Garden Expansion Hopes to Pay for Itself in Produce

Since planting the rooftop garden at the Kansas Union at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, five years ago, Janna Traver, executive chef, says it’s kind of been a hidden gem on campus. Not anymore. The garden has been so successful that the department recently expanded the project, at a cost of about $600, to fill seven barrels, 14 irrigating earth boxes, 22 five-gallon buckets and three pots.

“Our customers are very impressed that we have herbs and tomatoes literally traveling only three floors,” Traver says. “The yields over the last few years have been restricted by the size of the garden and weather conditions, so overall savings from growing our own product have not been huge. The bigger impact was on our sustainability efforts like reducing waste.”

Traver says it was the sustainability aspect that first inspired creating the garden. She says many of the specialty herbs, Thai basil, for example, are available to the department only in small amounts or by special order, so having the ability to harvest only what the department needs for the day decreases waste. The garden also allows the department to secure herbs that it cannot source through certified local growers.

“By keeping our garden secure and limiting staff access, we can ensure that our product is wholesome,” Traver says. “We also avoid purchases from the big box stores.”

Ultimately, Traver says, the goal of the garden is to pay for itself. Since its first year, the department has spent about $800 in soil (900 pounds), containers, plants and equipment. “When we average the cost of herbs that we would buy from our prime vendor, our yearly savings are a bit over $450,” Traver says. “The current expansion cost us an additional $800, again in soil, containers and plants. This year we have already harvested close to seven pounds in herbs. We had some volunteer plants, chives primarily, that have established themselves enough to live through a Kansas winter. The additional plants also require trimming to maximize yield throughout the growing season. The sheer volume of basil pruning alone was more than two pounds.”

Traver says the department manages the needs of the garden with the rest of the department’s responsibilities by using a rotation of kitchen staff who water the garden on a daily basis.  

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
construction plans drawing tools calculator

When revamping an old cafeteria or building a new retail spot, the design process can feel like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle: What needs to fit in the space, and what’s the most efficient flow for staffers, cooks, diners and more?

Cathy Estes, administrative director of nutrition services at four northern Indiana hospitals that are part of the Franciscan Health network, faced the creation of a new in-house dining program at Franciscan’s Munster hospital. Amid all the big plans, design was one of the largest undertakings.

“I was looking at 5,000 square feet on a...

Ideas and Innovation
amazon prime delivery

About 90% of our students receive financial assistance and participate in our free and reduced-price meal program. But a number of students in our district study remotely due to circumstances such as chronic illness. In January, we hired a driver to deliver meals to students who aren’t able to step into our cafeteria each day.

Ideas and Innovation
wheaton emerson int salad bar

Restaurant design is all about catching a customer’s eye —and it’s sometimes particularly beneficial to be far-sighted. As Airbnb has proven with its San Francisco headquarters, where cafe spaces are inspired by cities like Cairo and Mumbai, elaborate design schemes that evoke far-flung geographic regions can be done to great effect. But operators are finding simpler ways to achieve that feel.

That’s been the experience of Kutztown University Dining Services in Pennsylvania. Kent Dahlquist, director of housing and dining services, says that when the university decided several years...

Managing Your Business
overtime payroll timesheet

Just eight days before Dec. 1, when operators would have to comply with the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rules, a federal judge in Texas slapped an injunction on the regulation. The move indefinitely halted the rules that would have doubled the overtime threshold to $47,476, affecting nearly 4.2 million workers, according to the DOL. For some operators, the move was too little, too late. Now, they have to answer to employees who had been briefed on promised wage increases.

Kansas Memorial Union at the University of Kansas in Lawrence made changes ahead of the deadline...

FSD Resources