Because Kenyon’s program relies so heavily on family-scale and Amish producers, most of the transportation infrastructure is provided by the food service. Especially during peak season, at least half of John Marsh’s time is spent driving around the area and picking up produce. Our Amish producers have no means of bringing their food to us, so part of working with them involves picking up the food ourselves. These trips are time consuming, but they provide opportunities to visit with farmers and talk about what they’re growing, their methods, and what we can do to help each other. Depending on their production level, we visit some producers weekly, and others as often as every day. Marsh is also responsible for transporting the produce he buys at auction back to the college.
This system of transportation also applies to some of our small-scale processors, who are nearly all Amish, and who provide us with “value-added” products including pickles, honey, cereals and granola, and baked goods. This can add an extra step in the process: we usually provide the flour and grains for baked goods and cereals, and the cucumbers and beets for pickling, so we drop off the raw ingredients and then pick up the finished product later.
We have also been able to create a delivery infrastructure by collaborating with Andy Bergman, one of our meat processors. Neither the college nor AVI owns a refrigerated truck, but we can pay Bergman to use his refrigerated truck to pick up and deliver products that need to be kept cold. He delivers our cheese and transports frozen poultry from other processors to his own freezers, delivering the items we store there to the dining hall when we need them. This system not only saves time for Marsh by decreasing the amount of driving he has to do each day, but also provides Bergman with an extra source of income.
In some cases, travel is reduced by the use of a local, small-scale distributor. We purchase butter, flour, eggs and grains through Eli Hochstetler, a Mennonite business owner who has arranged with several Amish companies to serve as a sort of distributor. This arrangement also simplifies billing to the college. We receive a single invoice through him, and he pays each producer directly. Hochstetler is eager to work with the college. He is very invested in the rural and Amish communities of central Ohio, and he makes efforts to promote sustainable economic growth. The college provides a great outlet for these endeavors. Marsh knows that he can trust the quality of Hochstetler’s products, and for Hochstetler Kenyon is a large-scale but flexible buyer that is willing to experiment with new products. Some of our most effective suppliers are non-conventional, such as Hochstetler and the produce auction.