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College's Special Sauce has Local Tomatoes

College's Special Sauce has Local Tomatoes


When a SUNY Cortland student forks into a plate of pasta nowadays, it is guaranteed the tomato sauce will be delicious, nutritious and earth-friendly.

Thanks to a partnership between the College’s Dining Services and Main Street Farms of Homer, N.Y., which was two years in the making, the two major campus dining halls now produce a pure New York state tomato sauce.

This past summer, Main Street Farms grew 3,520 pounds of tomatoes, which dining employees then turned into 250 gallons of sauce two days after harvest. The sauce includes locally grown onions, herbs and spices.

The tomatoes are not organic-certified, but come with the added expense of growing produce that contains no pesticides.

The Bistro
Students share a meal together at The Bistro in the Student Life Center.

“We love the sauce,” said Bill McNamara, director of Dining Services, a unit of the SUNY Cortland Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC), which provides the campus with dining, college store and vending services. “We would love to find a way, not to necessarily grow our own tomatoes, but perhaps to grow other produce.”

The sauce at first was used on monthly, designated “sustainable dining” days in The Bistro and Neubig Dining. As of Nov. 9, the College began serving the remaining 200 gallons of sauce daily to finish it off.

According to McNamara, not many college campuses are using locally grown produce.

“The goal is for the campus to know that we support all local farms across New York state,” McNamara said. “ASC works with about 50 companies in the state.”

These include Trinity Valley Farms in East Homer, N.Y., the Food Hub out of Groton, N.Y., and Byrne Dairy, a New York state-based, national company.

“We are thrilled to offer a locally grown and locally produced tomato sauce to the SUNY Cortland campus, said McNamara. “The tomatoes came right from the vine to us and we made a fresh, tasty and healthy product for the campus.”

The College has been doing business with Main Street Farms since 2014. The tomato sauce experiment, which started as a one-year trial run for ASC, with hopes to continue in the future, has developed into a good partnership.

Allen Gandelman started Main Street Farms in 2011 after years of research and gardening. His company remains community-oriented and dedicated to sustainable agriculture and local food security. It recently expanded to a new urban farm on South Avenue in Cortland.

“We are hoping students notice a difference in the sauce and find it to be fresher,” said McNamara. “Our partnership with Main Street Farms allows us to expand our local produce purchases and offer students more of what they are looking for — fresh, healthy, locally grown products.”

For more information, visit or contact McNamara.

Prepared by public relations intern Jessica McFadden