University of Maryland Dining Services is looking to kick-start its sustainability efforts, and a recent donation from Rimol Greenhouse Systems is accelerating the movement. A 30-foot-by-96-foot Nor'Easter greenhouse structure is set to be completed in June and house a variety of crops this summer. The produce will contribute to a select number of dining halls across UMD's campus.
The donated greenhouse includes double poly with an IR inner layer, automated roll-up sides, gable shutters, polycarbonate end walls and double sliding doors. The Nor'Easter is currently the strongest freestanding greenhouse available on the market and designed to protect its crops against all weather conditions. Allison Lilly, UMD coordinator of sustainability and wellness, said she originally asked for a 20-foot-by-48-foot high tunnel structure but was encouraged by Rimol owner/founder Bob Rimol to go with a bigger structure, which led to the Nor'Easter greenhouse series.
What helps make the Nor'Easter a strong and rigid structure is that for every bow there is a truss assembly, which results in unmatched strength. Also, its extended ground post option allows the greenhouse to be raised. The Nor'Easter series comes with a wind bracing kit as well.
"It's important to give graduate and undergraduate students a chance to take their classroom outdoors and understand how sustainability is achieved," said Rimol.
The greenhouse is located 15 miles north of the College Park campus at the university's Upper Marlboro Research and Education Center, managed by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, and various lettuce types are potential items for the initial growing season. Lilly believes three to five more Rimol high tunnel structures could be added within the next few years.
"I had a couple of great conversations with Bob Rimol," she said. "We shared a lot of similarities in visions and goals for this project. We see why it's important to reach out to the students on campus and to the farmers in our community. It's great that we can follow the student initiative because students have been interested in growing their own food for awhile."
Rimol's relationship with local cooperative extension agent Brian Butler and UMD plant sciences professor Dr. Christopher Walsh got the wheels turning on a possible agreement. Butler had worked closely with Rimol in the past and saw the greenhouse manufacturer as an "easy top choice."
Rimol's mid-Atlantic sales manager Ryan Richard has been active during the Nor'Easter's construction process. The university's lead agricultural technician, Guy Kilpatric, has worked regularly with Richard in making sure the installation goes smoothly. Kilpatric will also lead a three-student team in making sure the crops come along as planned throughout the summer.
"When Allison first approached Rimol Greenhouse Systems and we discussed her ideas for the Terp Farm project, we at Rimol thought it was a no-brainer," said Richard. "The staff at University of Maryland's Dining Services Department at College Park was great to work with."
"We can't wait to see how their first summer goes, and we're looking forward to more high tunnel donations for them in the future," said Rimol.