Yes we were given a literal key! This key lets us access the UMBC greenhouse anytime. This will let us enter the greenhouse on weekends when it is normally closed so that we can water or harvest microgreens. This is a meaningful milestone because it shows the support this project is receiving from the institution, and the willingness of faculty and staff to redefine what research means in the context of a university.
Initially there was concern that the entrepreneurial component of this project would prevent us from using research space in the greenhouse. We are growing microgreens in order to prove the model of growing produce on campus, for campus. Selling the produce is necessary for this project to be sustainable. True Greens has a verbal commitment from the District Manager of the dining hall to purchase our produce. So, we are using publicly funded research space to produce a product for sale to the private, third-party company that provides all dining services on campus. Clearly this is not your average research project, and the greenhouse director was initially hesitant about us using the space. The True Greens team was worried and began to consider other growing spaces on campus. However the solution was remarkably straight forward. When talking to the Biology department Facilities Manager, we were told that when faculty members receive a research grant at UMBC, it is common for a part of the grant to be used to cover any lab overhead costs. So the Facilities Manager suggested that a small portion of True Greens’s revenue will have to be set aside for greenhouse overhead costs.
“Wow, that’s straight forward!”
From that meeting we were given the key and a new, and LARGER space in the greenhouse. Talk about being given the green light. The first trays of microgreens have already been planted. Big thanks to Sam and Carol from the Biology department for setting us up for success and supporting True Greens as we rethink what is classified as research and how students can shape their campus and create hands on learning opportunities for themselves and others.