Sherburne food distributor serves local produce to college

PAUL SMITH’S – It’s no surprise that the local-food movement is on a roll: It’s good for the economy and good for the environment. But providing a steady flow of locally grown food is challenging for institutions when winter hits and the growing season is over.

Now, though, a Chenango County-based food distributor is helping to serve up local food at Paul Smith’s College no matter the season.

Purdy & Sons of Sherburne is delivering broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, Boston Bibb lettuce, romaine lettuce, baby bok choy, basil, oregano, onions, meats and dairy products. And it all comes from within New York State, all year long.

The owner, Dan Purdy, contracts with New York State farmers and guarantees them an additional market for their goods. Purdy introduces farmers to other distributors who cut, freeze and pack the produce, which he then distributes to his customers across the state.

As part of the program, Paul Smith's will provide at least one local food item per day to students, faculty and staff. Eventually, the list of local items will grow even larger, says Travis Zedick, the Sodexo campus dining service general manager.

“In the fall, we should be able to provide at least four items per meal,” he says. “The more we can tie into each dish, the more we will.”

Paul Smith’s has worked with local purveyors and farmers in the past. In the case of locally raised fruits and vegetables, though, it has been difficult to guarantee availability throughout the year.

“Our team can call Purdy and access their available items at any time,” Zedick says. “Purdy’s major goal is to make local food safe, and their competitive pricing is comparable to our primary distributor.”

Before Purdy began working with other providers, his third-generation family business was primarily a butcher shop specializing in natural meats such as nitrate-free bacon. After purchasing the operation in 2000, he started working with area farmers.

“The whole idea is that local food has to make sense,” Purdy explains. “Food safety is the first priority, followed by high quality, flavorful food.”

Purdy works with Cayuga Pure Organics in Brooktondale, Tassleberry Farms in Whitesboro, Murray's Farm in Fallsburg and Empire Cheese in Cuba, along with many others.

“By purchasing a healthy percentage of our produce from Purdy, we are helping to support our state’s landscape and more directly our local farmers, and that’s cool,” Zedick says. “Farming is tough enough.”

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