On a corner of land on campus, corn stalks tower over a small meadow of basil, and banana trees shadow rows of tomatoes. With sidewalks interweaving between areas of growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and more, the path to Torvian Dining Hall has never been more scenic.
Beyond providing a scenic path to the dining hall, the growing fruits and vegetables provide fresh produce, which is used and prepared by dining staff, bringing organic food to Torvian Dining.
Once a barren piece of ground, the area was weeded last year and seeds were planted, establishing what is now the Torvian Garden. A first year of trial-and-error, the garden produced over 200 pounds of product. Now in its second year, plants were started and nurtured in a greenhouse on campus until
they were ready to be relocated to the garden, where they are thriving and generating fresh produce daily. While the total pounds of produce for the year are not yet official, the number has already soared past the amount produced last year.
Man behind the
While the garden is thriving, the seeds needed to be planted first, and Executive Sous Chef Dallas Pursley is to thank for planting the seed, both in the garden and for the idea of the garden.
Growing up in Robertsville, Mo. on a 200-acre farm, Pursley spent countless hours in the kitchen with his mom, and when he was old enough, on the farm with his father and brothers. With his love of the land, farming, and being in the kitchen, it was a natural step for him to gravitate toward the
“I found a way to connect my home roots and passion to ‘work,’ bringing what I knew about farming to cooking,” described Pursley. “Without farming, I would have no job. My job is to take what the farmers have done and showcase their work.”
After attending college and becoming certified in the culinary arts, Pursley began his professional career in cooking.
“I always cook for my family, whoever that may be,” shared Pursley. “I live for the brief, but deeply meaningful, exchange with my ‘family’ when they delight in the food I’ve placed in front of them.”
Now, after moving across the country and taking a job with Parkhurst Dining as Executive Sous Chef, Pursley is cooking for an even larger family, the Saint Francis University community.
“While my family is 700+ miles away, I have family here at Saint Francis University,” stated Pursley. “I put my heart and soul into cooking for them. You would not want to feed your family something bad, and I strive to feed my Saint Francis family to the best of my ability.”
Pursley is doing just that: cooking for his “family” at Saint Francis and providing what is best for them by bringing his home roots to campus. By establishing the Torvian Garden, revamping the greenhouse on campus, working year-round with the seeds and starts for the garden, growing
connections with local farmers, and watching the produce thrive and be transformed into delicious plates of food, the future of Torvian Dining Hall is bright.
A growing garden
The future of the dining hall is not the only future gleaming from the Torvian Garden. As the garden continues to grow and expand, hopes are that more students will get involved with the garden.
Environmental Engineering student Katherine Butler volunteered her time to help with the garden, adding to her senior portfolio and project as she hopes to work in sustainability. Social work major Jill Clark also volunteered countless hours to the garden. With hopes to one day
have a community food bank grown from community gardens, she loves the experience she is gaining from spending time in the garden.
These two students merely provide a glimpse at the opportunities to embellish students’ futures through the garden. Current endeavors are being made to provide additional student opportunities, from collaborating with the “green team”—a campus-wide volunteer club focused on
green initiatives—to involving students from an array of majors.
Enhancing and complimenting all majors, the garden provides the stepping stones of green initiatives for a green future, aligning with the Franciscan Goals of Higher Education—a cornerstone of education at Saint Francis.