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May 23, 2019 at 8:50 am

OHIO to Begin Purchasing from Chesterhill Produce Auction, OHIO Student Farm

Are you interested in purchasing and eating fresh, sustainable, and Appalachian Ohio-grown produce on Ohio University’s campus? Do you want to engage in a food system that supports neighboring communities and keeps food dollars in our region? Food Studies is thrilled to announce that Ohio University’s Culinary Services will officially begin purchasing GAP Certified produce from the Chesterhill Produce Auction and OHIO Student Farm. This produce will be processed through the Central Food Facility for use across the Athens’ campus. Additional products will continue to be purchased and sold in Jefferson Marketplace and other retail operations. This initiative has successfully been driven by the Farm to OHIO Working Group (FOWG).

The FOWG was created by Dr. Theresa Moran’s Sugar Bush Foundation grant project, titled the Initiative for Appalachian Food and Culture (IAFC). The IAFC is a partnership between Food Studies, Rural Action, and Community Food Initiatives. Building on four years of formal partnership, this past year’s project focused on Culinary Services’ purchasing of local food from the neighborhood surrounding Athens County. In August 2018, the FOWG was created with leaders from Culinary Services, the Office of Sustainability, and the Center for Campus and Community Engagement to understand the processes necessary for this new procurement strategy to work.

The first major barrier identified for procuring food from local farmers was the need for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, a third-party audited process that assess the food safety and best practices of a farm. Rural Action identified interested growers and hosted a GAP training day, something that has routinely been a part of their sustainable agriculture programming for many years. From there, Rural Action offset the costs for farmers to assemble the necessary documentation and participation in an on-site third-party audit by Quality Fresh LLC using the United Fresh Produce Associations Harmonized Standards.

So far, five Chesterhill Produce Auction farms, the OHIO Student Farm, and the overall entity of Chesterhill Produce Auction have all received the certification. The IAFC has successfully received Sugar Bush Foundation funding for FY 19-20 that includes money to offset the cost to certify even more farmers. The FOWG is thrilled about the successful collaboration thus far and is looking forward to the future innovation that comes from this partnership, including expanded marketing and educational initiatives on the importance of local, sustainable food.

A variety of greens grow in the high tunnel at the OHIO Student Farm.

A variety of greens grow in the high tunnel at the OHIO Student Farm.

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