WIU providing local produce to Macomb Hy-Vee

Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 5:55 PM CST
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MACOMB, Ill. (WGEM) - While the cold wintry weather prohibits most producers from growing local produce, that is not stopping Western Illinois University.

Throughout the last few months, WIU has been growing hydroponic lettuce and providing it to the local Hy-Vee for sale to consumers.

The hydroponic system, otherwise known as the nutrient film technique, uses several different channels where the lettuce is grown with water flow the size of a dime and varying amounts of nutrients applied.

You can find out more about hydroponic systems from the USDA here.

The director of WIU’s ag program, Andy Baker, says the project has been quite successful, especially since many people enjoy having local produce throughout the year.

“I think a lot of local consumers would like to have the freshest that they can have anytime of the year. And so the hydroponic lettuce creates that fresh, not coming clear across from California to be able to get a good quality head of lettuce,” Baker said.

He said he has received positive feedback from many people who have bought the lettuce, especially due to the long lasting power of the produce.

“The hydroponic lettuce that we’re growing is a honeycrisp lettuce. The beauty of this lettuce is that it stays in your refrigerator for three or four weeks without any wilting, without any deterioration of the lettuce head itself,” Baker said.

Baker was excited about the endeavor, since it allowed both extensive agricultural research on hydroponics while also providing produce to the community.

Workers at the Hy-Vee in Macomb also said they were excited and thankful to have locally grown produce on the store shelves

“I just love it, it’s a win-win situation to offer homegrown stuff,” said Hy-Vee produce manager Gary Jansen.

Baker said he is looking into growing strawberries within the next couple of weeks. He is also looking into offering the produce to local restaurants as well.

You can find out more about the partnership between WIU and Hy-Vee here.

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