Produce website brings new dimension to hort class

Sorting apples

Horticulture 465 students Mark Rippke (left) and Lindsay Meylor send apples through a washing and sorting line at the Horticulture Research Station earlier this week. Photo by Amy Vinchattle.

A produce sales website connected to a horticulture course has attracted more than 50 campus buyers in its first four months. The produce website, which is maintained and updated weekly by students in Hort 465 (Horticulture Enterprise Management), is accessible to faculty, staff and students -- those with an ISU net ID. (Non-compete laws prevent the students from selling produce to the public.)

The website introduces a retail component to the class, which teaches students to run a fruit and vegetable operation from the planning, growing and business angles. Previously, staff at the Horticulture Research Station, where the produce is grown, sold it wholesale to ISU Dining, the hospitality management program's Tearoom in MacKay Hall or local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) groups.

Take a look

Produce sales website

Available fresh produce is posted each Monday afternoon; the website closes to shoppers at noon Thursday, and buyers pick up their produce on campus Friday inside the east loading dock at Horticulture Hall (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.). For example, this week's selection includes apples, potatoes, onions, conehead cabbage and cauliflower. Products sold this summer and fall include raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, squash, snap peas, carrots, lettuce, eggplant and kale. Some of the produce sold was grown by class members, but the website also features produce grown by horticulture research teams and the Student Organic Farm, a student organization. While not certified organic, the produce is grown using organic practices.

Sophomore Lindsay Meylor, who plans to grow produce for farmers markets someday, said the business aspects taught have been especially helpful. Junior Mark Rippke said interacting with customers has been a great experience. While the class is offered all three semesters, the two agreed that a highlight of the fall class has been students' early involvement in the work toward achieving GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification for the research farm with the U.S Department of Agriculture. That, and their four-hour lab that lets them spend Thursday afternoons working at the hort station east of Gilbert.

The produce website was created with a grant from the Leopold Center, technical expertise from the Brenton Center and the time of a horticulture summer intern, who researched and loaded its content.