Blog: Farms

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Recently at Seattle University, Bon Appétit Management Company and Slow Food Seattle cosponsored a free showing of the new documentary Vanishing of the Bees, which was directed by George Langworthy and Maryam Heinen and narrated by actress Ellen Page. An astonishing 350 people attended the showing and the panel discussion with local beekeepers that followed.

I eagerly returned for this summer’s eighth annual trip with other Bon Appétit staff to visit and dine with Shepherd’s Grain farmers in Washington State. On our excursion to Eastern Washington, Bon Appétit chefs, managers, and I visited the Spokane Hutterian Brethren Colony in Reardan, WA, where the Grosses, Hofers, and Walters uphold their collective 460-plus-year family tradition in farming, growing crops on 9,000 acres and living a self-sufficient lifestyle. I love this trip because – like many conscientious eaters today – I like to know where my food comes from. It’s a rare treat to be among 75 farmers and chefs who put the meaning of their work so eloquently into words.

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When Jonas Stoltzfus of JuJo Acres in Loysville, PA, walked straight up to his non-castrated breeding bull and gave it a nice pat on the back, I knew I wasn’t on an ordinary farm.

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What do local farms have to do with kitchen safety? Both farmers and food service providers have a responsibility to keep their customers from becoming sick — and the better you know those customers, the heavier that responsibility weighs. In addition, the more Bon Appétit employees know about the farmers and artisans who provide the food served in the cafés, the more they can inspire customers to support these local heroes. Supporting local food producers rewards our community with tastier, safer food that contributes to our local economy. Employees of Bon Appétit at Duke University in Durham, NC, recently had the opportunity to connect food safety and farming first hand

Although available year round, fresh asparagus during the peak season is an unmatched delight so this spring, Chef Kiley Davis of Kaneko Commons and I set out to find the best local asparagus for our kitchens here at Willamette University in Salem, OR. We found it during a visit to Kenagy Family Farms, located just 45 minutes south in Albany, OR.

Mike Tabor, an activist-turned farmer, first realized the problems with the quality of food in our public school systems about 20 years ago. He has been working on farm to cafeteria legislation ever since, and started his own organic farm in Needmore, PA. He sells to Bon Appétit through our Farm to Fork Program.

Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has been steadily increasing its purchases from local farmers ever since taking over the Penn account in 2009. But the busy chefs don’t always have the opportunity to venture outside of their kitchens and visit the producers. To provide chefs with a unique farmers’ perspective, as well as inspiration to purchase locally, Hill House Executive Chef Valerie McHugh has begun taking members of the Penn team on visits to local farms during school breaks.

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Have you ever seen a farm that grows produce using minerals, nutrients, and water, but no soil? Bon Appétit Farm to Fork partner John Lawson of Hydro Harvest Farms is doing just that—and growing about six times more produce than the typical farm in the process, he says!

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Bon Appétit chefs are used to cooking for business and academic royalty: CEOs, Nobel Prize-winning professors, and university presidents dine on our food daily. But when the company was invited to feed actual royalty — His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, fresh from his son’s wedding — along with Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio, a dozen other stars of the sustainable food movement, and 750 journalists and other high-profile guests, the menu planning and food sourcing reached new heights of intensity.

The occasion was a landmark all-day conference on the “Future of Food,” hosted by the Washington Post at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.