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Jenny Georgieva / Spoon

Inside the Village Center Greenhouse

Recently I toured the greenhouse in the Williams Village Dining Hall. I had no idea what to expect, but wanted to see inside of this mysterious purple building. We learned about the growing process and how the Village Center Greenhouse produces around 75 pounds of arugula per week. No wonder every dining hall at CU offers a never-ending supply of arugula salads! 

When the tour arrived at the greenhouse, we were told to put on hairnets and white lab coats. We then walked through a locked door and we were greeted by towers of plants. Established in 2018, this greenhouse is home to a wide variety of vegetables: including kale, arugula, scallions, sunflowers, broccoli, and even edible flowers.

Although my agricultural vocabulary is a bit rusty, what I understood from the tour is that greenhouse workers plant seeds, where they sit under heat lamps for up to two weeks, as seen below.

Once there are visible sprouts, the plants are then transferred into the “towers”, with one seed per hole. These towers provide the plants with constant water and are not only environmentally friendly, but also limit the space used to grow the quantity of plants needed by the dining halls. With over 100 towers and 44 spots per tower, almost 500 seeds can be grown at the same time. After two weeks of growing in the towers, the plants are ready to be picked, washed, and eaten. Talk about limiting food miles! 

If you live near Williams Village, you might wonder why the greenhouse emits a purple glow. This is because on some days, especially in the evening and during the winter, the plants need extra light and the greenhouse workers turn on the purple light. The clear scientific process the greenhouse workers follow is why the plants grow so fast, become so large, and can be eaten by masses of people. 

The Village Center Greenhouse is a pesticide-free growing space, uses natural fertilizers, saves water, and produces enough fresh vegetables for all of Williams Village. Funded from tuition and housing fees, this is a wonderful initiative by CU to provide fresh, clean, and sustainable food to students. Sometimes when there is a greater crop yield, trucks take extra vegetables to other dining halls found on main campus. For example, herbs grown in the summer are sent to all dining halls and can be found in many dishes like pesto and salad. Not only that, but the greenhouse workers have opportunities over the summer, when most students are living-off campus, to experiment with growing other fruits and vegetables like strawberries and peppers. 

If you are interested in learning more about sustainable agriculture or the Village Center Greenhouse, please look at the links provided below. 

Village Center Greenhouse

CU Farm and Garden Club

Hydroponic Farming

Lanaya Oliver

CU Boulder '24

Lanaya is originally from Colorado but has lived all over the world. She loves to play sports, paint, write, and bake. She is double majoring in Psychology and Spanish and dreams of becoming a sports psychologist!