Remineralizing the soil at Kennesaw State

Published in FSD C&U Spotlight

The culinary and hospitality services division of Kennesaw State University has implemented a remineralization project that it claims has dramatically increased the levels of vitamins and minerals in several of the items it grows on its campus farms.

Gary Coltek, senior director of the department, says his team used a $35,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Agriculture to implement the project, in which campus farmers incorporated deep-ocean minerals and minimally processed mined materials into the soil to boost several naturally occurring elements. Analysis of campus-grown lettuce, wheatgrass, kale, spinach and tomatoes has shown an increase in vitamin A and C, boron, magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc—in some cases, by more than 1,000%.

“The practice of remineralization is relatively new to farming and is still considered a cutting-edge method of bio-remediation,” Coltek says. “This ‘feed-the-soil’ approach to farming breaks from modern agricultural practices and focuses on the overall health of the ecosystem.”

He explains that the desire to experiment with remineralization stemmed from research that has postulated that mineral-deficient soil, the use of synthetic fertilizers and the introduction of mechanized farming all have contributed to crops that are less nutrient dense than the same items grown 50 or 60 years ago.

Coltek launched a farm-to-campus program in 2010, and the effort was enhanced in 2012 when the university received a donation of 25 acres of land just two miles from campus. However, the land’s past use as an industrial staging area had degraded the soil to the point where it was necessary to “heavily amend the soils so that necessary nutrients could be restored,” he notes. This need led to the decision to attempt remineralization, in conjunction to the addition of blood meal, bone meal and compost to the soil.

Among the findings of independent testing, according to Coltek, were that KSU kale contained 315 percent more vitamin C, 125 percent more magnesium, 100 percent more boron, 65 percent more potassium and 36 percent more zinc than typical kale. Similarly, KSU lettuce exhibited 1,250 percent more vitamin A, 213 percent more magnesium, 200 percent more boron and iron and 66 percent more zinc.

The remineralization is only one aspect of a comprehensive campus farming program that the department is rebranding Farm-to-Fit. There is an economic benefit, as well, he adds: Growing produce on campus farms will save the department $253,000 during the current academic year.

Keywords: 
sustainability