Featured Image: Bon Appétit Fork to Farm Grant Finalists: Southeast Region

Bon Appétit Fork to Farm Grant Finalists: Southeast Region

Two campus farms, two pastured multi-species operations, and a local seafood distributor need hoop houses/greenhouses, fencing, or a down payment on a new refrigerated vehicle.

Bon Appétit employees and guests at our locations in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia will get to vote for their two favorites from these five finalists on September 23, our 10th annual Eat Local Challenge. (To see the other regional finalists, use the links at the top of this page.)


GUEST PICK: Campus Community Farm at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, MD

StMarys1_SEA 1-acre campus farm run by students, community members, and volunteers that grows organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs as well as acts as a central hub for environmental education and service in Southern Maryland.

Project: A hoop house to expand the growing season, thus increasing produce, service opportunities for students and community members, and income for continued growth.

Details: At its inception, the 1-acre Campus Community Farm received financial assistance from the Sustainability Office, the Student Government Association, and the Environmental Studies program, but over time the Farm has become increasingly self-sustaining. By selling its produce to the College’s food service provider, Bon Appétit, volunteer student farm managers have been able to entirely cover the costs of daily maintenance — seeds, manure, straw, and more — for the past two years. However, because funds are needed to maintain a small emergency fund in the event of broken equipment, the Campus Community Farm cannot continue to grow financially without either expanding the growing season or increasing prices of produce.

StMarys5_SEThe vast majority of the farm’s operations take place during the academic year (September – early May), so the use of a greenhouse is integral to its ability to function effectively. Without a greenhouse, seeds must be started outdoors after the last frost, which in southern Maryland usually occurs in mid-April, only weeks before the close of the spring semester. A greenhouse allows projects to begin earlier and last longer — fragile greens can be planted inside in fall and harvested throughout the winter. A greenhouse not only allows service projects to continue year-round but also ensures the continual generation of farm income from produce sales to Bon Appétit, which is now the farm’s primary funding source.

The Campus Community Farm’s faculty advisor, current and past farm managers, the Sustainability Office, and Historic St. Mary’s City have collaboratively decided that the best solution to this problem is the construction of a medium-size hoop house on the farm itself. Such a structure would be larger than a greenhouse but considerably less expensive. It would also enable plants to be directly cultivated in the soil beneath, which would be best for our organically grown food.

StMarys4_SEPast farm managers are familiar with hoop houses manufactured by HayGrove and are willing to help construct them and train current farm managers in their operation. We are requesting $5,000 for the purchase and construction of a 13’1” x 32’10” HayGrove Garden Polytunnel. The hoop house itself is around $5,000, and all construction will be volunteer-based. Any remainder of the $5000 grant would be used to reduce operational costs, for example, the purchase of tubing for a drip-irrigation system and a hose to reach the hoop house.

(Optional) How has working with Bon Appétit been helpful to you and your business?
Without Bon Appétit, the Campus Community Farm could not be self-sustaining. The Farm relies heavily on the income brought in by selling its produce to Bon Appétit, and has found the chefs and workers pleasant to work with. Many, many thanks to all those at Bon Appétit who made our dream possible.

STAFF PICK: Locals Seafood, Raleigh, NC

LocalsSeafood1_SESelling the freshest possible seafood caught by North Carolina fishermen.

Project: A new refrigerated vehicle to expand our local delivery routes and capacity.

Details: Longtime friends Ryan Speckman and Lin Peterson started Locals Seafood in 2010 with a cooler full of Stumpy Point shrimp and a pickup truck. Both majored in fisheries and wildlife science at North Carolina State University, and their love for the coast, the outdoors, and good seafood started early. The foundation of Locals Seafood is to supply inland chefs with a fresh, local catch as fast as possible.

LocalsSeafood3_SEThree key factors distinguish us from our local competitors: traceability, turnaround time, and in-house operations. We value the people and places behind the items we sell. Our staff drives to the coast two to three times each week to hand-select the best catch from fishermen and fish houses on the coast. From our crabber Denny Reynolds in Columbia to Dewey Hemilright’s Tilefish boat in Wanchese, our personal relationships with our sources result in a better product for our customers. Our business model depends on a variety of sales outlets, both retail and wholesale. As a result, we are able to move our product from the coast to the customer quickly, typically within two days after the product is caught or harvested. We buy whole fish and have full-time cutters who process our seafood in our 3,000 square foot HACCP processing facility in Raleigh.

LocalsSeafood2_SEA major challenge to our growth has been efficiently delivering product in a timely manner. We have new chefs and customers calling every day, and our current trucks are maxed out, with one rapidly aging (it’s in the shop as I type!). Currently, one of our main routes is in a non-refrigerated vehicle requiring us to transport products on ice in coolers. Mechanical refrigeration is required to transport shellfish, crabs, crawfish, and other items. The lack of a refrigerated vehicle limits our selection on this route. Packing product in coolers makes the route extremely inefficient. In order to meet the increasing demand and grow our business, we need a new refrigerated truck to protect the product during transport to and from our processing hub in Raleigh, NC.

We would use the Bon Appétit Fork to Farm Grant as a down payment on this vehicle. The truck will be used to add new delivery routes and expand our reach in North Carolina as well as make current routes more efficient, thus increasing the amount of fresh, local seafood to North Carolina residents.

(Optional) How has working with Bon Appétit been helpful to you and your business?
We have worked with Executive Chef Eric Foster at SAS for more than three years. It has been very helpful to have a steady buyer every week who understands and values what we do. All of the staff are great and we love delivering their seafood every week. Cafe C is one of our largest customers. The Farm to Fork program has also introduced us to several other cafés and we hope to work with many more. Thank you for this opportunity and also for believing in small food businesses!


Agriculture Co-operative at Goucher College, Baltimore, MD

Goucher3_SEStudent-operated farm on a college campus growing vegetables, herbs, and hydroponic lettuce in a garden and greenhouse.

Project: A vertical gardening system and two smaller projects — a new compost system and a hoop house.

Details: Over the past few years, Goucher College’s Agriculture Co-operative (Ag Co-op) has made incredible advances. What used to be a small club made up of a few students tending raised beds has expanded to include a 5,000-square-foot garden, a hydroponics system, and over 30 dedicated students.

Goucher1_SEThis grant would enable Ag Co-op to move forward with several new projects that would greatly increase both the quantity and quality of our produce. The main long-term project we would like to undertake is a large vertical garden attached (non-permanently) to the wall of a building that borders our garden. We would use a Living Wall Box System composed of a large steel frame that would hold tiers of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) piping. These pipes act as hanging garden beds and would allow us to experiment with different plants and change what we grow depending on the season or on what Bon Appétit would like in the kitchen. Vertical gardens are incredibly space efficient and are on the forefront of green design. They have been shown to insulate buildings, cut the energy costs of heating and cooling buildings, and improve air quality by filtering out anthropogenic pollutants. Therefore, a vertical garden would both increase Ag Co-op’s production scale and benefit the environmental health of Goucher’s campus.

We would also use the funds from the Farm to Fork grant to make several, smaller improvements to our garden and greenhouse. We hope to use some of the grant funds to purchase new compost tumblers; specifically, the Compact ComposTumbler, which holds 12 cubic feet of compost material. New compost tumblers (on staggered, two-week cycles) would allow Ag Co-op to have a constant flow of compost material to be used in both our garden and greenhouse. It would also allow more students to get involved with Ag Co-op by donating their food waste and visiting the garden.

Our final project would be a simple hoop house. The hoop house will have a galvanized steel frame and polyethylene cover. The hoop house will be approximately 20 by 24 feet. A hoop house would extend our growing season in the fall and allow us to start our growing season earlier in the spring, therefore bolstering our crop production.

(Optional) How has working with Bon Appétit been helpful to you and your business?
Bon Appétit has been Ag Co-op’s core consumer of our campus-grown produce. Ag Co-op loves to see our produce enjoyed by the students, faculty, and staff in dining halls all over campus. Working with Bon Appétit also gives students the unique opportunity of gaining real-world experience through pricing, sales, and, advertisement.

Savannah River Farms, Sylvania, GA

SavannahRiver1_SEPasture-raised beef, pork, poultry and lamb that is Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Naturally Grown.

Project: Fencing for an additional 20 acres, to rotate our hogs into a smorgasbord of vegetables to root and eat and to let their current 20-acre parcel rest and be replanted with pasture grasses.

Details: My name is Kellie Deen and along with my husband, Ben, we own and operate Savannah River Farms. We are just into our third year supplying our humanely raised, pastured pork to Bon Appétit through their contract with the Savannah College of Art and Design. Bon Appétit has been a true blessing to our family and our farm.

Our hogs currently live on a 20-acre parcel that includes pasture land, trees, and a lot of empty dirt land where the hogs have been rooting. We have another 20-acre parcel on our farm that is sitting idle and we would really like to fence it in with hog wire that we previously purchased at a farm auction. We want to grow a variety of crops on this 20 acres just for the hogs to eat and enjoy. We would plant crops such as turnip greens, peanuts, and sorghum so that the hogs would have a smorgasbord of vegetables to eat while we could replant the land that they are currently on with different types of pasture grasses. We would like to rotate the hogs back and forth between the two parcels of land.



The grant money that we are applying for would pay a fence company to actually put up the fence. Their estimate is $4,000. The remaining $1,000 would pay for gates and allow us to have a loading ramp on the new parcel. Ben and I are both in our mid-fifties, and he has trouble with his hands — that’s why we can’t put up the fence ourselves. We have put up thousands of feet of fencing over the past 30 years but we no longer are physically able to do so.

When we started with Bon Appétit we already had a meat processing facility here on the farm under GA [state] inspection, though our hogs were being slaughtered elsewhere. It was expensive. We also wanted our animals to be able to remain on the farm throughout their entire lives until their end. With the business that Bon Appétit has given us, we were able to build our own slaughter facility next to the processing plant. Last year, our entire facility became USDA [federally] inspected and with that came a lot of expensive changes and updates.

Our pasture

Our pasture

We just found out this week that we now have to install a newer cooling system in our packaging room, and that will be about $10,000 when all is said and done. That will really put our ability to do the fencing on the back burner, and we were so looking forward to giving our hogs more access to fresh produce and replanting the current parcel. We would be so appreciative if we are able to receive this grant. Thank you for your consideration.

(Optional) How has working with Bon Appétit been helpful to you and your business?
For one it has made our farm more sustainable, allowing us to hire our son Benjamin and his wife, Ashley, to work 40 hours a week each on the farm. With them on board we are able to make deliveries to other local restaurants and also are able to attend several farmers’ markets, which allow us to make more revenue on the retail side thus helping our farm to grow. We could not have opened the slaughter facility had it not been for the business that Bon Appétit sends our way.


White Flint Farm, Keeling, VA

WhiteFlint1_SEA sustainable, chemical-free family farm dedicated to bringing delicious, healthy produce, eggs, goat meat, and pastured pork to our community.

Project: A freestanding 16-by-24-foot greenhouse, built using as many reclaimed materials as possible, would enable us to have chemical-free seedlings of traditional, heirloom varieties not commercially available in our area.

Details: A new greenhouse in which to start our own chemical-free, heirloom-variety seedlings for spring planting would make our farm more competitive with commercial farms that use herbicides, pesticides, and artificial fertilizer. Our family farm has two constraints that prevent us from growing adequate amounts of produce in the spring. Because we can purchase organic seeds, we start some seedlings under grow lights in a small space in our home. However, the space is not adequate to grow enough seedlings to fill our gardens and keep up with the demand for our chemical-free, heirloom-variety produce. We are unable to purchase organically grown seedlings in our community and the traditional heirloom seedlings are often unavailable.

SAMSUNGThe greenhouse will be built using local labor, reclaimed materials (when available), and other necessary materials. This project would create space for us to start all of our seedlings with methods that reinforce our values, eliminate our dependence upon commercial growers, and allow us to have more all-natural produce earlier in the season. We are in an underserved area where chemical-free, healthy food choices are extremely limited and health problems are among the worst in the country. With this greenhouse project, we could substantially expand our growing season and increase our yield, thereby offering healthier choices to residents in our community.

Budget (an itemized list is available upon request): materials, $2,000; labor, $1,200; site preparation, $400; electric and water installation, $400; accessories, $1,000.