Chartwells begins growing herbs, leafy greens in West Village in sustainability effort

By: Jonah Lewis, Staff Writer

In effort to increase sustainability, Towson University’s dining services vendor, Chartwells Higher Ed, continues to grow herbs, leafy greens and more inside of West Village Dining Hall after beginning last semester. 

The Farm Shelf is a produce-yielding indoor farm that Towson’s dining vendor Chartwells invested in to reduce the carbon footprint of the dining hall, Director of Operations Chris Shoul said. 

“It allows Towson’s dining halls to have fresher produce that grows directly on campus all year while limiting food waste, saving water and decreasing the amount of plastic produce is shipped in,” he said.

Shoul said the price of the Farm Shelf is proprietary information that cannot be shared. However, he noted that Chartwells picked up the tab on the project and, therefore, will not be paid for by the university.

The Farm Shelf unit is listed as costing $3,950 on its website. The dining hall has two units. 

He said the project might extend to Glen and Newell Dining Halls in the future. 

Food in the Farm Shelf grows two to three times faster than conventional farming while using 90% less water, according to the Farm Shelf website

When the shelf is in the harvest stage, it can produce 3 pounds of herbs, leafy greens and lettuce every week, Shoul said. Students can ask about taking produce from the Farm Shelf home. 

Paddy Watson, Towson’s assistant director of sustainability, said she supports the integration of the Farm Shelf in the dining hall. 

“I love that Chartwells introduced a Farm Shelf in the West Village Dining Hall,” Watson said in an email. “While the shelf isn’t at a scale that will have a major impact on the dining’s carbon footprint, it demonstrates the possibilities for consciously managing food production and addressing food insecurity.”

Currently, red-leaf lettuce, Thai basil, dill, Amethyst basil, thyme, chives and viola are being grown for use in some dining hall foods, Shoul said. The crops were planted in the last week of November. 

Shoul said that the salad bar at West Village currently uses red oak leaf lettuce from the Farm Shelf. Some entrees and sauces use basil, thyme and dill grown in the Farm Shelf as well. 

He explained that seeds go into pods on the bottom shelf. In about a week, after they begin to germinate, they move up to the growing shelves. Depending on the crop, the produce is ready to be harvested two to three weeks later.


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