The Community section of this site aims to help connect you with your local community.
Support your community
You can make a difference with the food purchases you make everyday. Learn about the benefits of buying local and find a farmers’ market or community supported agriculture (CSA) near you. When you’re dining at a Bon Appétit café, you’re eating local food thanks to our Farm to Fork program. Meet the farmers who grow and harvest the food we proudly serve in our cafés.
Learn about your community
Ever wonder what’s grown in your community? How healthy are the people in your state? Find your location on our interactive map to see an interesting snapshot of agricultural, demographic and health facts about your county and state. You may be surprised at how many dairy cows are in your area!
Community at Penn
Community engagement is central to our commitment to improving the well being of our guests, the community and the environment. Bon Appétit at Penn Dining is committed to collaborative engagement with Penn students, faculty and staff, as well as to the local and regional communities. As we settle in to our new role at Penn, we will be actively engaging with students to enrich our relationship through charitable efforts that make meaningful contributions to the community’s well being.
Agribusiness and Family Farms
Rolling green pastures, golden wheat fields, healthy chickens and pigs happily scuttling around, a red barn in the distance: this is what most of us envision when we think of a traditional American farm. However, this idyllic image of the “family farm” is rapidly becoming an icon of the past. Due to advances in industrial agriculture over the past several decades, farms have become significantly larger and fewer in number making it increasingly difficult for the small family farms to survive. In 2003, the farms and livestock operations with annual sales of $250,000 or more represented only 8.8% of all farms in the U.S. but were responsible for approximately 73% of total farm sales. The remaining 27% of sales were divided up amongst the other 91.2% of smaller family farms (1).
What exactly is “agribusiness”? And what does it ultimately mean for us, the consumers?
Basically, “agribusiness” refers to businesses that are involved with agriculture. Although this may sound simple, it is actually quite complex. Agribusiness spans a wide range of sectors due to the multifaceted nature of our food system’s supply chain. This includes all areas involved with food production, collection, storage, distribution, processing, and retail.
As each sector of the food supply chain strove for maximum efficiency, our agricultural system became more and more industrialized, shifting away from “small family farming.” Coupling this increasingly economically driven food system with federal legislation like the Farm Bill (which subsidizes commodities) ultimately results in plentiful, affordable food for the consumer. And this is something that people in the US have come to expect. Compared to other high-income countries, Americans spend the least amount of their disposable income on food at home, about 6% compared to 10% in Germany and 13% in Japan, South Korea and France.
For agricultural traditionalists, “agribusiness” has come to mean the “fall of the family farm.” Following such a “corporate” model takes farming and livestock production out of historical context and no longer differentiates these practices from other “big businesses” (2). This industrialized system, they argue, encourages the farmer to be a businessman rather than a steward of the land. While these two goals are not mutually exclusive, they can be very difficult to balance.
Although this agribusiness boom has contributed to food security and the low cost of food in our country today, it is not without its detriments. Environmental damage such as water contamination, air pollution, soil erosion caused by large-scale operations (CAFOs), excessive pesticide use and monocropping have been well documented. Socially and economically, this industrialization has endangered what the Association of Family Farms calls the “agriculture of the middle” (3). The few “big farms” are putting smaller farmers and ranchers out of business. Also, numerous middlemen have been introduced into the supply chain, which some people argue ultimately means less money for the farmer. Above all (and seemingly most obvious), continued industrialization of our agricultural system will significantly affect our food choices. Because most large farms practice monocropping (growing one type of crop) for “maximum efficiency,” many heirloom varieties are being lost meaning there are fewer and fewer flavors for us to enjoy.
Agribusiness is undoubtedly a topic of controversy and debate. At Bon Appétit Management Company, we believe that industrial agricultural practices today are unsustainable. We are committed to support those farmers and ranchers who embody the traditional environmental, social and economic values of agriculture, those “in the middle.”
1. US Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Accessed March 20, 2007.
2. Tillotson JE. Agribusiness–The Backbone of our Diet. Nutrition Today 41(5):235.
3. The Association of Family Farms. Why Worry About the Agriculture of the Middle? Accessed March 20, 2007.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy Local
1. Locally grown food tastes better.
Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.
2. Local produce is better for you.
A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some “fresh” produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week.
3. Local food preserves genetic diversity.
In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.
4. Local food is GMO-free.
Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don’t have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn’t use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food – most so that they can avoid it. If you are opposed to eating bio-engineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred as nature intended.
5. Local food supports local farm families.
With fewer than one million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. And no wonder – commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.
6. Local food builds community.
When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.
7. Local food preserves open space.
As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.
8. Local food keeps your taxes in check.
Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.
9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.
A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings – is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife.
10. Local food is about the future.
By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.
Eat Local with Bon Appétit
Bon Appétit understands that the effects of our food choices extend well beyond the walls of our cafés. The purchases we make can have a profound impact on our community. Every time you eat at your Bon Appétit café, look for menu items with the Farm to Fork icon. That meal contains ingredients that are seasonal and minimally processed and purchased from a local farmer or artisan.
Through our Farm to Fork program, we have established special relationships with local farmers and ranchers. Meet the farmers who grow and harvest the fresh and seasonal food you enjoy at Bon Appétit everyday!
|Eastern Fresh||Squashes, cucumbers, peppers||Cedarville, NJ|
|NJ Tomato Council||Tomatoes||Vineland, NJ|
|Sunny Valley||Peaches||Vineland, NJ|
|Sun Valley Orchards||Peaches, eggplant||Vineland, NJ|
|Arc Greenhouse||Micro lettuces||Shiloh, NJ|
|DeHarts Farm Fresh||Eggplant, green cabbage, bell peppers||Mantua, NJ|
|Millbridge Farms||Watermelon, parlsey, butternut||Vineland, NJ|
|Matro Family Farm||Cucumber, yams||Winslow, NJ|
|Heritage Tree Fruit||Peaches, nectarines, pears, apples||Logan Twp, NJ|
|Moser Mushroom Farm||All mushrooms||Kennett Square, PA|
|Jamie Graiff Farms||Arugula||Newfield, NJ|
Eat Local Challenge
Food that is grown locally is flavorful, requires little energy to transport, and benefits the local community. Bon Appétit is committed to buying local, and to highlight this commitment, has created an annual challenge to eat a lunch that is made completely of ingredients from within a 150 mile radius of the café. This act, while seemingly simple, has far reaching implications. During our seventh annual Eat Local Challenge in late September 2011, our cafés will create delicious meals from locally-sourced ingredients to showcase local flavors.
At Bon Appétit, everything starts with flavor, as a company we are committed to creating food that simply tastes good. Food that is grown locally is fresher and dramatically more flavorful than food that is harvested early so it can be transported great distances. Locally produced food is picked at the height of freshness, often making it to market within 24 hours of being picked, while food from non-local sources may have been in transit for more than 7 days and been warehoused for many months. Have you ever eaten berries straight from the field or picked an apple right off the tree? Wouldn’t you like all your produce to taste like that?
According to the World watch Institute, in the United States, food now travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to table, as much as 25 percent farther than two decades ago. That shipping and trucking does incredible damage to the environment in the form of global warming and air pollution. Eating locally also helps reduce the immense amount of non-renewable resources wasted in transporting food. Fuel conservation isn’t only about driving less; it’s also about buying things that don’t travel half-way across the globe.
In addition, local farmers, who often use more sustainable growing practices, act as stewards of the land. By buying from local growers you help support sustainable farming practices that nourish and replenish the local land rather than stripping it. You have the power to ensure that the food you buy is produced in a manner that steers away from pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.
The purchases you make can have a profound impact on your community. The family farm is dying and when the family farm dies so too does our agricultural heritage. However, if you eat locally then you are simultaneously investing in your own community and helping to preserve local farmers and artisans ensuring their traditions continue. If you buy local, you are helping to ensure that we can savor these authentic flavors in the future.
Find a Farmer’s Market
You can support your community by purchasing food that is grown and harvested in your local area. Visit your nearby farmers’ market or sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture). A CSA is a subscription service where buyers receive a weekly or monthly basket of produce, flowers, eggs or other farm products.