From Farm to Table

How ISU is providing students with fresh, local produce weekly.

By Emily Blobaum

Fresh, local produce may be closer than you think.

Tucked away off a gravel road just east of Gilbert, Iowa lies the 235-acre Horticulture Research Station, hosting orchards, gardens and a lake.


According to their website, Iowa State University’s Horticulture Research Station is home to over 90 student projects and 30 employees.


While the Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms manage the station, it is mainly utilized by the ISU Department of Horticulture.


Golden Delicious apples are sorted and sanitized at the Horticulture Research Station. Apples are the Station’s most popular item of sale, with the majority of the cultivars going to ISU Dining.


Students study, grow, maintain and harvest a variety of horticulture crops including potatoes, apples, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and peaches.


In addition to researching their respective crops, students and employees of the station also sell their produce to Ames community members, ISU Dining, and students.


Throughout the fall, Golden Delicious apples are very popular sales-wise, according to Nicholas Howell, superintendent of the research station. To keep up with demand, apples are harvested every day and are washed, sanitized and sorted twice a week.


Elena Ingram, junior in horticulture, sells produce at Curtiss Hall as part of the Horticulture Research Station’s Community Produce program.


Howell says the majority of the apples for sale from the station go to ISU Dining, giving students the opportunity to eat farm-fresh produce every day.


But that wasn’t enough according to Howell. Four years ago, he began thinking of ways to get rid of excess produce and came up with what is the Community Produce program today.


He partnered with a horticulture enterprise class and developed a website that would allow Iowa State students, staff and faculty members to purchase the produce that they grew. Eventually, the Horticulture Research Station took control of the website and now operates produce sales from June to November.


Anyone with an ISU Net-ID is able to purchase produce through the Horticulture Research Station’s website. Produce is posted to the website every Monday, and orders must be placed by Thursday at 12 p.m. Produce can then be picked up on the south side of Curtiss Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Friday through mid-November.


James Hartley, junior in agricultural engineering, picks Golden Delicious apples at the Horticulture Research Station. Hartley is one of 15 students that work at the Station.


Howell says that the majority of the Community Produce customers are faculty and staff.


“It’s unfortunate that students don’t take advantage of it,” he said.


He hopes for the Community Produce program to expand and wishes for students to spread the word about the program.


“It’s pretty exciting stuff,” Thabisa Mazur, junior in horticulture, said.


Mazur is one of the 15 students that work at the Horticulture Research Station. She spends 12-14 per week out at the station, and spends each Thursday putting the orders together.


Apples, potatoes, carrots, onions and peppers are all available for sale this week. A five-pound bag of apples can be purchased for $6, carrots for $2 per pound and two peppers for $1.


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