PACES Dining Services Offers Fresh Homegrown Greens and Herbs at SUNY Potsdam

PACES Dining Services Grows Organic Greens and Fresh Herbs Indoors, in Collaboration with SUNY Potsdam Biology Department and WISER Center

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PACES Kitchen and Catering Manager John Van Kennen tends to microgreens in the WISER Greenhouse at SUNY Potsdam.

POTSDAM, NY (03/21/2018) (readMedia)-- Students at SUNY Potsdam are enjoying fresh greens and herbs grown on campus by PACES Dining Services, in collaboration with the WISER Center and the Biology Department.

Organic greens and herbs are currently being grown in two PACES Dining Service locations on campus: Dexter's Café and Lehman Dining Center. Additional indoor tower gardens and vertical growing racks are located in the Wagner Institute for Sustainability and Ecological Research (WISER) Greenhouse, and are maintained by student interns, researchers and members of the Sustainable Agricultural 304 course, taught by biology Instructor Ray Bowdish. All of these systems provide hyper-local produce for use by SUNY Potsdam chefs and cooks.

PACES Dining has collaborated with WISER on producing greens for campus consumption since 2016. The project started with Bowdish's sustainability class, which focuses on creating a community-supported agriculture (CSA) model crop of microgreens, with the goal of selling them to PACES Dining Services for use in their kitchens. Microgreens are a tiny vegetable crop (basically the first leaves of a plant) that lend a distinct flavor profile to a variety of cuisines. Students grew the greens and the crop results were judged, in order for students to learn what processes and variables produced successful herbs and produce for use in professional kitchens.

This past fall, Bowdish and PACES partnered to expand the project to include a series of growing trays which were installed in Lehman and Thatcher Dining Halls. PACES harvested herbs and greens from these organic growing systems, purchased locally from 2445 Organics in Massena, NY. In January, they planted eight trays of seed in Thatcher Dining Hall, which when harvested in February yielded 13 pounds of lettuce and 5 pounds of Genovese basil. The produce was used at the Garden Toss salad concept station in the Barrington Student Union Dining Court, as well as in Dexter's Café and in campus catering for events.

In October 2017, the program expanded to include a series of tower gardens, housed in the WISER Greenhouse. The innovative educator, Steven Ritz, author of "The Power of a Plant: A Teacher's Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools," traveled to campus to help install the growing system, along with Duane McCarthy of LDC Enterprises. Tower gardens are vertical aeroponic growing systems that use only water and nutrients, rather than dirt, to grow vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. The systems are able to grow plants indoors, in triple the speed and also produce greater yields, compared to traditional gardening, while also utilizing less water and taking up less space. The vertical growing systems were purchased with a grant from the Alcoa Foundation. PACES, the Department of Biology and local K-12 students assembled 12 towers for campus use, and harvested produce throughout the fall and winter months.

In January, PACES purchased organic seeds and soil to plant in the tower gardens for the next round of crops, which includes rainbow chard, kale, ghost peppers, Bok Choy, basil, parsley, cilantro, spinach and arugula. Hands-on experiential learning for students is a key component of the continued collaboration between PACES and the biology department. PACES staff have learned to plant, maintain and harvest crops grown in the campus dining halls, and students have gained invaluable experience working with the tower gardens in the WISER Greenhouse, growing hyper-local produce for consumption on campus.

About PACES Dining Services:

Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services Inc. (PACES) is a not-for-profit corporation operating under contract with SUNY Potsdam. PACES' mission is to offer high-quality products and services, while maximizing customer value and financial return, to the benefit of the larger SUNY Potsdam community. PACES Dining Services was rated the No. 1 dining service for comprehensive colleges in the SUNY system, in the Student Opinion Satisfaction Survey. For more information about what makes PACES No. 1, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America's first 50 colleges -- and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit