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AUGUST 1, 2010 • ISSUE 90

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The MUM Organic Farms’ one-acre greenhouse

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Steve McLaskey, Director of MUM Organic Farms

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Kale seedlings waiting to be planted

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Fresh produce in the Golden Dome Market

MUM Organic Farms Promote Health and Sustainability

Since the 1970s, Maharishi University of Management has offered freshly-prepared wholesome meals in its dining halls. In 1999, the University decided to switch to organic produce as Maharishi began to warn about the potential dangers of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). In 2003, the University founded MUM Organic Farms to ensure the quality and freshness of the produce used in the kitchen.

MUM Organic Farms has been certified organic for five years and grows vegetables, herbs, and fruits on ten acres of land and in three greenhouses, the largest being one full acre. Five or six days a week, workers harvest and deliver the produce to the MUM kitchen and to the MUM Golden Dome Market on campus where it is used or sold the same day.

“There aren’t very many grocery stores where a lot of the produce in the store is harvested that morning,” said Steve McLaskey PhD, Director of MUM Farms. Dr. McLaskey has been working on the farm since the beginning and has been director since 2006.

Thanks to the large greenhouses, the growing season extends throughout the whole year. During the past winter, Dr. McLaskey received a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to test the feasibility of growing produce in a large unheated greenhouse in the winter in Iowa. The research was innovative due to the large size of the greenhouse, as previous studies examined the method in smaller greenhouses. Experimenting with various row covers, the farm successfully grew crops throughout the winter, reducing fossil fuel usage by 88% and saving $18,000.

In addition to being certified organic, the farm uses sustainable growing methods including drip irrigation and composting food scraps from the MUM food service. Dr. McLaskey is currently experimenting with soil biology, following the recommendations of Elaine Ingham, Adjunct Professor of Sustainable Living at MUM and American soil biology researcher recognized around the world as a leader in soil microbiology.

“Students can participate in the farm by doing work-study,” said Dr. David Fisher, head of the Sustainable Living Department. “They can also do an internship and have that count towards their degree.” Courses in permaculture, organic agriculture, market gardening, and soil biology teach students the skills they need on the farm.

Growing and serving organic food provides students and campus residents with healthy meals necessary for the growth of consciousness and also contributes to MUM’s efforts to become a sustainable campus.

Watch a short video about MUM Organic Farm

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