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A Growing Business: Bellevue Produce Puts Sustainability into Practice

A Growing Business: Bellevue Produce Puts Sustainability into Practice

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

A positive attitude and a Bellevue University degree (or two!) are some great ingredients for starting a sustainable business. From there, all you have to do is flavor to taste.

For Bellevue University graduates Matt Roen and Andy Severson, those flavors include broccoli and cauliflower, carrots and beets, lettuce and kale, among many others. And don’t forget fresh eggs from their flock of chickens and honey from their bee hives. Those tastes are grown by Bellevue Produce, a Community Supported Agriculture endeavor co-owned by Roen and Severson along with a third partner, Scott Rynders.

The group sells options enabling customers to come to the garden at 1012 Grandview Avenue in Bellevue, Nebraska, and pick their own produce. The produce is also available at a stand at the intersection of Mission Street and Madison Street in downtown Bellevue. Customers can also volunteer to assist in the garden and leave with a bag full of produce.

SONY DSC Matt Roen

“I would say on average we feed about 30 people a week,” Roen said. “That’s including volunteers and shareholders. We have a waiting list now.”

Roen, who collected an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University, earned his bachelor’s degree in Management from Bellevue University in 2007.

“I looked into Bellevue and saw they had the accelerated program where I could go to class one night a week for four hours.

That’s really what prompted me,” Roen said. “Since I had an associate’s degree, I could get right into that accelerated program and jump into all the classes that are important in your degree. And I didn’t have to take a ton of prerequisite courses.”

Adjunct Professor Susan Hardy led Roen’s cohort. "She was a breath of fresh air as a teacher,” Roen said “Any question you had, you could email, you could call, she was there. She just had a lot of energy that really got you into it. They go through all the basics of management – ethics, bookkeeping, delegation, project management. It’s just a great overview of management. I apply so much of that knowledge. How do I go about making that decision? What’s the process I take? It’s impacted Bellevue Produce a lot.”

Severson just completed his bachelor’s degree at Bellevue University as part of the first cohort in the Sustainability Management program under Dr. John Kyndt.

Kyndt and Severson Dr. John Kyndt and Andy Severson

“He’s very informative and he gives you feedback on everything that you do. He’s finding ways to help you and it’s not so much telling you what you’re doing wrong, but what you could do better,” Severson said of his professor.

An Introduction to Horticulture class at Metro Community College helped pique Severson’s interest in agriculture, and he jumped at the opportunity to join the Sustainability Management program at its inception.

“I was really interested in urban gardening and suburban farming. It started making me realize how everything works as a system,” Severson said. “Not only do I need to know the plants, but I need to know the bugs, I need to know the birds, I need to know the bees. I need to know everything that is working. It made me realize I really need to check out this sustainability thing, because this is something that I really am passionate about. I like seeing things work naturally together and making things work better just because of something natural that is in the system with them.”

Kyndt, in turn, is thrilled to see the lessons he’s taught in the classroom come to vivid, vibrant life in the Bellevue Produce garden.

“It’s very cool to see this put into practice,” Kyndt said. “I hear them quoting some of the things that we talked about in the classroom. I like how they’re using different varieties to complement each other to make it a closed-loop system.”

IMG_0214 Matt Roen, Andy Severson and Scott Rynders

While the Bellevue Produce team will continue to grow vegetables, they’re also looking to grow their business. One possible area of expansion is aquaponics, a system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

“This would give us a way where we can provide fresh food to the Omaha area year round,” Severson said.

To learn more about Bellevue Produce, visit their website at www.bellevueproduce.com.