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Growing the Kirkwood garden

By Chris Hanian
On October 22, 2015

Kirkwood Community College has an on-campus garden that is maintained by students in the Horticulture program. The produce from the garden is then used at The Class Act restaurant and The Hotel at Kirkwood Center. 

According to Justin Billings, executive chef in the Culinary Arts department, the garden started in 2011 for simply growing tomatoes and basil. He added that it quickly grew into a 5,000-square-foot garden that provides ingredients for The Class Act. 

Because of the exact need for certain vegetables and greens, every year is planned out so that everything is used efficiently. Billings said approximately 95 percent of all produce grown in the garden is used at the restaurant and anything extra is given to students to practice with and create new dishes. 

“The garden provides interesting fresh ingredients and is completely used for educational purposes,” said Billings. 

The garden contains many different greens, herbs and vegetables and is mapped out so very little is wasted, according to Billings. 

In addition to the garden, there is an entire room in the greenhouse dedicated to growing microgreens. Billings said the garden has a season lasting late into the fall based on weather and during the colder months, most of the produce is grown in the greenhouse. 

The plants in the greenhouse are maintained via hydroponics, grown in sand, but Billings said they plan to switch to aquaponics, which focuses on both plants and fish, by next year.

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