Farm-to-school partnership highlight: Public House Produce

Two years ago, Luray, VA farmer David Sours was in need of a major customer for his butternut squash crop to keep his business afloat.

“I was looking for a new home,” Sours said. “DC Central Kitchen become that home.”

At that same time, DCCK needed a new source for butternut squash to meet the demands of our growing Healthy School Food Program.

Since partnering with Sours’ farm, Public House Produce, DC Central Kitchen has purchased 20,655 lbs. of his fresh, local produce, starting with that butternut squash, but soon adding corn, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

In just two growing seasons, demand from DC Central Kitchen now totals around 75% of Public House Produce’s total revenue, with 5 acres of the farm dedicated solely to our school food operation. DCCK processes these fresh items at our Nutrition Lab production facility, using what we can right away and freezing the rest for later use.

Sours said he appreciates the opportunity to provide quality, local food for students. “We’re trying to create a healthier plate and healthier options,” he said.

This type of partnership helps both small farmers like Mr. Sours and DC Central Kitchen. “It is fair on both ends of the spectrum,” says DCCK Director of Procurement and Sustainability, Amy Bachman. Sours is able to focus on growing crops in bulk, and has a guaranteed buyer ahead of time, while the Kitchen knows what will be available, and at what price.

Public House Produce is one of two area farms with crop planning partnerships in place with DC Central Kitchen. We also work with Kilmer’s Orchard in Inwood, WV, to provide loads of local apples, pears, and peaches in school cafeterias. In all, DCCK works with 36 local farms to expand affordable access to nutritious food in the District of Columbia.