Farm to Fork Goes Digital with Farmer Meet and Greet at Washington University in St. Louis

Chef poses with farmer in field

WashU Campus Executive Chef Patrick McElroy with Michael Gehman of Double Star Farms during a pre-COVID-19 farm tour

Campus Executive Chef Patrick McElroy and the Bon Appétit at Washington University in St. Louis team have always nurtured close relationships with their local Farm to Fork vendors, working hard over the years to create awareness on campus about these partnerships.

Due to social distancing requirements, it’s more difficult to organize in-person farm tours and events at cafés on campus, which have been go-to ways of making the behind-the-scenes work of local sourcing tangible and exciting to guests.

The team’s solution? A farmer meet and greet for faculty, staff, and students, which they held virtually over Zoom!

Organized by Chef Patrick and Marketing Manager Brittni Walters, the event allowed students, faculty, and staff to interact directly with the owners and operators of several local farms and a bakery, all of whom provide a bevy of ingredients to the WashU team. Chef Patrick kicked off the event by introducing each vendor, and informed attendees about how their products are used on campus.

Loves of sourdough bread

Fresh sourdough loaves cool down at Knead Bakehouse

Windcrest Dairy, a major provider of liquid milk, furnishes the campus with nearly 1,000 pounds of yogurt each week. Marcoot Jersey Creamery provides both artisan cheese and “Extreme Ice,” protein-rich frozen treats made from crushed fruit and whey, a byproduct of the cheesemaking process. (Food waste warriors!) Double Star Farms’ produce finds its way into every kitchen across campus. The farm also provides truckloads of late-fall tomatoes to Chef Patrick each year for WashU’s “One Ton Tomato Challenge,” a culinary extravaganza of all things tomatoes, from saucing to preserves. Knead Bakehouse’s artisanal sourdough breads can be found in WashU’s Paw’s and Go and Millbrook Mart. Each vendor had time to share their unique story before taking questions.

A WashU staff member, Lori Sommer, who just so happens to own and operate an organic farm herself, commented that the meet and greet “was a great event to learn more about local products directly from the producers!”

The event was just the first in what the WashU team hopes will become a series of farmer meet and greets, helping to bring the quiet, hard work of chefs and farmers to the attention of the community.