Foodie Faces of Lorain County
General Manager of Dining Services
Panfil had proved that a large-scale food operation like his, serving 6,000 meals a day, can successfully incorporate local foods with a program called Farm to Fork.
He oversees Oberlin’s campus dining for food service operator Bon Appetit Management Co., which has a policy that every site must spend 20 percent of its budget with local farms and artisans.
Panfil has met that goal and bested it. Oberlin College acquires 25 percent of its food locally, buying only from owner-operator farms and artisans with $5 million or less in sales. He estimates about 15 percent of that is acquired from inside Lorain County.
It’s taken some creativity to sustain that balance year-round. Panfil’s team flash-freezes some of the summer’s harvest and cans others for the winter. He uses indoor operations such as the Chef’s Garden in Milan. The majority of his food operation is from-scratch, so he alters his menu throughout the year to account for seasonality.
If he can do it, he insists, so can you.
“Go to the farmers markets. Start talking to the farmers,” he says. “Distribution is a big thing for farmers, and we need to have a better distribution system locally.”
The New Agrarian Center/George Jones Farm/
Nick Swetye lived in Brazil for a time after high school, and was struck by the amount of poverty he saw there. When he returned to Cleveland and started a career in nonprofits, he felt compelled to get involved in alleviating poverty here however he could.
Food was the mechanism he chose, eventually taking a position with City Fresh, a multi-farm, community-supported agriculture (CSA) organization that collects food from local farmers and delivers them to inner-city neighborhoods, mostly in Cuyahoga County.
Earlier this year, Swetye assumed control of the City Fresh operation in Oberlin and is helping to expand the organization’s presence in Lorain County. He also operates the George Jones Farm, a 70-acre working farm that grows produce for City Fresh and farmers markets, and also provides agriculture education for the public.
Both organizations operated under the umbrella of the New Agrarian Center, a nonprofit working to create a sustainable local food system in Northeast Ohio.
“So many local food programs are going to Cuyahoga County to get technical support and expertise,” Swetye says. “We are trying to bring the support they need here to the center of Lorain County.”