Local Food Week in Fort Wayne ran Sept. 17-26, and people had opportunities to learn more about their food and its sources. Thanks to the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, and as part of the weeklong event, the Ivy Tech Greenhouse at the Ivy Tech Technology Center was open for tours on Sept. 22. Advance registration was required, but attendance was steady, thanks to a strong interest in urban farming.
According to the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network website, the campus greenhouse was built in the spring of 2018, with Ivy Urban Farm being founded in the summer of 2021. According to greenhouse manager Jamie Perry, the agriculture program students also began offering fresh produce at the Barr Street Farmers Market this summer, hence going from being simply educational to now being commercial.
According to Perry, the greenhouse is working with local businesses, providing them with basil and lettuce.
It’s student-run, Perry said, adding that they’ve even had a few requests to do internships there as a requirement for other programs.
“Students learn to set prices, lower them if needed,” Perry said.
So far, the students have sold at least 800 pounds. Students also keep track of sales and learn from their mistakes. Everything grown in the greenhouse gets eaten, one way or another, Perry said.
Nothing goes to waste, whether it’s sold at the Barr Street market once a week, sold to local businesses, or even donated to the Rescue Mission.
If the greenhouse receives additional produce requests, the staff can help local people with their produce needs, including one who requested 70 pounds of cucumbers, eventually turning them into pickles. Some requests are more exotic, including lemon and avocado trees, which cannot be filled due to space requirements.
The fully automated, 3,000-square-foot greenhouse features not only hydroponic systems but aquaponics as well as other growing mediums and its various learning spaces.
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