Campus farms aren’t just for college students anymore. In the past decade we’ve seen a surge of interest in growing food on college campuses — and recently, more corporations, restaurants, and museums are picking up spades and joining the movement.
Just like college campus farms, these newcomers are a diverse bunch with a range of goals. Some projects focus on cultivating employees’ gardening skills, like the eBay/PayPal Garden, while others such as the Café Target Garden aim to grow more local food for the on-site kitchens or provide unique ingredient that chefs can’t find anywhere else. Whatever the garden’s particular mission, these initiatives foster greater engagement in the food system and appreciation for the story behind the food — both activities near and dear to our hearts at Bon Appétit.
We started the Campus Farmers Network in 2013 to connect students and staff growing food on college campuses across the country, and now we’re inviting corporate employees to join the fun. Our website, www.campusfarmers.org, offers new resources especially for those wishing to start campus farms on corporate campuses or public venues, along with profiles of successful such gardens across the country. We welcome you to peruse the website, suggest additional content areas, and like our Facebook page to get the latest updates from the Campus Farmers Network.
We asked some of the people who inspire us at corporate campuses and specialty venues across the country to share their thoughts about growing food at work:
What’s your favorite part about being involved with the campus farm?
“Knowing that the vegetable we’re picking each day is a product we grew and that it can’t get any fresher…” —Robert Denicola, Executive Chef at Kohl’s Headquarters in Milwaukee, WI
“Sharing the bounty and the seasonality of the foods we eat!” —Melissa Miller, Executive Chef at SAP in Palo Alto, CA
What makes a corporate campus a good location for small-scale food production?
“A campus farm provides a level of transparency that people are not used to when it comes to their food. People can easily visit a campus farm and see for themselves how the food is grown. This not only provides that personal connection with food that so many people desire, but it creates a higher level of confidence in the product’s quality.” —Nick Halmos, Founder of Cityblooms and manager of the “micro-farm” at Plantronics in Santa Cruz, CA
What’s the best thing you’ve tasted from the garden or your favorite thing to grow?
“I have my totem vegetable. I’m most excited about peppercress at STEM. It’s really spicy watercress. And aji lucento peppers. It’s a weird, chi-chi, we’re-the-only people-in-the-city-that-are-going-to-have-it pepper.” —Lara Hermanson, Farmscape urban farmer at STEM Kitchen and Garden and the Garden at AT&T Park
“All the crops grown at the Plantronics micro-farm have been delicious. However, what really makes our work shine is the creations the Bon Appétit team makes with our harvests. For example, the pesto that Chef/Manager Cheyenne Diaz has made with our freshly picked basil have been simply amazing!” —Nick Halmos
“The best thing is when I’ve gone out to the garden, found it’s been a perfect couple days of growth, and the tomatoes are plump and ripe. I pick one right off the vine and when I bite it, that flavor is just so sweet and perfect — something you can’t experience from a supermarket vegetable.” — Robert Denicola
Have there been any surprises along the way?
“Literally how much you can get from even the smallest plot… Lemongrass is a great example, as it’s beautiful to look at and just continues to thrive with harvesting. Also, we have two beehives near the garden, and it was surprising how many bees love the garden too!” —Melissa Miller