On Teaching Gardens, for Robin Hadnett

Teaching garden also provides opportunity for dining services.

When the school of family and consumer sciences at the University of Akron in Ohio wanted to plant a culinary teaching garden to supplement its coursework, the school contacted dining services personnel to see if they’d like to be involved. We spoke to Robin Hadnett, general manager of residential dining, about how her department was able to aid in the garden’s construction and what the future holds for the garden.

Q. How did the idea for the garden come about?

The garden was the brainchild of the school of family and consumer sciences. They do a lot of classes not only about nutrition but also about preparing food. They decided they wanted to start growing some fresh vegetables that they could use for the meals prepared as part of this coursework. The garden would also help teach students about how to actually grow these items. They wanted the students to appreciate what goes into the food a little bit more.

We have always had a collaboration with that college, which for us has been almost like having dietitians on call. I work with a lot of their students. Every Tuesday we give them hands-on work experience. I give them projects to work on such as nutritional analysis of menus. This year the school reached out to me and ask if we’d be interested in taking part in the garden and using it to grow our own herbs and vegetables. We thought that was a fantastic idea. This way we have our herbs in the fall and we can actually advertise in the dining hall that these were grown on campus. I thought it was a great opportunity for us.

Q. What is the garden currently being used for?

The garden is the outdoor classroom for the school of family and consumer sciences. It is now in its second year of planting vegetables, herbs and edible flowers that students in nutrition and dietetics programs will use in meal preparation classes. Funding for the garden was provided by a $10,000 gift from The University of Akron Women's Committee. UA's grounds crew handled the bed preparation.

We’ve got blueberry bushes over there and lavender that they planted last year that has come back beautifully. They also planted unique items such as borage. It’s kind of an old-fashioned herb that people didn’t know much about. They have planted tomatoes, peppers and pole beans. This summer dining services took over one whole end of the garden, where we have planted basil, thyme, dill, cilantro, oregano and tarragon.  

Q. Are there any plans in place to secure vegetables for the dining hall?

Not at this point. We are going to allow the school to use them for their advanced food prep classes. Typically when they get their food for their classes they order it through me so this is skipping that step. What we talked about for next year is really expanding what we plant in the garden. I was very inspired by The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, which grows a lot of items that chefs all over the country use. They grow specialty produce and they also have a program called Veggie U. where kids in the area can go to the garden and learn about the produce. I’m hoping that since I have a good relationship with Farmer Jones from The Chef’s Garden we can use his advice to take our garden even further by adding some really unique items. Then we can start using those items in the dining hall and catering.

Q. What were some of the challenges in establishing the garden?

I’m not sure there were any big challenges. I think maybe one of the challenges is just working with different personalities. We had some strong personalities clash, but we worked it out. My chef is really into farming so he really took to this and ran with it. I was really happy we were able to get an irrigation system installed this year. I was worried about that. 

Q. What kind of advice would you give to other operators who might want to do something similar?

I think they should. As more people and campuses are heading down a sustainable road, I think having a garden like this speaks to that. Here we are growing food on our own campus that we are going to be using in the dining hall. It’s also good for the students to actually touch and feel and see what the process of growing these fruits and vegetables is all about. We’re actually looking into installing an indoor herb garden so we can have fresh herbs year round.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

People in Foodservice
lucretia chancler

Lucretia Chancler’s roots lie in Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish. She grew up in the parish, and her mother taught in the school district for 33 years—even occasionally teaching young Lucretia. Advanced degrees and a post-grad job took her to Colorado, Georgia and other places, but St. Landry soon called Chancler back home.

In October 2009, Chancler returned to Louisiana to become St. Landry’s supervisor of child nutrition. The parish’s economic makeup is a big driver behind Chancler’s local mission: More than 85% of the 14,000 students at the parish’s 32 schools are eligible for...

Menu Development
chefs council spread

Last October, we published the results of FoodService Director’s first annual Chefs’ Council Menu Trends survey, revealing predictions for menu shake-ups in 2016 . Many of the predictions panned out, including an increase in snacking, ever-spicier flavor profiles, veg-centric plates, fresh-pressed juices and build-your-own options. Now we’re back with next year’s forecast, culled from our panel of 50 Chefs’ Council members—culinarians representing the core segments of noncommercial foodservice. Some of the flavors, ingredients and cuisines expand on current trends, while others go off in...

Ideas and Innovation
sushi plate

We wanted to add sushi, but that’s not really my expertise. So we found a great local company that offered to put three sushi chefs on-site every day. They supply the ingredients, and if we meet the minimum revenue each week, than we receive a percentage of sales. We have been exceeding the weekly minimum sales, which we track in our POS, in two days.

FSD Resources