Lettuce rejoice! The crop is in
It happened this morning, a first: Two Whitman College students with a delivery to make walked across campus carrying their first-ever crop of salad greens — sunflower micro-greens grown on the roof of the Hall of Science. Enough to supply Prentiss Hall’s dining hall for a couple of days, with more to come.
It was the day Natalie Jamerson ’13 had been waiting for since last fall.
Jamerson said she was “so thrilled to see our beautiful greens in the Bon Appétit kitchen.”
And so is the chef of Bon Appétit, which provides food service at the college.
“Fantastic,” said Christian G. Chemin, executive chef – maître cuisinier de France, about the flavor of the organic greens and about the students’ achievement.
Their goal, their achievement: increasing the amount of local produce in the dining halls.
Nat Clarke ’11 spearheaded an effort in 2009 to establish a model farm on the Hall of Science’s rooftop greenhouse. He said in a past interview the goal was to increase the amount of local produce from the current 8 percent to 20 percent.
Jamerson and Zoe Pehrson ’13, the other salad-greens deliverer, and others in the emerging Student Agriculture at Whitman (SAW) were able to set out on that course this spring after getting a $600 loan from the Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF). The fund, proposed in 2007 by Ari van Schilfgaarde ’07, is a $50,000 line of credit the college allocates for any project that “significantly benefits Whitman’s sustainability efforts by conserving resources and improving efficiency.” This is the first year that projects have been funded.
“We started growing sunflower, mustard, and alfalfa micro-greens on the ninth of February, so watching them making rapid growth each day was so exciting,” Jamerson said.
“Starting off my day with watering the greens at seven in the morning is one of the best feelings.”
Chemin and his wife, Annie Chemin, experienced organic farmers, helped advise the students when they had questions about soil preparation and other aspects. Chemin expressed admiration for these students' and this generation's "very important" efforts to return to organic, natural methods of producing food. The students, who are maintaining the greenhouse as part of an environmental studies internship, grow the seedlings until the plants are between 2 to 4 inches high. And then alive and still growing, the plants are delivered in their 2-foot-long trays where kitchen staff can snip them fresh with scissors for use as salad garnish at the salad bar and in sandwiches, wraps and other dishes.
“We hope to do weekly deliveries of eight to 12 trays, split between Prentiss, Jewett, and the Café in Reid,” Jamerson said.
She said earnings from Bon Appétit, $18 per tray for the greens, will go toward paying back the loan. After that’s satisfied, profits will be set aside for expansion and development of the program.
— Virginia Grantier