PALO ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Erin Johnson and Ben Doherty of Open Hands Farm in Northfield, MN, desperately need a storage facility to hold their carrots and other root vegetables during the winter months. Locals Seafood founders Ryan Speckman and Lin Peterson in Raleigh, NC, long for a new refrigerated vehicle that will let them expand their delivery routes for fresh shellfish, crabs, and crawfish. Mark and Patricia Lovejoy of Garden Treasures Organic Farm in Arlington, WA, have 10 large greenhouses acquired from retiring farmers sitting in piles waiting to be assembled to protect their plants from too much rain and extend their growing season.
They and seven other small farms and food businesses around the nation will now be able to make these dreams become reality, with a no-strings-attached “Fork to Farm” grant of $5,000 from Bon Appétit Management Company, one of their major customers.
Bon Appétit provides “food service for a sustainable future” to universities, corporations, and museums in 32 states. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Bon Appétit’s way-ahead-of-its-time Farm to Fork program. (Since 1999, all chefs at the company’s 500+ cafés around the country have been tasked with sourcing at least 20% of their ingredients from small, owner-operated farms within 150 miles of their kitchens. The company now has more than 1,400 Farm to Fork registered vendors.)
“Working with Bon Appétit has helped our business reach the next level. The consistency and financial security provided by having a solid, weekly outlet for our produce is nothing short of awesome for us dirt farmers,” wrote Garden Treasures’ Mark Lovejoy. “So many of the crops we grow require months of lead time and investment before sale, so knowing Bon Appétit is going to utilize a certain amount is key to our success. It allows us to concentrate on growing and packing great food for direct delivery.”
To celebrate the Farm to Fork milestone, Bon Appétit decided to give back to the suppliers whose hard work have allowed the company to build its brand around offering the freshest, from-scratch food. It took the $50,000 earmarked for as the annual gift in the name of its clients, which usually goes to a single food-related nonprofit, and broke it into 10 small grants that will nevertheless have a big impact. Bon Appétit teams also led four volunteer workdays at local farms.
On September 23, Bon Appétit’s 10th annual Eat Local Challenge Day, more than 26,000 college students, corporate employees, museumgoers — after enjoying a 100% local meal — cast their votes to determine which 10 farms out of 25 finalists would receive $5,000 to complete their projects.
The 10 recipients are:
Mesa Ranch, Snowflake, AZ
Campus Community Farm at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, MD
Flying Fish Company, Portland, OR
Garden Treasures Organic Farm, Arlington, WA
Horse Listeners Orchard, Ellington, CT
Locals Seafood, Raleigh, NC
New Creation Farm, Chardon, OH
Open Hands Farm, Northfield, MN
Open Space Meats LLC, Newman, CA
Red Fire Farm, Montague, MA
See www.bamco.com/forktofarm for full details on their projects.
“The whole campus is excited for us. We are extremely grateful to Bon Appétit for this grant. This is more help to us than you can imagine,” said Kate Chandler, a professor of English and adviser to the Campus Community Farm at St. Mary's College of Maryland. “We'll certainly send word once we actually purchase the greenhouse and get it erected.”
Greenhouses and hoop houses, movable electric fencing and expanded cooking capacity — the humbleness of the projects was eye-opening even for Bon Appétit longtimers like Maisie Ganzler, Vice President of Strategy, who helped launch the Farm to Fork program in 1999 and oversaw this year’s grant program. “Farmers are small-business owners who operate on razor-thin margins and face more variables than most,” said Ganzler. “Local food is one of the last great values America seems to have in common. I believe we have a responsibility to support our farmers, and I’m proud that Bon Appétit is able to help these 10 farms create efficiencies and get them more bang for their very hard work.”