I’m always exciting during this time of the year. Local food production is at the height of the season and the schools are back in session. This means that many students will be experiencing the fresh and local products of Parkhurst Dining for the first time! Our FarmSource program allows us to source a variety of locally grown and raised products that are guaranteed to put smiles on students’ faces.
This also happens to be the time of year when I visit new farms and facilities to help expand and diversify our local sourcing relationships surrounding our Parkhurst accounts. Parkhurst chefs are passionate about high quality ingredients and committed to sourcing products local to the guests they serve. When a chef locates a farm that could be a potential vendor for their account, we begin an extensive approval process to ensure the farm and it’s product meet our high standards of quality and safety. An important part of this process is a thorough visit of the farm or facility to guarantee that they follow Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). It’s also a great opportunity to get to know the owners and operators of these farms and facilities. We pride ourselves in truly knowing the farmers we support and enjoy contributing to the growth of their operations year after year.
Last week, I visited four new farms with which we are looking to build relationships. The first stop was Mountain View Farms in Somerset, PA. Primarily a dairy farm, Mountain View Farms also grows potatoes and was a prolific supplier for Snyder of Berlin potato chips for many years. I look forward to seeing where this newly found relationship goes.
My second visit was with Big City Farms in Baltimore, Maryland. This farm is only 1.5 acres and concentrates on producing high quality salad greens. The farm is small, but there are plans to expand to 5 acres by the end of 2014. They grow a variety of lettuce, kale and chard that will soon feed the hungry students at Loyola University.
Next, I visited Rock Barn in Arrington, VA. This niche business takes the cake as being one of the most unique facilities I’ve visited. They are a USDA inspected pork processor that takes primal cuts of meat and turns them into delicious sausage and charcuterie. A bulk of the processing is done in a farmhouse that was built in the early 1900’s. Their level cleanliness and organization left a positive and lasting impression.
Finally, I visited Cedar Hill Farm in Lexington, VA. This vegetable farm is quite small but the farmer named Rodney has some exciting future plans. He has already acquired a 10 acre piece of land and is going to work with his family to prepare and grow vegetables on it. He has big plans to construct raised beds and run water lines so he can be ready for next years season.
As the initiative to buy fresh and local continues to gain momentum, it becomes increasingly important to make sure we are doing business with the right partners. In the last five years, I’ve visited several newly established farms producing great products. Although they are great to support, our priority is establish relationships with farms and facilities that will produce only the safest, freshest and highest quality products available to our guests.
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