On Campus Food Production
UM Dining operates two produce gardens on campus. The gardens provide thousands of pounds of fresh organic produce to our dining operations and function as learning laboratories for students and visitors. Both gardens are working models of sustainable food production systems, incorporating a variety of growing techniques and practices to promote high quality produce and long-term soil health. Interested in learning more about the gardens or how you can get involved? Want to take a garden workshop or looking for volunteer opportunities? Please contact our garden manager. UM Dining offers volunteer, internship, and paid positions and we love to share our gardens with campus and community members.
The Lommasson Garden, located on the southeast side of the Lommasson Center, consists of several distinct areas that highlight different types of crop production techniques: 1) An ADA accessible area of raised beds used for a rotating variety of vegetable crops, 2) a large area of row crops, perennial plants, and sprawling plants, and 3) a permaculture area used for native plants such as serviceberry, currants, woods strawberries, red raspberries, American plums, and other native flowering plants used to attract beneficial pollinators. Over 60 varieties of plants are grown in the garden.
In 2012, in partnership with the UM Foundation Senior Challenge, a passive-solar greenhouse was constructed beside the garden. With the help of the graduating class of 2012, the greenhouse was built using green building techniques that include earthbag construction, super insulation, passive-solar design, and an integrated vermicomposting system. The greenhouse allows us to start our own plants in the spring as well as grow cold-hardy greens early in the spring and late into the fall.
The South Avenue Garden is the newest growing space on campus and is over three times the size of the Lommasson Garden. This new garden allows us to grow even more fresh produce for our dining operations, while expanding opportunities for students to learn about larger scale crop production. It also allows us to experiment with a variety of growing techniques such as Hügelkultur and dry farming. Stop by and see all the exciting things happening at our newest garden space. The garden is located on South Avenue by The Iron Griz Bistro and the University Golf Course.
Built by UM alumni Jeff Pernell and his company Galactic Farms, UM Dining’s aquaponic system is an integrated sustainable food production system that combines traditional aquaculture (raising fish and other aquatic animals) with hydroponics (growing plants in water). Fish are raised in tanks where they produce waste in the form of ammonia. This ammonia is perfect for feeding plants, but isn't yet in a form that is useful for plants. Microbes inoculated into the water tank convert the fish ammonia into nitrogen that is then taken in by the plants.
The system boasts 100 square feet of growing space with vertical grow towers that hang from the top racks and support a variety of leafy greens. Water in the 180 gallon tank is cycled through the filters, up to the racks, and sprinkled down into the grow towers where the plants are rooted. The water then moves back into the fish tank. While the process is water-based, it only uses 10 percent of the water required for traditional agriculture. The system also uses full-spectrum LED lights, which require less energy than one traditional grow light.
In addition to our campus gardens, UM Dining grows microgreens year round outside of our Food Zoo dining center. The microgreens are used on our salad bars and in catered events.