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Published: Saturday, 6/28/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Findlay Greens aims to teach

Students run university greenhouse, sell produce

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Graduate student Ekpefon Umoren works in the new student-run business called Findlay Greens at the University of Findlay. Graduate student Ekpefon Umoren works in the new student-run business called Findlay Greens at the University of Findlay.
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FINDLAY — In a new greenhouse on the University of Findlay campus, students grow tidy rows of tender lettuce, bok choy, and arugula as they cultivate entrepreneurial skills.

Findlay Greens, a recently launched student-run business, offers students employment and a chance to gain experience as they develop a business model and a market for locally grown produce.

About a dozen faculty and staff members signed on to purchase $200 community supported agriculture shares. Those customers will receive a box of fresh vegetables once a week for two months, with the first pickup scheduled for July. Findlay Greens also plans to sell any extra vegetables on campus weekly and to the university’s food service company.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from Findlay Greens

The project is overseen by Michael Reed, a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages professor and a leader of Findlay Green Campus Initiative, a university-wide effort that promotes environmental sustainability.

He took a seed of an idea for a campus greenhouse and helped grow it into a blossoming business.

“This whole idea of natural and local foods is really appealing to me,” he said.

A team of students wrote the business proposal for the garden, which grows eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, red Russian kale, peas, and other produce.

From left, Ekpefon Umoren, Swaroop Sudheer, Dilip Kumar Midasala, and Mike Reed, professor, look over plot assignments at a student-operated business, Findlay Greens at the University of Findlay. From left, Ekpefon Umoren, Swaroop Sudheer, Dilip Kumar Midasala, and Mike Reed, professor, look over plot assignments at a student-operated business, Findlay Greens at the University of Findlay.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The project received about $18,000 in start-up funds from the Findlay Green Campus Initiative and Oiler Enterprises, which is supported by an endowed fund that backs two other student-run businesses — a computer repair service and a campus eatery.

With the aid of consultants, the 24-by-48 foot hoop house was constructed in late May on university property, and planting started in June. Four employees work an hour or so a day weeding and watering the greenhouse plants and surrounding garden plots. Students are paid about $8 an hour, Mr. Reed said.

The greenhouse will lengthen the growing season to about 10 months out of the year. Students also are working to design a logo and establish a social media presence for Findlay Greens.

Ekpefon Umoren, an environmental safety and health management graduate student from Nigeria, helped write the business plan and also waters and weeds, though he’s not familiar with some of the vegetables.

“Most of the things that have been planted I don’t even know the name,” he said. “It’s interesting because since it is channeled to sustainability it is somehow related to what I am studying at the moment as an environmentalist.”

Back home, his mother buys farm-fresh foods, but he noticed many in the United States eat processed foods. He hopes this and similar efforts can lead to less chronic disease.

Others also chipped in to help the garden flourish in its first season. Environmental science professor Gordon Gillespie worked on a tool storage shed and compost area and stopped by again Friday to lend a hand.

Some of the Findlay Greens student employees also take his classes at the private university in Hancock County.

“I’m hopeful that the kids will get involved in some kind of environmental thing and find their way… whether it’s as a volunteer or as part of their profession,” he said.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.



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