Hall on the campus of the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL).

Here is a local news story with a video report of the micro-farm.

FM recently caught up with Selleck Dining Hall Assistant Manager Matt Jewell to ask three questions about the micro-farm project… FM: Where did the idea come from and what did it take to make it happen? Jewell: “The idea had been floating around for a while. As we’ve developed our restaurant concepts over the past few years, we have been trying to concentrate on three main criteria: Fresh, Local and Sustainable. With the renovations at Selleck this past year the time was right to implement those ideas into our services there. As we were developing our “Grains and Greens” restaurant we often talked about buying from local vendors. One of the issues we faced was the size of our operations. Most local vendors were small scale operations, and the University uses a lot of whatever it is we buy. We are an agricultural campus and that got us thinking about producing our own hyper-local greens somewhere on campus. While we work on that, we also wanted to demonstrate to our students our commitment to local/sustainable foods. Growing greens in the same place you served them seemed like an ideal way to do that. So we are in the early stages of developing our overall concept but as very happy with the success so far of our Micro-Farm at Selleck Dining.”

Hydroponic growing for hyper-local greens


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