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Dining Services employees harvest fresh greens at the UNT hydroponic farm, which will be relocated and expanded this fall thanks to funding from the UNT Diamond Eagles Society.
The team behind UNT Dining Services knows that food is more than just a source of nourishment — it’s one of the building blocks of a successful life. They’re on a mission to provide access to food that is fresh, local, delicious and as healthy as possible. And now, with the support of the UNT Diamond Eagles Society, Dining Services will expand and relocate its hydroponic farm, increasing access to hyperlocal food.
Hydroponic gardening — a method of growing plants without soil — offers a way to grow fresh greens for the entire campus. Since 2016, over 700 heads of leafy greens have been harvested on campus each week and used in UNT’s award-winning dining halls. The new Diamond Eagles Garden at Mean Green Acres will use proven methods that are earth-friendly, forward-thinking and economical to offer additional varieties and double the amount of produce grown on campus.
This is the fifth project funded by the Diamond Eagles, a giving society where $1,000 individual gifts are pooled together to fund high-impact campus projects determined by a member majority vote.
“The ability to insource quality vegetables is important to our students’ nutrition,” says Dennis Raso (’85), Diamond Eagles member since 2019. “The hydroponic garden will help alleviate supply chain and market pricing issues.”
Along with expanding the hydroponic farm, the Diamond Eagles funding will enable the farm to move to a more visible location. This will showcase the healthy, sustainable UNT community as a tool for student recruitment and retention.
“When visitors see the Diamond Eagles Garden at Mean Green Acres, they will recognize the important contributions of the society — real food grown at UNT, by UNT, for UNT,” says Peter Balabuch, executive director of UNT Dining Services.
On-campus gardening is just one in a long list of innovations for UNT’s Dining Services, which opened the first vegan dining hall in the country and the first allergen-free dining hall in Texas. This project will build upon that national reputation and demonstrate the university and community support for fresh, from-scratch dining. It will also have an immediate impact on UNT students, both dining hall patrons and those who are employed to manage the gardens.
A great dining program brings students together and gives them a sense of belonging on campus. The Diamond Eagles Garden at Mean Green Acres Hydroponic Farm — set to open in October 2022 — will support that mission and demonstrate to our campus community and visitors that the university truly does Mean Green.
“We truly appreciate the support of the Diamond Eagles, and we will carry this forward by producing healthy, sustainable greens for the entire campus to enjoy for years to come,” says Balabuch.