Staff and students at Mount Allison University are harvesting their first crops from a new farm that had been unused for 50 years.
Michelle Strain, the university’s director for administrative services, and her team of staff and students have revived a fallow piece of farmland in Sackville, and its harvest is being eaten in the university meal hall.
Two students spent all summer in the fields and now Strain is helping to dig up some of the 13,600 kilograms of potatoes from the first crop.
She said the yield is admirable for the school's first attempt at farming.
“It's two acres of potatoes, and the reason we did that is to help break up the sod because the land hasn't been farmed in 50 years. And we've tested corn, turnips and a few other crops up in this area,” Strain said.
The farm is generating roughly 630 kilograms of vegetables a week for students to eat at the university’s meal hall.
Tom Burrell, the university’s head chef, said it's not enough to feed 1,100 students a day but it’s still a big draw.
“I call it Mount A's homegrown,” Burrell said.
“The other stuff that comes, it's been sitting on a truck somewhere, it has been harvested three weeks ago, this has basically been harvested out of the ground yesterday and I've got it on their plates the next day.”
Burrell said the student appetite for local food is increasing and the university’s farm is set to expand in size next year to try to satisfy it.
Not only are students demanding to eat more local food, but the opportunity to have a farm at the university is also serving as an educational tool.
“It’s neat to see students come out and say, ‘Oh, that's a potato plant. I had no idea they grew underground or that's a bean plant, I had no idea they grew like this,’” Strain said.
“It’s quite something.”
Strain said potatoes have been a particularly successful crop, and the university is holding potato u-picks for the public every Saturday into October.
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