Greenhouse Grown: Supplying Year-Round Local Produce on Campus

Western New England University, Springfield College, and Elms College each share a commitment to increasing local and sustainable food purchases and have done so when local crops are in season. Their options are limited, however, during the colder New England months and have, together with their food service provider Aramark, explored a partnership with Wellspring Harvest greenhouse to expand their product selection year-round. Through the New England Food Vision Prize, this project team proposes to expand local greenhouse production to meet campus culinary needs.

Through marketing and education across partner campuses, this project will seek a continued and growing demand for regionally grown greenhouse produce at each institution. Partners will develop and deliver educational programs both on campus and in the community to present the importance of greater regional food self-sufficiency and increase interest and demand for local purchasing by the college, faculty, staff and students.

Campus chefs are already shifting menus to feature local greenhouse produce and will highlight these offerings through future promotional events. This project will aim to expand lettuce deliveries on all three campuses and identify other produce including herbs and ethnic crops for greenhouse production and delivery to each campus. Ethnic crops may include callaloo, Asian spinach, watercress and collards, and will be featured in campus international dining events to engage diverse food traditions on each campus.

Participating colleges will significantly increase their use of year-round local greenhouse produce as a result of this project through better alignment between campus food needs and local greenhouse production. Wellspring Harvest will adapt its crop offerings to meet campus food needs and will bring additional regional greenhouse produce to campus to meet campus demand. Over the next two years the greenhouse will increase its current delivery of lettuce by 150% with additional deliveries to Western New England University and new deliveries to Springfield and Elms Colleges. New herbs, cucumbers, mushrooms, and greenhouse tomato deliveries will also grow by thousands of pounds per year.

Experimenting with new crops comes with a significant cost as greenhouse real estate is removed from established crops and new protocols are developed to provide cost effective production of new crops. Prize funds will be used to offset these costs as well as support the hiring of student interns to survey students and implement targeted strategies to encourage purchase of the local greenhouse products.