Appalachian State University’s Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development and Food Services are continuing their campus farm-to-dining hall partnership with plans to increase the growing capacity of the department’s Teaching and Research Farm, located at the Blackburn–Vannoy property in Ashe County.

The partnership is an integral part of the university’s shared commitment to expanding access to local food from High Country producers, with an aim to increase the amount of hyperlocal product sold to students, faculty and staff in campus dining halls and markets. In the 2017–18 academic year, Food Services purchased 26.86 percent — a monetary equivalent of nearly $1 million — of its food from local sources.

Farm Director Chip Hope said, through the project, the farm will provide Food Services with vegetables, fruits, culinary herbs and edible flowers in addition to the meat the farm currently supplies. The farm supplied 1,325 pounds of sausage to Food Services in 2018 and has supplied 876 pounds of beef thus far in the spring 2019 semester, he said.

Dr. Richard Rheingans, chair of the Department of Sustainable Development, said he is excited for the opportunities the partnership provides for students.

“We want to reach the students where they are. We know they want to be involved in helping to make Appalachian a more sustainable campus, and one way we can do that is offer accessible local food options,” he said.

The partnership, which began in January 2018, now includes an investment from Food Services to build a high-efficiency greenhouse, repair the farm’s existing high tunnel, which is used to extend the growing season, and construct a new poultry house.

Appalachian’s Renewable Energy Initiative, a student-led and student-funded organization that installs renewable energy and energy-efficient projects on campus, has also committed funding toward the project.

“The new greenhouse will be solely devoted to growing items for campus,” Hope said. “Currently, we are working with chefs in Food Services to select the produce we will grow during the coming season and are making plans for how we can take what we’ve learned this year and apply it to our increased capacity once the structure is built.”

As the partnership progresses, Pam Cline, director of Food Services, will work closely with Hope to ensure he’s growing and providing products that best fit student dining needs.

“This collaboration highlights the hard work that both areas of campus do to fulfill the university’s sustainability mission,” she said. “We acknowledge the importance of being responsible stewards of our resources, and we want to prioritize what is important to our campus by continuing to develop this partnership.”

Article written by Meghan McCandless, courtesy of Appalachian State University

Photo by Chase Reynolds