UT’s DHFS continues efforts to support local farmers


Pearce Murphy

Konrad Bouffard, owner of Round Rock Honey Company, harvests honey produced in one of the company’s many local bee hives early Wednesday morning.

Christine Ayala

For beekeeper Konrad Bouffard it is honey harvesting season, and some of his harvest will be served with fresh bread at campus dining halls Thursday in support of locally produced food.

Bouffard, owner of Round Rock Honey, is one of several producers who supply local food to UT’s Division of Housing and Food Service through the Sustainable Food Center. The center’s Farm to Cafeteria program connects local growers, including Bouffard, with organizations looking for locally grown products.

“This started with honey from my backyard, selling it at the Austin Farmers’ Market. Now we’ve been with SFC for 10 years,” Bouffard said. “We want to be associated with the large buyers as well as small buyers like at the market. It’s great to be involved with UT. We appreciate their business. They’re helping us out and we’re helping them too.”

DHFS currently directs 23 percent of its $8 million food budget toward local foods grown within a 150-mile radius, from farms ranging between 5 and 200 acres. DHFS environmental specialist Hunter Mangrum said the division’s goal is to increase the amount of locally grown food DHFS serves by 2 percent annually.

“If we can further drive that economy to support local farmers to do organic, hormone-free products, then that’s where we want to spend,” Mangrum said. “It does cost a bit and requires more prep time, but we care about the issue and think it’s important and we’re willing to go that extra mile.”

DHFS hosted a Local Harvest Dinner Wednesday with a menu consisting of only locally grown food at J2 and Kinsolving dining halls to raise awareness of the division’s commitment to supporting local farmers.

Mangrum said the local food takes longer to prepare in-house because the farmers do not process the produce the way a corporate farm would.

Lindsey Gaydos, registered dietician for DHFS, said some foods can be healthier if produced locally because of reduced travel time.

“There are certain things, like produce, that if you shorten the time it takes to get from the farm to the table then it is retaining more nutrients,” Gaydos said. “That’s not true for all food items like your meats and your grains. It also depends on the farming practices of the farmers themselves in terms of pesticides and soil.”

Cecil Winzer, Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers’ Market manager, coordinates the center’s Farm to Cafeteria program and said DHFS is the center’s biggest buyer. He said DHFS is in the process of furthering its commitment to local farmers through predetermined contracts that will notify farmers of the foods UT will need in the future, allowing farmers the opportunity to grow more with a guarantee the crop will be sold.

“A lot of farmers just grow what they will need at the market, and they are selling their bumper crop [to the Sustainable Food Center],” Winzer said. “This will be more predictable and the farmers won’t have to worry if planting extra will pay off or not.”

Printed on Thursday, October 25, 2012 as: Local food is all the buzz