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Rich Turnbull–From Farm to the Table

Posted November 19th, 2009 by Allyson

On Tuesday, Jeff La Magra and I were invited by Stahlbush Farms to tour their processing plant and biogas energy plant.  Stahlbush farms which is located just the other side of the Willamette River is the national leader in sustainable agriculture and food production.  Their biogas plant is the first of its kind in North America and generates enough electricity to provide service to 1100 homes by digesting the vegetable waste from its processing plant to create gas used to heat their plant and power generators to generate electricity.  We had a very interesting tour and as we continue to reach out to local farmers and ranchers to supply food for the 9500+ meals we prepare and serve every day, it made me think about a question we received the other day about how we go about purchasing the foods we use.

A few years ago we made a conscious decision to build our meal plan program around culinary excellence.  We recruited and eventually were successful in hiring Jeff La Magra who serves as our Director of Culinary Development.  Jeff heads a culinary faculty made up of our registered dietician, Tara Sanders; David Lewis and Dale Lawson at McNary Dining; Shakoda Hill at Marketplace West; and Bruce Hoerauf and Nathan McClure of Arnold Center and OSU Catering.  This creative team of culinarians works with local brokers, vendors, farmers, and ranchers to product test, evaluate and purchase the highest quality ingredients available.  We have an inventory of 7000-8000 food items in stock at any one time and over 450 items on our menus available on any given day.  It takes several vendors to supply all of our needs in order for us to provide our residents with the wide variety of choices available each day.

We buy locally when possible because we believe this is in alignment with the land grant mission of OSU.  We also know locally grown foods are generally fresher, of higher quality, last longer, support the local farm economy, and help in reducing our carbon footprint.  Our apples and pears come from Riverwood Orchard and Farms, much of our beef comes from Country Natural Beef, pork from local farms, lamb from Rainsheep Farms, berries from Willamette Fruit, bread from Williams Bakery, milk and dairy products from Spring Valley Dairy, cheeses from Tillamook and Rogue Valley and other local creameries, gelato from a gelaterria in Eugene, and a wide variety of other wonderful products from local businesses.

We use the power of a national Group Purchasing Organization, HPSI/CURB to ensure that we get the best pricing for the products we specify and we negotiate directly with national manufacturers to provide deviated pricing and marketing allowances which help reduce the cost of food to the students we serve by tens of thousands of dollars each year.  Our grocery bill is roughly $5 million per year and we serve approximately 2 million meals per year.  To prepare and serve those meals we employ nearly 100 full time staff members and about 600 part-time student employees.

Your thoughts, ideas, suggestions and questions are always welcome.  Please don’t hesitate to call me or email me.

Best regards,

Rich Turnbull

Associate Director

University Housing And Dining Services


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