University farm looks to cut deal with UDS

Cornercopia Student Organic Farm and UDS are in talks to use more locally grown food.

by Adam Daniels

University Dining Services may soon be featuring more food grown in the University of MinnesotaâÄôs backyard. This spring harvest from Cornercopia Student Organic Farm. located on the St. Paul Campus, could hit UDS menus next week. The farm is hoping to strike up a larger contract with the company. The farm grows more than 100 kinds of fruits and vegetables. Negotiations between the two parties began more than three years ago, and some progress has already been made. In 2009, UDS reportedly purchased 190,868 pounds of local produce âÄî 450 pounds came from Cornercopia, most of which were tomatoes. âÄúThe farm is literally four miles from Coffman and the resident halls,âÄù said Natalie Reece, a Cornercopia volunteer and second-year biology student. âÄúThatâÄôs about as local as you can get.âÄù Cornercopia coordinator Courtney Tchida recently spoke with newly-named UDS executive chef Gil Junge about the future of local food. âÄúWe had an open conversation about how to best move forward,âÄù Tchida said. âÄúI think itâÄôs natural for a chef to acknowledge how important a quality product is.âÄù Not all crops from this yearâÄôs harvest could begin being used as soon as next week. âÄúChives are ready to be harvested,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs a small step, but itâÄôs a step in a positive direction.âÄù Local food is already used at Bistro West in the Hubert H. Humphrey Center, and UDS director Karen DeVet said the progress of this program âÄúwill help determine how to implement more local food into resident halls.âÄù The Student Organic Farm beings operating at the start of spring semester and is run by students in the Student Organic Farm Planning course. According to the syllabus, the course covers âÄúeverything from starting a business to marketing our products, to planning the site to how to transition from conventional to organic certification.âÄù In the summer, the farm is run by volunteers. âÄúWeâÄôre only an acre and a quarter,âÄù Reece said. âÄúWe canâÄôt and donâÄôt even want to provide all the produce UDS needs. ItâÄôs important for us to still have the farmers market and for them to support other local farmers.âÄù UDS has developed a continuing partnership with Food Alliance Midwest, an organization that provides certification of products grown with environmentally and socially responsible agricultural practices. Both Tchida and Reece said dealing with the business side of UDS has not always been easy, but now that direct communication is open, both parties said they are optimistic. âÄúItâÄôs not always about cost,âÄù DeVet said. âÄúWeâÄôre in full support of using as much local produce as we can and helping build a relationship between our chefs and the growers is very valuable.âÄù