Tractor christening highlights opening of new farm

Robin Taylor, farm manager, christens a tractor

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Sept. 24, 2013) — Edible centerpieces and a three-course farm harvest dinner highlighted the grand opening of Hickory Grove Farm, the latest addition to Kennesaw State University’s award-winning farm-to-campus program, on Saturday.

Among the dinner offerings enjoyed by 75 guests inside one of the property’s greenhouses were chilled roasted heirloom tomato soup, a roasted baby beet and arugula salad, rosemary and KSU Honey roasted leg of lamb, Georgia shrimp and KSU Grits and Krispy Kreme Doughnut Bread Pudding.

“It was truly a night to remember,” said Gary Coltek, director of Culinary and Hospitality Services. “Anytime we are able to showcase our farm-to-campus program, and at the same time educate people about sustainable practices in food service, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us.

The Hickory Grove Farm property consists of 25 acres, 15 of which are cleared for planting, and two greenhouses. The farm will produce Swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage, red cabbage, collards, squash, zucchini, sunflowers, marigolds, beans, hydroponic tomatoes, all colors of bell peppers, cucumbers and farm-fresh eggs. Only non-genetically modified varieties are cultivated, using natural methods of soil preparation, pest control and fertilization.

“On this farm we have 60 free-range chickens that will produce more than 300 organic eggs a week for use in recipes in The Commons,” Coltek said. “The farm is truly for our students. Not only will it provide produce to serve in The Commons, it will also serve as a classroom for multiple programs on campus.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation gave the Kennesaw property – once used as a GDOT staging area – to the university.

Two days before the ribbon-cutting ceremony and farm harvest dinner at Hickory Grove, The Daily Meal, an online publication dedicated to culinary trends and news, ranked Culinary and Hospitality Services eighth in its “60 Best Colleges for Food in America,” up two spots from last year’s ranking.

“If you needed to describe Kennesaw State University’s dining services in one word, it would be ‘originality,’” the publication stated. “They do everything they can to provide their students with the most exciting dining services possible, and they’re doing a great job.”

The Daily Meal recognition is the latest in a string of awards received by Culinary and Hospitality Services, including the prestigious “Innovator of the Year” award from the National Restaurant Association.Citing its “comprehensive, closed-loop waste management program” and “Farm to Campus to Farm” initiative, this was the first time an educational institution was selected to receive the award. The university also received the “Operator Innovations Award for Sustainability” from the restaurant group.

Beginning in 2011, Kennesaw State was ranked among the top 25 schools for best food by Newsweek. Kennesaw State then joined Stanford and the University of Massachusetts in receiving top honors from the National Association of College and Food Services (NACUFS) for sustainability outreach and education, as well as a prestigious NACUFS Loyal E. Horton Award for its dining hall, The Commons.

The farm-to-campus program was launched in May 2010 with a 2-acre organic farm just outside Cartersville, Ga. The program was expanded in 2011 to include a second 40-acre property with 6,000 square feet of greenhouse space in Ball Ground, Ga. KSU also operates two apiaries at Harmony Hill Organic Farm and Apple Springs Farm. Produce and honey harvested from both farms is served in The Commons year-round.

--By Jennifer Hafer