Dining Hall Officials Serve University-Grown Lettuce

Dining Hall Officials Serve University-Grown Lettuce

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 5:25 pm | Updated: 9:02 pm, Wed Oct 19, 2016.

Ethan Owen | 0 comments

Five hundred heads of lettuce per week are being grown on campus by Chartwells to be served in the dining halls.

The lettuce is grown in a Freight Farm container, a product of the Boston-based company Freight Farms, is located near the Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences building and the Northwest Quad.

The model of the farm on campus is known as the Leafy Green Machine and can grow lettuce, herbs, and other leafy items such as chard and kale, according to the Freight Farms website.

The size of the container is 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and 9.5 feet tall. It also houses a vertical hydroponic growing system, meaning the produce is grown without soil and is climate controlled, according to the Freight Farms website.

Ashley Meek, the campus dietician for Chartwells, and Merrisa Jennings, a Chartwells student intern, helped orchestrate the project to bring Freight Farms to the UofA.

The project began in May and is a part of Chartwells’ efforts to be more transparent in where the food that is served comes from, Meek said.

The farm will typically provide 500 heads of lettuce per week that are grown without the use of pesticides, Meek said.

Unlike the experimental garden on the Arkansas Union rooftop in the spring, the farm’s climate-controlled environment protects the plants from wind damage, pests and the heat of the sun, Meek said.

A lack of pests eating away at the produce creates beautiful heads of lettuce, Jennings said.

Jennings, a senior biological engineering major, was brought on as an intern to help address the sustainability side of the project and said that the farm helps campus look more sustainable.

The farm uses 10 gallons of water and 80 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day, according to the Freight Farm website.

They want to see more student involvement with the Freight Farm and that it provides opportunities for business, marketing and communications students, Meek said.

Chartwells would like to get another Freight Farm, Meek said.

The container cost $97,000 and will be paid off in about 4.5 to five years, Meek said.

The 2016 premium Leafy Green Machine costs $85,000 plus an estimated $13,000 per year operating cost, according to the Freight Farm website.

Reception to the farm and its product has been positive amongst students and faculty, Meek said.

Meek said that she gets asked for tours of the farm at least five times a week, but because the farm is a controlled environment, those who ask for tours are turned away for food safety reasons.

Brandon Conrad, a freshman who eats at Brough dining hall, said that he was not aware that lettuce served was grown on campus.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Conrad said. “I thought it was grown somewhere else.”

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