It Takes a Family to Feed a Campus

October 10, 2014
Amanda Nagy
A child kisses a cattle

About 60 miles east of Oberlin, a young family farm raises poultry, cattle, ducks, lambs, and pigs. The animals are all free range and given spacious protection from the elements. The cows always feed on pasture, while the pigs and poultry enjoy non-GMO nutrition. They’re never given hormones or antibiotics. It’s no wonder that top restaurants in northeast Ohio seek out New Creations Farm for its humane treatment of animals and quality meat. So, too, does Oberlin College’s food service provider, Bon Appétit Management Company.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork program. Since 1999, all Bon Appétit chefs have been required to buy at least 20 percent of their ingredients from farmers and producers within 150 miles of their cafés. To celebrate the milestone, the company decided to give back to its vendors by awarding $5,000 grants to 10 farms in need to help grow and maintain their operations.

On September 26, a dozen Oberlin students volunteered to work on New Creation Farm in Chardon, Ohio, where they helped with feeding, moving sheep, and general farm work. It was on this visit that farm owners Kristen and Scott Boehnlein and their seven children learned they were awarded one of two grants in the Midwest region. The other recipient is Open Hands Farm of Northfield, Minnesota.

“New Creation is a small family farm, and its values are fantastic,” says John Klancar, Bon Appétit director of culinary operations at Oberlin. “Out of seven kids, six are adopted. They’re open about how some of the kids have come from abusive or broken homes. The farm work is therapeutic for the kids. It’s all about family… they’re wonderful people to work with.”

Oberlin has partnered with New Creation Farm for seven years. Its supply has grown from four pigs a month to providing all of Oberlin’s ground meat, breakfast sausage, ground pork, specialty sausage, pork loin, pork shoulder, hot dogs, salami, ham, and roast beef. In keeping with Bon Appétit’s requirements, the meats contain no nitrates or MSG.

The grant will allow the Boehnlein family to restore a century-old barn on their property that needs water repairs and drainage solutions. In addition to storing their tractor, the barn will provide shelter to breeding sows and their piglets in severe weather, a place to process vegetable oil as they convert their vehicles, and a welcoming space to host their farm education days for schools in northeast Ohio.

Klancar says the volunteer work day was a good experience for Oberlin students to make connections with the people who are raising their food. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone has never been on a farm before,” Klancar says. “It’s important to see that the animals are treated humanely and have a good life on the farm.”

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