While “farm-to-table” is a dining movement that is rapidly spreading, Worcester State University is the first campus in New England to practice “freightfarm to table” – where the “farm” is an acre’s worth of produce grown in a 40-foot shipping container placed 100 feet from the dining hall.
On a footprint that measures less than 400 square feet, Worcester State’s dining partner, Chartwells, expects to harvest between 500 and 630 heads of lettuce a week in a Freight Farms product, the Leafy Green Machine (LGM). The LGM was installed on Worcester State’s campus on Monday, November 16, and is expected to be ready for planting this week. The first harvest will take place in January 2016. The goal is to provide fresh greens, grown from organic seeds, to Worcester State’s approximately 6,000 faculty, staff, and students who use the Pulse On Dining room in Sheehan Hall.
The greens are grown in soilless peat moss, in 256 stackable towers inside the container. The resulting harvest will provide the freshest of fresh lettuce, and will help reduce Worcester State’s environmental footprint, as well.
“The lettuce will taste good because the seeds are selected based on taste of the lettuce rather than on hardiness for shipping,” says Steven Bandera, Worcester State University’s Sustainability Coordinator. “No fossil fuels are used to transport this lettuce.”
Leasing a Leafy Green Machine was an idea raised by a Chartwells colleague of WSU Dining Director Richard Perna’s. After seeing the Leafy Green Machine in operation in Boston, Perna could not move fast enough to sign an agreement with the company, Freight Farms. (Watch their promotional video here.)
“A greenhouse has been on our wish list,” says Perna.“This is so far beyond just having a greenhouse. It’s an acre’s worth of farming inside a shipping container. It’s farm-to-table on steroids; it is 100 feet from the ‘farm’ to our tables in Sheehan’s POD dining hall.”
As the first higher education institution in New England to install the LGM, Worcester State University is continuing its commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency. The university was recognized recently by Massachusetts Governor Baker’s administration, which gave WSU a “Leading by Example” award for implementing numerous sustainable measures, such as solar panels, introducing Zipcar to campus, and providing a bikeshare program.
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