Dining & Farm Managers from 17 Institutions Gather to Share Local Food Tips

Riley Neugebauer, Farm & Sea to Campus Project Manager

Highlights from our Local Foods for Small Campuses Event

On June 6th and 7th in rural Unity, Maine, over 25 people came together to learn about and discuss local foods for small campuses at Unity College. This included dining directors, chefs, cooks, and campus farmers from health care facilities, small colleges and universities, and private K-12 schools in New England.  

The following 17 institutions were represented at the event – you can see their locations on this map.

  1. Amherst College (wins the award for coming from the farthest distance!)
  2. Colby College
  3. College of the Atlantic*
  4. Eastern Maine Community College
  5. Gould Academy
  6. High Mowing School*
  7. Husson University (wins the award for sending the most staff!)
  8. Kennebec Valley Community College*
  9. Kents Hill School
  10. Maine Central Institute
  11. Nashua Community College
  12. Pen Bay Medical Center (offered a cooking demo)
  13. St. Paul’s School
  14. Sterling College* (offered a cooking demo)
  15. The White Mountain School*
  16. Unity College*
  17. Waldo County General Hospital

*Asterisks represent institutions that sent their farm manager(s)

Participants in our Local Food for Small Campuses event on June 6-7, 2016 gather by a greenhouse at McKay Farm & Research Station.

In addition to the dining directors, chefs, and cooks who attended, there was a gathering of eight campus staff who manage farms at their institutions. This was one of the first times that this group of peers from campus farms had been able to come together and learn from one another. They plan to continue to find ways to stay connected, and engage additional campus farmers as well. If you are interested in learning more about this, please email campus@farmtoinstitution.org.  

The robust discussions about challenges, lessons learned, and best practices for campus local foods programs were informative and helped to bring out the incredible knowledge from the participants. To help inform those conversations, we went on tours of the Unity Food Hub and McKay Farm & Research Station, watched two cooking demos from institutional chefs, enjoyed local foods meals prepared by Unity College Dining staff, and came together for a local foods dinner prepared by Chef Frank Giglio of Three Lily Farm.   

Farm manager Brad Miller from High Mowing School and dining production manager Scott Feeney from Unity College participate in a tour of the Unity Food Hub.

The tour of Unity Food Hub from General Manager Matt Tremblay provided a great behind-the-scenes look at “The Hub” and explained some of the operations. Unity Food Hub aims to support Maine’s farming community by getting more local foods to more people through complementing existing structures of distribution. They offer a Maine Farm Share program, specializing in share drops to worksites and affordable access programming.

The Maine Farm Share program highlights products from over 40 farmers and food producers. Unity Food Hub also sells wholesale products to mid-size distributors (who work with institutions), direct-to-institutions (like Unity College), and to large retailers. You can learn more about all of these programs on the Unity Food Hub website. Their facility includes beautiful events and programming space and a commercial kitchen space managed by Maine Farmland Trust. Matt and his coworker Colleen Hanlon-Smith manage the Unity Food Hub distribution business located on the lower level, which includes a pack room and appropriate storage for products.

Unity College's chief sustainability officer Jennifer deHart explains how the college makes use of high tunnels for growing food at the McKay Farm & Research Station.

The tour of McKay Farm & Research Station, led by chief sustainability officer Jennifer deHart and farm technician John Korkos, demonstrated how a college campus can take over a former greenhouse facility and turn it into both a student learning lab and an incubator space for area farmers. The thirteen-acre property contains five greenhouses and one hoophouse, a residential dwelling, and a nine-acre field. It allows Unity to utilize the space to support academic curriculum, engage and teach students about sustainable agriculture, produce food that is sold to Unity College Dining Services, and rent affordable bed space within the greenhouses for local farmers.  

Jennifer deHart shared that Unity College chose to elevate the importance of sustainability on campus by creating a position that reports directly to the president of the campus. In addition, they recently migrated both the McKay Farm & Research Station and dining services to fall under the sustainability department on campus, allowing all of the elements on campus that relate to the local food system to be under one reporting structure. This creates more opportunities for collaboration and innovation between these projects and offices.

A fresh, local salad with celeriac, arugula, spinach and tomatoes served by chef Jeff Space of Pen Bay Medical Center during a cooking demo.

To ensure that everyone who attended (and anyone else who is interested) could take some ideas home with them, the recipes from the meals that were prepared at the event, and from the cooking demos are available on in our farm to institution recipe bank. Check them out and use them at your institution!  

Local Food Recipes for Campuses

  1. Celeriac Gratin

  2. Local Greens & Celeriac with Buckwheat Ployes

  3. Vegan Baked Cracked Oats

  4. Spinach Mushroom Quiche

  5. Herb & Green Salad with Creamy Chive Dressing

  6. Filipino Adobo Chicken or Tofu

  7. Roasted Hake with Nettle Butter, Asparagus & Creamy Polenta

  8. Blueberry-Rhubarb Crisp


For tips on using local foods on institutional menus that attendees shared with us, you can watch this video. Check back next week for a blog post with ideas on how you can engage your staff around local foods.

Brian Scheidegger of Gould Academy and George Thrift of Eastern Maine Community College enjoy a special local food dinner by Chef Frank Giglio from Three Lily Farm. On their plates: Roasted Hake with Nettle Butter, Asparagus & Creamy Polenta.

The group felt strongly that there was a need for a way for dining operators to stay in communication moving forward. As a result of this recommendation, FINE created a Google Group listserv for New England dining operators. The group is open to any dining directors, chefs, cooks, or other staff at colleges and universities, health care facilities, or private K-12 schools. This list will provide another way for people in the region to share their ideas, ask questions, post information about upcoming events, and find ways to collaborate. Click here to get more info about the dining operators listserv.  

Some attendees of the Local Foods for Small Campuses group have already been talking about the possibility of hosting an event at their facility in 2017, perhaps with more of a focus on whole animal breakdown or other important topics! 

Additionally, we hope that dining operators, campus farm managers, and others will consider joining us, and planning gatherings as a part of the next New England Farm to Institution Summit. We will have more info about the event soon, and we hope to see you there to continue the conversation!