Beyond the Ration: Sustainable Food at NOLS

By Karly Copeland

May 6, 2015

The NOLS ration is carefully engineered to meet the nutritional needs of our students and instructors. It is sprinkled with sweet treats to celebrate summits, birthdays, and other events that call for chocolate! And who doesn’t think of those peanut butter filled pretzels with fondness? However, to the NOLSie fresh off a 30-day expedition, even the most delicious maltball pales in comparison to the idea of fresh produce. As such, when our students and staff are in town we do our best to feed them the freshest food possible. Some locations are able to take things even further by growing their own food on site.

Garden in Alaska

It's hard to beat fresh vegetables after time in the backcountry. Photo from the NOLS Alaska garden. Photo by Fredrik Norrsell.

The NOLS Alaska garden is more than fifteen years old. It consists of several plots around the property ("the Farm"). During the long summer days, the plots yield organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers that make up a significant amount of the food served to students and staff. All the food waste is then composted or fed to the pigs and chickens that are raised on site to provide organic meat.

NOLS Alaska isn’t the only location that raises pigs. NOLS Mexico also feeds organic waste to a pig during the operating season. Anything not used to feed the pig is composted for fertilizer for landscaping that is watered with NOLS Mexico’s extensive grey water system, a huge environmental asset in the desert!

NOLS Patagonia is actually a working farm of several hundred acres, giving them ample opportunity to grow food on site. There are two large greenhouses where they grow all the salad greens, various vegetables and most of the potatoes used on site. Cows and sheep are raised to supply organic meat to students and staff. Recently, they also began raising chickens to provide fresh eggs.

Finally, NOLS India also feeds livestock with organic waste from the kitchen. Four cows and six chickens live on the property to enjoy the leftovers from NOLS students. In return, the chickens provide fresh eggs for students and staff to enjoy.

Compost in Mexico

It doesn't look pretty, but composting reduces waste and helps keep NOLS Mexico green. Photo by Amy Rathke.

Sustainable Cookies

NOLS Alaska sells homemade cookies to fund even more sustainability projects.

Locally raised food is important to NOLS for many reasons—it provides excellent nutrition to our students and staff, it supports environmentally sustainable practices, and it is delicious!

Have you seen our cooking show?

Stay updated on sustainability projects at NOLS on the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability page of our website.

Written By

Karly Copeland

Karly Copeland is the former NOLS Sustainability Coordinator.

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