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University of New Hampshire Making it Fresh


Do a little homework on the UNH Conferences and Catering operation and it doesn’t take long to discover that it places great emphasis on incorporating fresh, local ingredients into their food prep whenever possible. The resident UNH catering gurus and top chefs, Michelle Fiumara-Montgomery and Jack Aydelott, make sure of that.

Just how local some of the ingredients are may surprise you, though. In fact, they’re growing right in UNH’s backyard. Literally.

Said ingredients are being grown by UNH students majoring in sustainable agricultural and food systems (part of UNH’s College of Life Sciences and Agriculture), in a pair of high tunnels adjacent to UNH’s Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center. One tunnel is heated, one is not.

For those unfamiliar with the term “high tunnel,” allow us to enlighten you.

A high tunnel is a plastic-covered, greenhouse-like structure, inside of which crops are grown year round. They’re ideal for veggies, small fruits, and cut flowers, to name a few items. It allows the farmer, or in this case UNH student farmers, to protect crops from harmful bugs and pests, disease, wind and rain. Simply put, it’s a cost-effective way to control the growing environment and to lengthen the growing season.

It’s also convenient for chefs Fiumara-Montgomery and Aydelott, not to mention a great source of pride considering their longstanding belief in working with fresh, local ingredients whenever possible.

“We are so proud to serve the excellent greens, herbs, and onions provided to us by the crew at the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture,” Aydelott said. “We’ve found the greens provided by COLSA last well over a week in our coolers, while maintaining that same quality of flavor.”

Andrew Ogden, a professor in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems degree program, explains that the crops are now being used by the popular Dairy Bar located in front of the Whittemore Center, the school’s dining services operation, and of course, the conferences and catering operation.