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story.lead_photo.caption Attendees admire the new greenhouse Monday at Brightwater. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

BENTONVILLE -- A new greenhouse and compost system completes the cycle of food education for Brightwater students, executive director Glenn Mack said Monday.

Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Bea Apple of Bentonville admires the new greenhouse Monday at Brightwater in Bentonville. A Center for the Study of Food and Cobblestone Farms hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony, grand opening and tours for the Brightwater Greenhouse. Brightwater, NWACC’s culinary program, has partnered with Cobblestones Farms for this project. The greenhouse is fully hydroponic and will be growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and multiple lettuce varieties.

Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food teaches more than just the preparation of food.

Brightwater

Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food is the anchor tenant in the 8th Street Market on 801 S.E. Eighth St. It opened with its first classes in January 2017.

Brightwater is a division of Northwest Arkansas Community College.

Source: Staff report

"We're looking at soil health, water resources, the distribution of food," Mack said. "[We're] looking at the entire cycle."

About 100 people attended a ceremony for the new facilities Monday.

The composting system is an Earth Tub developed by Washington-based Green Mountain Technologies. It can handle up to 100 pounds daily and is able to speed up the process, according to a Brightwater news release.

Students will be able to grow and harvest food in the greenhouse before preparing and eating it and then compost the leftovers, officials said. The compost will be used on the two 1,800-square-foot raised soil beds outside the 2,300-square-foot greenhouse.

The center partnered with Cobblestone Farms to build the greenhouse and incorporate the composting system. Cobblestone Farms is a nonprofit organization that fights area hunger by growing and distributing produce to local agencies.

The Walmart Foundation, Bonduelle Fresh Americas and Lakeside Produce sponsored the project. Bonduelle, a French vegetable company, produces the U.S. brand Ready Pac Foods, which features fresh produce. Lakeside Produce, based in Ontario, Canada, provides and delivers greenhouse-grown vegetables across North America.

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Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, leafy greens and herbs will be grown in the Brightwater greenhouse, which will be in production year round, said Laura Brewer, greenhouse operating manager and executive director of Cobblestone Farm.

It will use hydroponic flood benches and gutters for production. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent instead of soil. It allows for control of every aspect of production, Brewer said.

"You have reduced pest and disease pressure because it's so well controlled," she said. The system also allows plants to grow more quickly than in soil.

Officials expect the greenhouse to produce 5,500 pounds of food in its first year. Students will use half of it, and Cobblestone Farms will distribute the other half to other hunger relief agencies in the region.

One in seven people in Northwest Arkansas are food insecure, meaning they don't know where food for their next meal will come from, Michael Hancock, Cobblestone board member, told those in attendance. Of those, one in four are children.

"We're a nonprofit that donates to other nonprofits," he said.

Brightwater students won't be the only ones who get to use the greenhouse. The center has programs set up with Rogers and Bentonville public school systems as well as Thaden School and soon the Arkansas Arts Academy, Mack said. There will also be opportunities for the public to volunteer.

These partnerships fit with the center's mission of making the food world accessible to the community and its students, he said.

"This is exactly how it's supposed to work," said Graham Cobb, chamber president and CEO. "We have partnerships with private businesses, for-profit businesses, nonprofits and education."

NW News on 01/30/2018

Print Headline: Greenhouse adds opportunity for food studies

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