Local Industrial and Conventional Distributors
Kenyon also works with what Marsh calls “local industrial” sources: processors that operate on a regionally competitive scale, and which generally do not need our business, but which happen to be located within a certain radius of the college. Many other institutions may not differentiate between the two types of local, but Kenyon’s effort to encourage family farming gives preference to small-scale suppliers. The industrial suppliers, however, are necessary and convenient for some types of food that would be challenging or impossible to procure from smaller sources.
Kenyon buys nearly all of its bread products through Nickles Bakery, the leading regional bakery. Nickles supplies all of our sandwich bread, as well as English muffins, rolls, and other bread products. Their large scale means that they can provide many varieties of bread, and the regional nature of their operation means that they already have an effective infrastructure in place to deliver regularly. We consume too much bread on a daily basis to make small-scale bakeries a feasible option. However, Marsh is able to work with local bakers to provide local, fresh bread on occasion, but it is more of a treat.
Another of Kenyon’s “industrial local” suppliers is Dairymens, a Cleveland-based regional dairy distributor with close ties to the national dairy industry. As with Nickles, it is convenient to work with Dairymens because they already have infrastructure in place for ordering, daily delivery, and invoicing. We categorize Dairymens as an industrial local source because their headquarters are in Cleveland and because much of their liquid milk comes from small family dairy farms, including one only three miles from Kenyon. However, investigation into the regional origins of products like cottage cheese, cream cheese and yogurt reveals that some of Dairymens’ products come from all over the country.
We are lucky to have Dairymens as a supplier, because they can act as a safety net when we need it, and our fluctuating demand doesn’t put a strain on their business. When we lost Hartzler’s as our supplier of liquid milk, we were able to switch over to purchasing from Dairymens, and continue to serve milk without complications. However, Marsh is looking into new small-scale dairies to begin buying truly local milk again, and we recently began to buy yogurt from a family-owned dairy thirty-five miles from campus. Because Dairymens supply is so large, we will not hurt their business if our purchasing changes.
We purchase nearly all of our cheeses from Pearl Valley Cheese, a family-owned company whose factory is located forty-five miles from campus. Pearl Valley is an established regional business that distributes products throughout Ohio and neighboring states. Pearl Valley does not deliver directly to Peirce, so Bergman picks up our order from the nearest distribution point and brings it to the dining hall.
Kenyon also works with local industrial distributors. Lanning’s is a family-owned distributor based in Mount Vernon, about six miles from campus. They provide a valuable alternative to the more complex system of working with processors and producers individually. When Kenyon’s local food program started, we worked very closely with Lanning’s and relied on them for much of our supply. The company fits fairly well with our local food priority, as Lanning’s is a local, family-owned business. Some of Lanning’s products are even locally produced. However, we soon wanted to expand our local program further than we could do with a distributor alone. A central component of Kenyon’s mission is involvement in the agricultural community, and we chose to decrease our purchasing from Lanning’s so that we could work more closely with individual farmers. Kenyon now relies heavily on direct purchasing and personal relationships with individual producers, but we continue to rely on Lanning’s for products we cannot buy directly.
Depending on the priorities that direct an institution’s local food effort, a company like Lanning’s can be central to the program. The infrastructure is already in place for dining services to work with distributors: they can deliver daily, and the ordering system is more familiar for chefs. It can also be more reliable initially. There is no guarantee to what a small farmer might have available on a certain day, but a distributor is more likely to have multiple channels of supply that can keep items in stock. Another advantage is that a smaller distributor might be more flexible and open to working with the local food efforts of an institutional buyer. Small distributors may also be more likely to supply local when they can. Working with a small-scale, family-owned distributor still supports the local economy, and some institutions might find that this is a less complicated way to become involved in the local food system in the area.