Certified Organic Vegetable and Small Fruit Production

Strawberries in a high tunnel

The Berea College Horticulture Farm produces a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, greens, and root crops. Decisions on what to grow are based on consumer demands with small fruits and greens being some of the most popular products. Many of the crops are started from seed in the newest greenhouse on the farm. Once the seedlings are large enough, they are transplanted into the fields and high tunnels. However, some crops, such as strawberries and sweet potatoes, are purchased from vendors, ready to plant. Students can participate in the full cycle from seeding to marketing.

Some of the warm season crops produced on the farm include tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, squash, beans, and peppers. Crops that are more vulnerable to pests and disease, such as tomatoes, are grown in the high tunnels to provide a more controlled environment for pest and disease monitoring. To control weed pressure, landscape fabric is used in the aisles and plastic-covered beds are often used in the fields. The Horticulture Farm also produces blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries that are harvested in the warm season.

Close up of shoes working in the high tunnelEven in the cool season, production at the farm continues. By utilizing the eight high tunnels and two heated greenhouses, production can continue year-round. By the time production of warm-season crops slows and comes to an end, cool-season crops have been seeded and planted. Kale, lettuce, collards, and other greens are planted in succession throughout the fall to ensure that harvests can continue through the winter and into spring. With the addition of row covers, crops grown inside the high tunnels are protected from low temperatures and frost.

Other crops grown for consumption at Horticulture Farm include herbs, root crops, and bulbs like garlic and onions. Herbs include rosemary, thyme, oregano, dill, and basil. These are often used by the Farm Store kitchen staff for baking and cooking but can also be purchased at the Farm Store. Root crops include sweet potatoes, beets, radishes, and carrots.

To be sold to the Dining Hall and at the Farm Store, produce must first be washed, packaged, labeled, and recorded. In 2013, a packing house was built on the farm to provide a space to wash, package and store produce safely. Following food safety guidelines, produce is harvested and brought into the packing house where it is washed appropriately. For example, greens such as lettuce receive a triple wash in an organic approved sanitizing solution before being spun dry and packaged and root crops have dirt removed and are inspected for quality. All produce is weighed, packaged, and labeled before being stored in one of the walk-in coolers. Each step of production involves strict record-keeping procedures to meet Organic Certification requirements.