Off the Menu: Restauranteur Works with Hampshire College on Local Sourcing

Aug 29 2016

MassLive, August 29, 2016, by Hugh Robert

Howard Wein, the Hampshire County-based restaurateur who operates the Alvah Stone in Montague, has taken on an interesting challenge.

Wein’s helping his alma mater, Hampshire College in Amherst, pursue a goal of sourcing 100 percent of its food from within a 150-mile radius.

That’s a tall order here in New England, with its short growing season and traditional dependence on food imports. Hampshire has given itself a little “wiggle room” with respect to its self-imposed food sourcing challenge, exempting citrus, coffee, seafood and a few other ingredients, but the switch to local will nonetheless be a struggle.

Even though the college’s food services contractor, Bon Appetit Management Company, already maintains a corporate commitment to sustainability and local sourcing, the firm estimates that barely a third of what they currently serve at Hampshire meets the college’s local sourcing objectives.

As an alumnus Wein is helping with the transition, developing sources and devising strategies to control the cost of the switch.

The Kern Cafe in the College’s new R.W. Kern Center, a net-zero energy “living building” that supplies its own water and treats its own waste, will serve as a laboratory for local sourcing.

The college and Wein have recruited as suppliers the college’s own farm along with Pioneer Valley producers such as Mapleline Dairy in Hadley, the Kitchen Garden in Sunderland, and Red Fire Farm in Montague.

All of Cafe’s dishware, cups, and utensils will be compostable; appliances have been selected for their energy efficiency. Wein and the Cafe’s general manager (and Hampshire alumnae), Sarah Klein, have both affirmed their commitment to see that the Kern Cafe operates in the zero-impact spirit of the building that houses it.

The new R.W. Kern Center will be dedicated with a daylong event, “What Buildings Should Do,” on Sept. 16.

During the school year the Kern Cafe will be open seven days a week from early morning through the evening.

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