University Farm helps dining halls go local

For many farmers, fall marks the height of harvest season. For workers at the University Farm, they’ve already harvested tons—literally—of vegetables, much of which is being served in dining halls across campus. So far in 2011, their harvests have provided more than 4,200 lbs. of produce to Bon Appétit Management Co. and more than 1,000 lbs. to the Cleveland Food Bank and local food pantries.

Last year—the first year of the partnership—the University Farm provided more than 6,000 lbs. to Bon Appétit’s operations across campus. The partnership has grown from a few experimental plantings in the farm greenhouse to two acres of land, said Jim O’Brien, resident district manager of Bon Appétit.

“The university is extremely lucky to have a working farm, a full-time farmer and a beautiful site where students and staff can do research and volunteer in support of the local food movement,” said Stephanie Corbett, director of sustainability.

The partnership between the University Farm and Bon Appétit is critical to Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork initiative, in which they strive to purchase seasonal and regional ingredients from local, sustainable farmers within 150 miles.

“In today’s globalized food system, dinner might have traveled 1,200 to 2,400 miles before it gets to our plates,” Corbett said. “Each farm harvest helps Case Western Reserve and Bon Appétit reduce our food miles and the carbon footprint of what is served in our dining halls.”

Additionally, Bon Appétit’s goal is to serve produce often within 48 hours of harvest.

To help enable this, representatives from the farm drop off a harvest once or twice per week, said Ana B. Locci, director of the University Farm, which is composed of Squire Valleevue and Valley Ridge Farms.

“We have an outstanding relationship with the staff of the farm and are looking forward to a long-lasting relationship and further development of more products,” O’Brien said. The goal is to have regular, routine sowing of crops to provide year-round production.

As part of the partnership, representatives from the farms help with any educational programming on campus. Alternately, Bon Appétit helps with events at the University Farm, such as the upcoming Farm Harvest Festival Oct. 1, during which the campus community can learn more about the farms, the food program and the educational and volunteer opportunities the farms provide.

“We help each other in the education part of environmentally friendly practices in food production, which was implemented by the farm horticulturist, Chris Bond,” Locci said. “Plus, Bon Appétit is able to buy produce chemical-free from only 10 miles away from the main campus.”

By the numbers

Wondering just how many pounds of vegetables the farms produce? Check out the latest tallies below. Zucchini and yellow squash are the heavy hitters, totaling nearly 1,500 lbs., while tomatoes are the runner-up, coming in at almost 500 lbs.

Product Description Total Quantity (lbs.)
Chives 7.28
Basil 125.95
Mint 36.81
Zucchini and Yellow Squash 1,465
Tomatoes 497.35
Salad greens 38
Cilantro 1.56
Parsley 24.75
Daikon Radish 79.5
Oregano 26.42
Thyme 29
Pumpkins 218
Onions 45.50
Green/Red Cabbage 158
Spinach 6
Hot Peppers 411.07
Bell Peppers 227.5
Sweet Potatoes 50
Rosemary 3
Cucumbers 124.1
Sweet corn 119.5
Carrots 35.25
Cabbage 2.25
Green beans 283.3
Watermelons 230
Canteloupe 20