Producers in Maine

Bates and its food producers in Maine

What kind of relationship does Bates have with local growers?

Christine Schwartz: We’ve got a pretty good relationship with our local growers. My purchaser, Ken Smith, actually grew up on his family’s farm, Smith Farm in Greene, Maine. Many of our relationships we have cultivated through his relationships and family contacts. Additionally, many of the people who work for me grew up on farms locally, know local farmers.

So, it’s not just that Dining Services has a relationship with the local farmers, but actually the people who are here and work here who have those relationships. So it goes much deeper.

What are your criteria for dealing with local growers?

CS: We like to know them. You can’t just have a backyard farm and we’ll take product from you. We like to know that you’re an established farm, we like to know your growing practices and we like to develop a purchasing history with you.

People call me quite often from the local community here and say, “We have an abundance of tomatoes. Can you take them?” I can’t, really, because I don’t know exactly where they’re coming from. If you’re an established farm, that more than likely means that you’re carrying some liability insurance, you’re dealing with more than one purveyor and have a growing history. A backyard farmer doesn’t have that same type of development.

Actually, we quite often go out to the farms, take a look at what’s going on, talk to them. We have them bring in their product, discuss delivery, what they can and cannot accommodate, what we can and cannot accommodate. Certainly how they might bill — we don’t do cash off the loading dock.

But usually, even with established farmers, we try to get out once a year to look at their farms. It’s great to see what they have going on.

The most dramatic thing for me was last year when we went to see Gabe ’02 and Amanda Waterhouse Clark ’02 at their Cold Spring Ranch, in North New Portland. We saw two beef carcasses hanging, one that was grain-fed and one naturally grass-fed. And I knew that natural was much leaner, but I guess it didn’t really register until I saw them hanging together. It was just incredible to think how different the meat can look according to what the animal is fed. It’s really quite interesting.

— From an August 2008 conversation with Christine Schwartz, director of Bates Dining Services