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Northland College launches new food center on campus

Three years ago, Northland College set a goal to have its cafeteria serve 80 percent local food by 2020. The College did not want to start a farm or to compete with farmers. “We wanted to work with growers to expand the regional food economy,” said Northland President Dr. Michael Miller.

Today about 46 percent of the food served on campus is grown or produced in the region.

The College is now poised to make the final push. The College launched the Hulings Rice Food Center on campus earlier this year—with a processing kitchen to prepare produce for the winter months.

“We’ll start receiving product right from farms, so mostly vegetables [and] a small amount of fruit as well from Bayfield,” said Todd Rothe, manager of the Food Center. “Then, we’ll be washing and cleaning the vegetables, chopping them into serving sizes, and freezing them by use of a blast freezer. After that, they’ll get vacuum-packed and stored for winter.”

The center is important because of the region’s short growing season.

The center will be able to freeze up to 300 pounds of food each day and focus on processing local food for the college cafeteria this fall, Rothe said.

“We can also provide the service for [area growers],” Rothe said. “If they don’t want to train their own staff to come in and do the work in the kitchen facility, they can hire us—our staff—to do the work for them.”

In addition, the College has installed a composting facility with the ability to process 64,000 gallons of food waste per year. The College will be composting food waste on campus and for the community.

The food crew has also been busy this past summer ramping up its campus gardens—a fruit and nut tree grove, and perennial and demonstration gardens—with plans to install a hoop house (a tunnel-style greenhouse).