• Girl in garden

The Food Systems Center is a multi-disciplinary group of programs and facilities designed to teach people about food sustainability. We involve local and regional food producers in dialogue about sustainable agriculture and economic vitality. For our students and faculty, FSC programs advance scholarship work by supporting research and study of food systems as well as regional food and production barriers and solutions.

Our new food facility provides the space and equipment needed to aggressively move towards our eighty percent local food goal while providing educational space for students. This facility will allow Northland to receive large shipments of local fruits and vegetables; freeze, dry, and can these products; and store them for off-season use.

The new building also represents a milestone in local food infrastructure as the region’s largest food processing facility. The food processing facilities are structured to function not just as a kitchen, but as a laboratory for student education, research and discovery, and as a catalyst for local economic training, education, and development.

Food Processing

  • Commercially licensed food processing and storage facility
  • Capacity to process and store up to six tons of food per year for Northland’s use
  • Available on a fee-per-use basis for other regional producers, allowing them to expand their businesses
  • Classroom and kitchen for classes, workshops, workforce training, and other future academic and co-curricular programming


  • Community scale organic waste collection and processing facility
  • Capacity to process up to one ton of material per day
  • Finished compost product will be used as a soil amendment, creating a closed-loop process
  • Community outreach and education programming complements the waste processing service

Demonstration Gardens

Northland’s sustainability work group has developed plans to add small gardens designed for teaching and instruction. These gardens are expected to be completed by the end of 2018 and include the following spaces:

  • Perennial edible garden with pollinator and butterfly garden
  • Permaculture garden which includes varied perennial and annual shrubs, vegetables, vines, hazelnuts, ginger, leeks, and more
  • Season extension garden with hoop house used to extend the northern climate growing period into early spring and fall shoulder seasons.
  • Fruit and nut tree garden (mini-orchard) to include apples, cherries, plums, and nuts

A Teaching and Learning Center

While the FSC will positively impact our local growers and our campus sustainability efforts, our work extends back to our core mission, to be a place where people learn to address the challenges of the future.

As a liberal arts college, our purpose is to educate. Northland’s students will learn and practice environmental sustainability initiatives within a community context, and develop leadership skills and knowledge that they can take into their future communities. A broadened focus on regional food systems will be leveraged as a distinctive economic development driver for our region by focusing social entrepreneurship on sustainability of people, planet, profits, and place.

Northland believes that it is critical that we leverage local self-reliance to help create thriving rural communities and a strong, stable campus. By increasing our capacity to be self-reliant, we foster a thriving economy that grows prosperity equitably, builds deeper community connections, and enhances the health and wellbeing of our entire region.

Reducing energy consumption and increasing renewable energy use, along with meeting our food needs locally, are important components of local self-reliance. Northland will be using the FSC for student leadership initiatives, classes, and outreach education workshops that pertain to these concepts of developing sustainable local food systems in our northern climate. This Center may serve as a model for other communities such as ours that are challenged by rural location, growing seasons, or that simply want to address issue like food sovereignty.

Building Blocks for the Food Systems Center

Access to Healthy Food
The Food Systems Center will use flash freezing to preserve fresh produce without preservatives. These foods are healthy alternatives to pre-packaged frozen foods sold by large distribution companies. Access to the freshest foods preserved with health in mind will not be limited to “high end” markets. Our foods will be shared with food pantries as well as local food vendors at reasonable prices.

Food Sovereignty
A challenge we face is how we grow food in a way that reduces hunger and achieves an equitable balance in our community between sustainable growing and economic vitality. This value promotes building relationships between people and the land–for better stewardship and planning for the future. It also connects consumers with farmers who grow the food.

Farming with Integrity
Farmers play a unique and important role in small communities. We believe in our community’s capacity to grow food sustainably as a source for our residents. We partner with farmers who care for the long-term health of their land. We believe that what we do today effects the future and the health of the planet.

Buying local, and assisting farmers to process and store their produce locally, reduces vehicle emissions from transportation, ensures healthy commitment to the lands of our Lake Superior Basin, and builds a relationship between our food, our families, and our farmers working together to create a sustainable community.

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