Afew miles from CSULB lies eight acres of land from which your next campus meal may come, courtesy of Long Beach native and CSULB alumnus Frank Spina. Spina is the owner of Salco Landscape Services and Salco Growers in Lakewood. The arboricultural side of Spina’s expertise has kept his company busy, providing trees and landscaping for CSULB for the last few years. Now the agricultural side of his business is taking root, and campus members are the primary beneficiary.
What started as a personal trip to the Salco nursery for Forty-Niner Shops General Manager/CEO Don Penrod is blossoming into a new endeavor for the Shops Dining Services and Salco Growers. Discussions with Penrod and the Shops Dining Services Director Melissa Devan led to a sample crop for use in the Chart Room and the Beach Walk Café.
“The localvore movement, as it is being identified across the nation, is the practice of using locally-grown produce,therefore minimizing the need for transportation and successfully shrinking the carbon footprint.” Devan shares, “[The Shops] are supporting local farms where the owners live on or near the land, work it themselves and are conscientious about the products they grow. It has an impact on the flavor and nutritional value of the food that the Shops serve. A tomato grown without pesticides and ripened on the vine tastes unbelievably better than one sprayed with chemicals, picked while green, trucked thousands of miles and force-ripened in a warehouse.”
“The primary goal for the Shops is to increase supply from local growers as much as possible,” Penrod explains. “This is about using local farmers and shortening the path from farm to table. Many varieties of produce are unable to stay fresh over long distances, so using a farm that’s literally down the street gives our chefs the variety to provide healthier options at a higher quality.” Eight acres may not be ample land to provide food for the thousands of students, staff and faculty who come to campus each day, but Spina has implemented innovative techniques to maximize his productivity. Vertical walls and A-frame structuring can increase the growing capacity of a 20 square feet plot to 35 or even 40 square feet, doubling the active area without using more land. Spina has used this technique with success on varieties of herbs, strawberries and tomatoes, and he plans to push this innovation even further. Spina and Salco Growers are excited about these ‘cutting edge’ practices.” Penrod says, “Spina is a step ahead of the protocol out there.”
With his own roots in the agricultural community, Penrod sees a high degree of potential in Spina’s farming endeavor, “With the climate that Long Beach and Lakewood enjoy, it wouldn’t surprise me if Spina is able to yield respectable crops of blackberries, raspberries, heirloom tomatoes, multiple varieties of beans, zucchini and even summer squash.”
As growing seasons cycle, different crops and different yields will contribute to different menus in the Shops’ dining venues. Spina’s experience acknowledges a major variable, “The environment is constantly changing, but it does allow us to grow it fresh, grow it right and keep it close.”