DULUTH, MN– Students at Lake Superior College are getting their hands dirty.
This year, the college launched a new Eco-Entrepreneurship program, providing a living laboratory for students to study the science and business of sustainable farming.
Alongside the Health and Sciences building at LSC lives a 2-acre farm, built to introduce a new major to campus.
“The experiential classroom for the eco-entrepreneurship program that just launched,” says Co-Director of the Living Lab and Eco-Entrepreneurship program, Randel Hanson.
A living laboratory, where students learn the importance of growing sustainable food and how to operate energy systems.
Also Co-Director of the Living Lab, Mike Mageau says, “this whole living lab field site is a working farm and we’re really trying to demonstrate some of the most sustainable methods of growing food.”
It’s a hands-on, educational experience for LSC students.
One student in the program, Eric Solberg says he’s already learned so much. “I had literally never put a plant in the ground or touched anything to do with agriculture expect eating it”
The program reaches beyond the farm by also teaching students how to maintain a business. Hanson says, “to be able to provide the student with the skills and the experience necessary to create business opportunities that simultaneously economic issues and ecological issues.”
Growing produce from hydroponics and soil-based greenhouses, the students harvest more than 60 varieties of produce including lettuce, basil, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, beets, snap peas, and cucumber.
Outside the greenhouses, you can find watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins, and flowers.
Those who run the lab say they can harvest near 200 pounds of lettuce a week, which is equivalent to $1,000 profit.
Mageau says, “we’re basically running a sustainable farming business out of LSC.”
The students harvest the produce and sell it to businesses in the area as locally sources food. At this time, they sell to eight local grocery stores and restaurants around the area.
Adison Smith, the first student to enter the program says it’s a rewarding process. “To be able to physically interact with that cycle from beginning to end ya know. Putting a seed in the ground and pulling it up and putting it into my body.”
The program’s goal, for students to gain a better understanding of pressing environmental problems, the best ways to solve them, and the business opportunities they present.
“Everybody needs food and everybody needs to know how to take this soil and just bring it to life and make it work for them,” says Solberg.
So far about 20 students have expressed interest in the new program and12 students help out each day at the farm.
Every Tuesday and Thursday the LSC Living Lab hosts a farmer’s market on campus at 2:30 p.m. They sell their produce to students, faculty, and staff at an affordable rate.
All of the produce from the farm is 100% organic. All proceeds made from product sales go back into the program.
Next year, the farm hopes to grow strawberries, blueberries, and an indigenous foods plot.
For more information on the program click here.
You can watch Your Green Life, Thursdays at 5 p.m. on KBJR 6.