Since the 2012-2013 school year, the students of the Goucher College Ag Co-op have managed a 5,000 sq. foot garden located in the center of campus. They produce a wide variety of vegetables and seasonal flowers, including hydroponically grown iceberg and lolla rossa lettuces in the college’s greenhouse. The garden’s most popular produce are organic tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs. Recently the group tried something new by raising and selling aloe plants from the greenhouse.
College: Goucher College
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Size: 1/10 acre (5,000 square feet)
Sales and distribution: The Ag Co-op sells produce to the campus dining halls, managed by Bon Appetit Management Company, and encourages all of its garden volunteers to take produce in return for their hard work.. If any produce is left over, the group works with the Food Recovery Network at Goucher to donate it to local hunger relief organization or composts it.
Management structure: The Ag Co-op uses a horizontal method of leadership. The team of four student leaders consists of a President, Vice President of the Greenhouse, Vice President of Finances, and Vice President of Facilities. Together, they work with an elected Board of Faculty and Staff which serve as mentors and offer essential guidance.
Financial model: The Ag Co-op is funded by the profits generated from the hydroponics system and the produce sales made to the campus food service provider, Bon Appétit Management Company. Getting started, the group has received additional funding from Goucher’s Green Fund and their campus dining team.
- The Ag Co-op has a unique system for training and rotating in new leaders. Goucher Renewable Agriculture Initiative (GRAIN) is a summer grant program that was created to ensure that the garden was never without well trained leaders. . The Ag Co-Op encourages freshmen and sophomores to take part in the summer program so they can assume leadership roles once they are juniors and seniors. During the summer, they spend two hours each day learning the ways of the garden, and two hours a week on a local farm learning about agriculture. Ultimately, this rotation of leaders ensure that Ag Co-op will remain a strong and sustainable force on campus.
- The students built a catchment system that catches rainwater from the roof of Welch Residence Hall and feeds into a drip irrigation system that waters the garden. They secured funding on campus to purchase two 1,000-gallon tanks.
- The Ag Co-op designed and built a custom hydroponic system, which enables them to grow 75 heads of lettuce at a time to sell to the Bon Appétit chefs on campus. The system has two parallel (identical but separate) halves so that they can tweak small variables, like the pH and nutrient levels, and watch the effects on the lettuce.
Learn More: Please contact [email protected]