Dig It

Penn State Behrend is ahead of the curve with environmentally friendly practices. One of their newest has launched for fall 2017: the Dig It kitchen garden. Made possible by Urban Cultivator, the “fully automated kitchen gardens” allow campus dining staff to grow and cook with a variety of fresh herbs, vegetables, and microgreens—from arugula to lentils.

One of Penn State’s 24 campuses, Behrend started looking into the Urban Cultivator concept last spring. The appliances were delivered in spring and have already yielded their first harvests. To celebrate, Behrend held a special dinner on Tuesday, September 12 featuring some of the first items grown in the units. 

The units present an exciting culinary opportunity for chefs at Behrend. The 33 different seeds available lend themselves to a plethora of recipes. Being able to harvest fresh herbs and microgreens, no matter the time of year, will mean even tastier dishes for students and guests. From crisp lettuce for salads to oregano for pizza, there are options —and healthy ones at that – for every type of diner.

Chefs aren’t the only people excited about Urban Cultivator. The Student Behrend Green Team is partnering with campus dining to help with weekly planting and harvesting.

“Everyone we have shared the concept with has been very excited to see it installed and can’t wait to see it in action,” says Michael Lindner, director of Housing and Food Services at Behrend. “It is an opportunity to be sustainable 365 days a year and show our institutional commitment and values to our customers each time they come into Dobbins.”

While the Dig It project will begin with Dobbins Dining, the initiative will benefit the entire campus.

“The Urban Cultivator will allow us to grow our starter plants for our dining facilities and Behrend community gardens located across campus,” says Lindner. “By starting our plants in the Urban Cultivator, we can harvest multiple times, which will increase our yields and allow us to grow some plants with a longer growing period that we haven’t planted in the past.”