Hoff Commons: Going green by growing greens

By Addison Burke, Staff Writer

A new addition has recently arrived in Hoff Dining Commons: the Babylon Micro Farm. Located next to pasta station, this new micro farm will supply herbs and greens that will be used on a regular basis. 

“There’s an internal irrigation system that has all the nutrients to balance out the pH and feed the plants… The pump will push the water to each level through PVC pipes so all the plants can be watered evenly,” Director of Residential Dining Justin Messina said. 

“Right now, we’re growing purple basil, cilantro, bok choy and holy basil,” Messina continued. 

“It takes about two weeks for the plants to germinate, and then they are transplanted to the individual pods in the upper levels to grow for a few more weeks until they are ready to be harvested,” he added. 

Once the plants are ready to be harvested, Messina mentioned that he hopes this could also become a teaching opportunity for students and staff to harvest the produce and make food through a teaching kitchen. 

To keep track of growth and any potential mishaps with the farm, Messina uses an app to see when certain stages are taking place. Additionally, there are cameras on the higher levels that allow him to watch the plants grow from his phone. 

Photo courtesy of @XavierDining via Instagram.
The Hoff Dining Commons added a micro farm to assist with growing greens to be used as ingredients for food served.

Messina stated that Cleveland State University (CSU) had purchased the unit through Chartwells, their then managing company. But after purchase, CSU had changed managing companies, so the unit was sitting idle. Xavier took the unit from CSU and only had to pay for a few initial startup and maintenance fees, along with the purchase of the seeds. 

Messina also regarded the micro farm from a sustainability and environmental viewpoint. 

“Now I know this isn’t going to make a dent in what we go through in Hoff, but anything that limits travel time can reduce our carbon footprint and anything that we can do to be more sustainable is always important,” Messina noted. 

Hoff staff are looking to be more sustainable through the use of the green box program, the new dining committee, getting produce from local farms and a potential future partnership with Go Zero, a company that would take food scraps from the cafeteria and turn them into compost. 

“From that standpoint, at the sustainability front, there’s a call for it. College students are much more in tune with that kind of mentality. But, it also helps to have a backing of a company that supports what the chef ’s wants and what the frontline operators want,” Messina said. 

This unit may lead to future purchase of more units for use in Hoff but also potential use for Burger 513. As of today, the greens are just a few weeks away from being harvested.