Horticulture Research Station Expands Produce Sales to New Clients

Teaching and research have always been a part of the Iowa State University Horticulture Research Station’s mission. Now that mission includes helping students market produce.

The station is able to provide a nice facility for research to take place by selling their crops to places like ISU Dining, Wheatsfield Cooperative and through their website. Most recently they have partnered with the Knoll and Green Hills Retirement Community to provide them with produce on a weekly basis.

The Knoll

The Horticulture Research Station has provided ISU Dining with various produce throughout the years, but the station’s partnership with the Knoll is fairly new.  

Karen Rodekamp, business and support services manager for ISU Dining, said having these types of partnerships benefits everybody involved.

“ISU Dining likes to educate students about where their food is coming from, so we post pictures of the produce being grown at the station so they know that in a few weeks that is what will be on their plates,” Rodekamp said. “The partnership is also a good experience for students working at the Horticulture Station so they can learn what producing on a larger scale for a big client would look like.”

Upon President Wintersteen’s arrival to the Knoll, ISU Dining began handling the home’s catering needs.

“She decided that all catered events at the Knoll would be handled by ISU Dining,” said Nick Howell, superintendent at the Horticulture Research Station. “The station provides crops to the Knoll through ISU Dining.”

Howell said the goal is to have the Knoll take as much as they can from the station and use it as needed, and also freeze some products such as strawberries and pears and use them for future events.

Every time the produce is used the station is acknowledged on the menu cards.

Howell said those who consume the crops would likely appreciate where the food is coming from.

“It adds a special nuance to the food they are eating knowing that it is coming from the station and is being grown by students,” Howell said.

Green Hills Retirement Community

The idea to start selling produce to Green Hills came from an intern with the retirement community who was studying to be a care facility administrator.

“The intern came to our 50th anniversary last year and loved the place, and then he gave me a call to ask if I would be interested in his idea,” Howell said.

Howell said that the plan is to figure out how much produce will be available for Green Hills and notify them with what is available each week, and then they can decide how much they want.

Howell wants to go beyond just providing produce to the community. They plan to provide tours of the research station to the residents and also have the station’s intern go to the retirement community and talk to them about the produce that they are receiving.

“I know a lot of the residents at Green Hills, and they are pretty amped about it,” Howell said. “Many residents there are former faculty, staff and fans of Iowa State, so it creates a little tie back to the university for them. It also provides them with good, nutritious food.”

Courtney Bieze, director of food and nutrition services for Green Hills, said the produce gets used in a variety of ways.

“The residents are able to purchase the produce whole and also the chefs use it to create food items for their daily menus,” Bieze said. “They love it.”