Home grown spuds on the menu for students

08 April 2021 | Students News

Lincoln University is leading the way in local organic food production as it serves up campus-grown potatoes to its students.

The Biological Husbandry Unit, a certified organic education and research facility based at the university, has been growing agria spuds to pass on to Lincoln’s catering department.

The potatoes are then served to students living on campus.  

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Grant Edwards says the partnership is a wonderful way for Lincoln to reduce its food miles and eliminate packaging, with the potatoes delivered in reusable crates rather than the plastic bags used by previous suppliers.

“We are all about sustainability at Lincoln University and a big part of that is food production, so pursuing local food as an initiative makes complete sense to us,” Dr Edwards says.

“The BHU leases a 10ha farm on the Lincoln campus and the farm has been organic for over 40 years. This is a great opportunity to partner with them in a project that benefits both parties. It also offers our students a great example of small-to-medium growing.”

As part of the partnership, the BHU is also growing taewa (Māori potatoes), which Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Māori and Pasifika) Dione Payne delivers to local communities and whānau.

To keep the spuds organic, mesh technology plays a big role in keeping pests at bay, according to BHU Manager Bill Martin.

“Using mesh crop covers on the potatoes works very well to control a new pest called tomato potato psyllid, which spreads bacteria that prematurely kill potatoes. It’s an easy way to protect your potato crop.

“With funding from Potatoes NZ, we’ve been trialling mesh technology for several years at our Future Farming Centre, which carries out farm-scale research and extension work.”

Once the potatoes are harvested, they are delivered the same day to the Lincoln University Catering Department, making for the freshest, most high quality spuds.

Student menu options include aloo gobi (an Indian potato and cauliflower dish); roast potatoes dressed with olive oil, parsley and paprika; creamy garlic mash; and potato and quinoa salad.

The department is expecting to get through 12-14 tonnes of potatoes this year.

There are plans to continue and expand the project, with the BHU looking at other crops, such as pumpkins and squash, to grow organically.

The BHU has been operating since 1976 and aims to be the home of organic education in New Zealand. It includes model systems, student plots, research plots, commercial crops and a community garden.