By Brooke Boznango
What first started as an idea has now become a reality for The University of Findlay: a greenhouse on campus to provide student, faculty, and staff with fresh, non-GMO produce.
This past summer, students and volunteers, both inside and outside of the university, came together to construct a hoop house on campus with help from a consultant from Columbus, Ohio.
It all began last February when a group of students applied for, and was awarded, the Garner Endowment. The Garner Endowment is an on-campus entrepreneurial grant available to any undergraduate student(s) who has a stable plan for a business.
For Swaroop Sudheer, a graduate environmental safety and occupational health management student, it is worth the work to see the idea they have been working toward for months come to life.
“We have been planning since September,” said Sudheer. “Now the hoop house is right here on campus. We can have produce for students within 10 minutes, saving students money and time. Every day the demand is growing, and we need to work to keep up with the demands.”
The funds received from the endowment went toward start-up costs, such as for the shed, dirt, sink, and the house as a whole.
Over the summer, students and volunteers planted and tended to a variety of different produce plants including lettuce, greens, beets, carrots, tomatoes, green and purple beans, eggplants, a variety of peppers, cucumbers, kale, etc. A majority of these plants were located in outside gardens for the summer, but the new crops will be located in the greenhouse for the winter.
From this greenhouse came Findlay Greens, the student-run business that sells the produce grown in the hoop house. It is completely student-run with students even making business decisions with guidance of Oiler Enterprises when needed.
Students worked in the greenhouse, watering the plants, weeding the gardens and selling the products. Additionally, Shelby Weems, senior graphic design major, designed the Findlay Greens logo.
The produce sold over the summer went to a variety of consumers. The largest was Community-Supported Agriculture, or CSA. CSA is a system in which a network of community members shares the benefits and risks of farming with those operating the farm.
In this case, the CSA paid a particular amount of money in advance to Findlay Greens, allowing them to buy the necessary seeds for the crops. When it is time to harvest the produce, the CSA receives an amount of produce in relation to the amount of money they paid.
In addition to the CSA, special orders were filled for faculty and staff who requested them. Whatever was left after the CSA and special orders, was sold. According to Paula Wolper, director of Oiler Enterprises, sales were good, with certain weeks reaching around $300.
Findlay Greens is looking into the future with plans to grow more of what students are looking for in fresh produce. According to Reed, student feedback will be what helps the business to continue to grow.
The newest set of crops were planted August 29 and is projected to be available for purchase in the beginning of October.
“We are not doing CSAs this semester, so we are depending on students, faculty and staff to buy our product,” said Wolper. “We don’t have all the details worked out yet to exactly when and how, but we will let students know when we are ready to sell. It will be like a mini farmer’s market.”
It is the hope that the produce grown can not only be sold to the students, but also to Sodexo, providing the greenhouse with a constant stream of sales. Additionally, Findlay Greens will be creating social media pages, allowing students to “like” or “follow” Findlay Greens and discover what fresh produce will be available that day.
A hoop house is a modern greenhouse that uses steel ribs covered by polypropylene, the same material used by many greenhouses for their structures that provides a greenhouse-like environment year round.