This is an exciting week for Morven Kitchen Garden. On Tuesday, November 14 through Thursday, November 16, UVA Dining Halls will be featuring butternut squash grown at MKG in evening meals!
The butternut squash journey from seed to dining plate, began on June 1st. Volunteers from UVA Facilities Management helped the MKG interns to prepare beds for planting – adding compost to the beds and connecting the lines for drip irrigation. On June 2 summer interns seeded ten beds of squash.
Summer squash tasks included irrigation, multiple weedings, and pest control. Another group of Facilities Management volunteers joined us in July to mulch the beds with hay.
The plants grew well and thrived throughout the summer. On October 12, twelve student volunteers harvested over 900lb of butternut squash from the 10 beds of squash. The also sorted the squash into 3 categories: best, short term storage, and eat soon. Everyone left with squash to cook and enjoy.
The planting of seeds started in early June, but the partnership between UVA Dining and MKG started in 2016. Both groups were interested in having local, student grown vegetables eaten in the dining halls. A key step to make this goal happen was for the garden to get GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Certified. UVA Dining requires GAP Certification for produce they purchase. The USDA defines GAP as “a voluntary audit that verifies that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of food safety hazards.”
In 2016, MKG students and Emily Salle, the former garden manager, began exploring and researching GAP and laying the groundwork for getting certified. Part of their efforts included obtaining a G.I.F.T. grant to create a produce wash area and picnic tables for the designated eating area at the garden.
In 2017, we dove into the GAP paperwork – including creating our food safety manual, getting our water tested, outlining procedures for how produce is harvested and handled, and developing guidelines and training for garden volunteers. In early October, the auditor visited MKG and reviewed our paperwork, policies, and fields and the garden received GAP certification. Hurrah! Now that the garden is GAP certified, we look forward to selling more produce to UVA Dining in the future.
Many hands were involved in planning and tending the butternut squash this year. We are excited that it will be featured at UVA Dining this week and to taste the yummy dishes the chefs will prepare.
Stop by the following dining halls for dinner this week to try some student grown squash:
Tuesday, November 14th Runk
Wednesday, November 15th Fresh Food Company
Thursday, November 16th O Hill
Happy eating! Steph Meyers, MKG Farm Manager