During this year’s Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting and celebrating the women-owned Farm to Fork vendors who supply our teams and the communities they serve.
In 1999, Bon Appétit was the first food service company to formalize our commitment to local farmers, artisans, and fisherfolk through the launch of our Farm to Fork program, which tasks our teams with purchasing 20% of their ingredients from small, owner-operated vendors within 150 miles of our cafés. Fast forward 23 years, and Bon Appétit now spends more than $45 million dollars annually on products from Farm to Fork vendors. But more than just a pioneering sustainable sourcing commitment, and beyond abstract spending statistics, the Farm to Fork program allows our teams to purchase food from real people – including many female entrepreneurs.
This Women’s History Month, we’re making the concept of Farm to Fork more tangible and connecting faces and farms to the numbers by highlighting women-owned businesses that our teams partner with across the country.
These businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Common Market, a local-food aggregator started by Tatiana Garcia-Granados and her husband Haile Johnston in Pennsylvania, now operates in Georgia, Texas, and throughout the Northeast, connecting food purveyors and institutions like Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania and Emory University to a small army of local farmers. Equator Estate Coffees and Teas Inc. was founded by Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell in a Bay Area garage in 1995, and now distributes their mission-driven coffee nationwide. Thankfully, despite their tech-like start and ensuing decades of success, they still have time to supply the Bon Appétit teams at Mills, and Twitter. In the Midwest, SEEDS Farm, started by St. Olaf College alumni Rebecca Carlson has cultivated a relationship with the Bon Appétit teams at Carleton and St. Olaf for years, providing hyper-local produce to both schools’ kitchens. The Bon Appétit team at Carleton even catered Rebecca’s wedding last year.
Wherever in the country these vendors might be, we’re thrilled to call them our partners.
Northern California – Equator Estate Coffees and Teas Inc.
Co-founded by Brooke McDonnell and Helen Russell in a Marin County, California garage in 1995, Equator Estate Coffees and Teas Inc. was started with the idea of making people’s lives better through coffee. Over two decades later, and Equator’s dream has become a reality. The company provides high-quality coffee to customers throughout the Bay Area and nationwide while still holding to their core values of sustainability and social responsibility. Equator serves a host of Bon Appétit accounts throughout the Bay Area including Mills College, and Twitter.
Southern California – Mylk Labs
Mylk Labs founder Grace Cheng gets pretty excited about oatmeal. In fact, she has been eating it every morning for over a decade. This long-lasting love affair with the simplest and most wholesome of grains inspired her to create Mylk Labs, self-funding the company with no prior connections or knowledge of the food and beverage industry. They makes wholesome, convenient food using only real ingredients and natural processes to bring out the flavor and textures of their products. Mylk sells their oatmeal to the Bon Appétit team at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
Colorado – Hoffman Farm
Co-owned and operated by Hanmei Hoffman and her husband, Hoffman Farm is located north of Greeley, Colorado, and specializes in diversified fruit and vegetable crops, which they supply to Bon Appétit at Regis College and Colorado Christian University. The true epitome of family farmers, the Hoffmans have proudly called Northern Colorado home for six generations. Bon Appétit features Hoffman produce on its menus at Regis throughout the summer and fall, showcasing the bounty of Colorado’s growing season.
Washington State – Vibrant Valley Farm
Vibrant Valley farm was co-founded by Kara Gilbert and Elaine Walker in 2013 on Sauvie Island in Washington State. Now in their ninth year, Kara continues to operate Vibrant Valley, farming land that was inhabited by the Wapato people. Vibrant Valley’s women-driven crew is made up of dedicated farmers and passionate educators committed to exploring innovative solutions to enliven the current food system, both locally and globally. In addition to growing food for their local community and wholesale accounts including the Bon Appétit team at the University of Portland, Vibrant Valley partners with local schools and youth projects to create mentorship programs as well as green job training possibilities to accompany the hard work and dedication of growing food and learning from one another in a field setting.
Minnesota – SEEDS Farm
St. Olaf College alumna Rebecca Carlson’s passion for growing started when she was just a seedling herself on the college’s campus in Northfield, Minnesota. It blossomed over the course of her junior and senior years — literally — when she started her small-scale farm. Ten years later, Becca’s Farm to Fork-registered SEEDS Farm consists of 18 acres of certified organic and GAP vegetables for wholesale accounts, including food coops, restaurants, distributors, public schools, food shelves, as well as Bon Appétit at Carleton College and St. Olaf.
Minnesota – Hilltop Greenhouse and Farm LLC
Hilltop Greenhouse and Farm has been dedicated to growing high-quality plants and vegetables for over 25 years. Co-owned Gretchen Boldt and her husband Glenn, Hilltop began with one small greenhouse to start vegetable transplants for their fields. Now working with their three daughters, Gretchen and Glenn have grown into a full service garden center and source for local, home grown farm fresh vegetables. Hilltop Greenhouse sells its produce to the Bon Appétit teams at Carleton College, St. Olaf College, and Federated Insurance.
Georgia – Savannah River Farms
Established in 2002, Savannah River Farms is owned and operated by Kellie Deen with her husband Ben. Together they strive to meet the demands of the growing number of consumers and businesses that care about how animals are raised. Located a few miles from the Savannah River in Newington, GA, Savannah River Farms maintains a close relationship with the Bon Appétit teams at Emory University and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The Deens use only natural methods of raising their livestock to yield products not only superior in taste but in health benefits as well. The humane treatment of their animals and the sustainability of their farm are both top priorities to them.
Indiana – Sisters of Providence White Violet Center for Eco-Justice
The White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana is a ministry of the Sisters of Providence. The sisters embody the mission of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin: “teaching, caring, and inspiring for all creation.” On their 5-acre USDA certified organic farm, the sisters grow a wide variety of vegetables and fruits which they sell at their farm store and to select wholesale accounts like Bon Appétit at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology and Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods College. The White Violet Center also holds classes, hosts internships, and maintains flocks of chickens and a small herd of alpacas.
Pennsylvania – The Common Market
Co-founded by Tatiana Garcia-Granados and her husband Haile Johnston, The Common Market connects wholesale customers to farmers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and more recently Texas and Georgia, by marketing and distributing high-quality foods from hundreds of regional producers. The idea behind Common Market was born when Haile and Tatiana moved to Philadelphia in 2003 and recognized that both the urban community they lived in, as well as the rural area outside of the city had become woefully disconnected from their local food system. Working with institutions like Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania, Goucher College, and Emory University, Common Market strives to provide nutritious, affordable, locally grown food to all while maintaining a high level of transparency and accountability at every step in the process.
Maine – Circle B farms
Circle B Farms is a diverse family farm in Caribou, Maine, co-owned and operated by Patty Blackstone and her husband Sam. In addition to selling to wholesale account like the Bon Appétit team at Colby College, Circle B invites community members to their farm, offering you-pick highbush blueberries and apples during the growing season. Additionally, Circle B grows 10 acres of diversified vegetables and even aggregates produce from eight additional local growers.