Brown's chefs select seasonal produce from regional farms that are owner-operated, located within 150 miles of campus, and that bring in less than $5 million in annual revenues. Tomatoes, for example, are sourced from Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, Massachusetts, lettuce is cropped from Queen's Greens in Amherst, Massachusetts, and apples are delivered from Horse Listener's Orchard in Ashford, Connecticut. Some local farms that run small operations depend on steady, bulk orders from area colleges and universities, Paup said.
"When we're buying apples, we're buying 25,000 apples a week, and because of our purchasing volume, that impact on the farmer's bottom line is huge," he said. "During the New England farm season, we're not sourcing apples from Oregon and Washington. At Brown, we want that personal relationship with the local farmer, and we’re giving them our business first."
For Blackbird Farm, Rhode Island’s colleges and universities account for some of the most significant orders, said owner Ann Marie Bouthillette. The 250-acre family-owned farm in Smithfield, R.I., raises Black Angus cattle and American Heritage Berkshire pigs. Brown's campus community can average close to 15,000 people during the academic year, and Bouthillette says that campus-wide exposure and word-of-mouth marketing can help boost sales by attracting new visitors to their farm stand, located roughly 10 minutes from the College Hill campus.
"The universities are invaluable for our farm because they have a lot of people eating there, and they want to know where the food comes from so they can buy it," Bouthillette said. "I have had college staff and parents of students come in and shop that have never been here before."
As another way to engage the campus community in supporting local agriculture, Brown Dining Services also organizes events throughout the year, including Apple Fest and an Eat Local Challenge, where an entrée in the Sharpe Refectory is 100% locally sourced. Dining also has plans to introduce a farmer's market later in the spring semester. Students have also organized a campus-based food distribution program named Brown Market Shares to enable faculty, staff and students to purchase weekly shares of local produce from regional farms.
Meaningful, long-lasting relationships
Providence-based Seven Stars Bakery delivers freshly baked bread to Brown's campus daily but Brown's culinary team also orders fresh Italian bread and rolls from Lincoln, R.I., company Calise and Sons Bakery and features European-style pastries in the Blue Room and other campus cafes from Pain D'Avignon in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Rhode Island’s Wayland Bakery (which recently closed a retail location but still serves as a supplier) creates a special pizza dough for the University offered exclusively in Andrews Dining Hall.
Wayland Bakery isn't the only local vendor that customizes orders for Brown — Providence-based New Harvest Coffee Roasters creates a special cold brew and customizes roast levels for Brown. The custom orders, Barboza said, speak to the meaningful and lasting relationships that Brown has established with local food producers.
"We worked with Wayland Bakery to create that dough, and it's a signature product just for Brown — those are the kind of partnerships you can build when you're working with local companies," he said.