AVI Partners with Local Farms to Supply Fresh Produce



Stevenson Dining Hall serves food from local vendors such as Hartzler Family Dairy.

AVI Foodsystems has worked to create supply routes with local farms to provide fresh ingredients in campus dining halls. Sourcing from the region allows farms to drop off and provide supplies to Oberlin students directly. For example, Stevenson Dining Hall and DeCafé receive ice cream and milk from Hartzler Family Dairy, a farm in Wooster, OH. 

“We provide bag milk to Stevenson [Dining Hall] and 2 percent and chocolate milk in five-gallon bags,” James Maibach, client relations manager for Hartzler Family Dairy, said. “We provide a bunch of the 12-ounce mini, different flavors, to Wilder Hall in the shop there, and then we also deliver about every third or fourth week a bunch of ice cream to Stevenson Hall. We are providing the three-gallon tubs.”

Another local supplier is Bowman and Landes, a turkey farm dedicated to selling non-GMO turkeys. The farm is working to set up solar arrays to power 50 percent of their annual energy usage. Bowman and Landes has supplied turkey to Oberlin since 2009, when Bon Appetit Management Company managed dining services.

“They had a program called Farm to Fork, and essentially the program sourced local farmers to the Oberlin food supply system,” Drew Bowman, a sales representative for Bowman and Landes,  said. “And so they reached out to us at that point in time and found out that we were a good fit for one another.”

Other local suppliers include Tyler’s farm in Lorain, which provides Oberlin with lettuce for sandwiches and salads, and Miller Orchards which supplies dining halls with cider and apples.

“Self-sufficient communities are always better in the long run, and I do really like that getting food from locally sourced farms kind of builds a relationship with the surrounding towns with Oberlin College,” Erika Scharf, second-year College student, said. “I feel like a lot of times, there’s not a good relationship between Oberlin College and Ohio, and we’re all in this space together, so it’s kind of nice that they help us out. And fresh food is always better.”

The proximity of these farms to the College reduces the need for third-party delivery services and allows Oberlin to work more closely with its suppliers.

“So we’re about roughly … 45 minutes to an hour away, but we have a pretty good reach across Ohio,” Maibach said. “We cover the majority of the state except for the southeastern part. We will run up and do some stops in Cleveland, then swing out toward Oberlin, and come back down through Wellington. So it is our truck that brings the delivery and our people.”

Depending on the season, farms work with Oberlin to meet the changing demands and needs of the College, keeping up with increased requests for certain products during specific months or adding entirely different products at other times. AVI hosts and sponsors more catering events over certain holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Students are also provided with a variety of seasonal items throughout the year.

“I would say there probably is a little pick up with Oberlin in advance of Thanksgiving, especially since that is traditionally a turkey-focused protein holiday,” Bowman said. “I know they do some special holiday meals and some catering events, so there would probably be a little increase in volume around that time of year. But to be honest, Oberlin is a great customer, and they buy a lot of our various turkey products year-round for their dining halls.”

Students can look forward to new food options as AVI expands its partnerships with local farms.