Luther furthers commitment to local food through meat purchases

April 16, 2012

In a reflection of Luther College's commitment to sustainable food and local producers, Luther is pleased to announce that 100 percent of burgers served on campus are made with beef from Grass Run Farms, a locally owned business that works with farmers in the region to raise antibiotic-free, pasture-based beef. 

Grass Run Farms is owned and operated by Luther graduate Ryan Jepsen and his wife Kristine in Dorchester, Iowa. The Jespens have worked with Luther for more than five years. The farms that raise cattle for Grass Run Farms go to extensive lengths to ensure the livestock they raise are never exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones, grain feed or animal by-products.

The beef patties, which are served in all dining locations on campus, represent only part of Luther's effort to provide all campus diners with high quality, fresh, local food. Last year 20 percent of food served at Luther was sourced from local producers.

"With Luther's increased purchase of local meat and dairy products in the second part of the year, I think we are on target to modestly surpass last year's numbers," says Maren Stumme-Diers, sustainable foods educator at Luther. "Seeing our local purchases climb is exciting for us because it means more money is being kept in the community to support local producers."

In addition to beef purchases, in late March Luther officially made the switch to purchasing nearly all turkey products from Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, Minn. Ferndale Market turkey is free-range, antibiotic-free and naturally processed. Local turkey purchases are harder to achieve on some college campuses, as the cost factor can make the purchases financially challenging.

Luther's purchase of local meat began when the college would buy one steer at the 4-H auction each year and serve it on campus. Beginning in 2006 Luther planned for two local foods meals a year, at which local meat was one of many products featured. Grass Run Farms and Ferndale Market were two businesses that helped supply beef and turkey for those dinners. At that time Luther's local purchases totaled about 1 percent of the food budget.

Luther's relationship with Grass Run Farms and other local producers has developed over the past six years as Luther continues to find ways of incorporating more local product into the menu.

Wayne Tudor, Luther's dining services general manager, announced recently that Luther will reach the 2008 strategic plan goal of purchasing 35 percent of Luther's food supply locally by May 2013.

"President Torgerson has challenged the campus to be a model and not a mirror in the area of sustainable practices, and we're working hard to exceed his expectations in the area of local foods," said Stumme-Diers.