C-Store to sell local produce


Blake Pulse, Reporter (He/him)

South Dakota State University’s C-Stores will soon stock locally grown produce as a result of a collaboration between the Local Foods Education Center (LFEC) and Campus Dining.

Beginning fall 2021, produce grown at the LFEC will be sold at the Larson and Hansen C-Stores.

Brett Owens, director of the foods center, said the C-Stores will start by selling tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, lettuce, radishes, onions and other basic produce. The produce will be supplied even during South Dakota’s cold winters because of the center’s expanded hydroponic system.

“We can pretty much grow anything that there is a request for,” Owens said.

Hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil. Plants need light, water, carbon dioxide and oxygen at the root zone. In hydroponics, plants are grown in an inert medium such as rocks or coco coir fiber, and they are fed a solution containing a perfected mix of primary, secondary and micro-nutrients, thus eliminating the need for soil.

Heidi Haro, campus dining general manager, said that her organization and LFEC have been talking for years about a partnership, and she is excited to bring local produce into the C-Stores.

“We hope that we can continue to grow this program to incorporate local dishes, then catering, and when operations get larger, we can look into doing themed weeks,” Haro said. “I believe that it will grow, but we want to kick it off in the C-Stores.”

LFEC has grown over the past few years and is able to now provide produce year-round. Owens said the center recently expanded by adding 2.5 additional acres to the east of the football stadium on the northeast edge of campus.

Taylor McMartin, a sophomore agriculture communications major, generally uses the C-Store once or twice a week. She is excited that the stores will be offering a greater variety of healthier food and giving more sustainable options to students.

She also said she would buy locally grown produce from the C-Stores because she knows where it comes from and she is eager to support an SDSU program.

There are a variety of challenges the LFEC and Campus Dining have faced in their drive to offer produce in the C-Store, Owens said. Issues relating to insurance, food safety and “a lot of little things that we do not always think about” had to be dealt with before the produce can be sold in the C-Stores.

“We want to make sure that things are 100% before we launch this program,” Owens said.

Haro added that it’s not as easy as a tomato coming out of the ground and showing up in the C-Store.

“Now we are just crossing the T’s and dotting our I’s to make sure that everything is in place,” she said. 

Marie McLaughlin, the student chair of the University Food Service Advisory Committee, said local foods make people think about where their food comes from, how it grows and if it is being grown sustainably. It bridges the gap between farm and fork.

Jordan Thompson, a sophomore human biology major, regularly shops at the Larson C-Store. Thomson is unsure if she would buy fresh produce at the C-Store, saying the decision would come down to price and type of produce.

Garrett Satterly, a sophomore journalism and communications studies major, shops at the C-Store daily. He said he would like the opportunity to see more fresh produce in the C-Store. His biggest concern is the price.