By Sarah O’Carroll for Hometown Headlines
That next specialty burger you savor at Harvest Moon likely will be a lot fresher than you realize. So, too, the many pastries available next door at Honeymoon Bakery. And some of the produce on your sandwiches and other meals from Doug’s Deli Downtown likely had a pretty quick commute, going from farm to table.
All three businesses are customers to one of the biggest business success stories in town. From beef to eggs to produce to Adirondack chairs and now math tutoring for area students, Berry College Student Enterprises quickly is growing from the classroom to some of the best known addresses in Northwest Georgia — and even some outside the country.
Now 16 enterprises strong and thriving, Berry’s nationally recognized student business venture is just starting to bloom beyond the thousands of acres the college calls home.
As evidence of local and even regional impact, one of the newest enterprises is Blue Hen Eggs. The student-driven project delivers to Honeymoon Bakery in Rome on a biweekly basis and to The Farmer’s Daughter, a farm-to-table café in north Chattanooga once per week.
The decision to source Blue Hen Eggs was based on the belief that when it comes to ingredients, the closer, the better, says Kevin Dillmon, owner and operator of Honeymoon.
“We try to do business with as many local businesses as we can,” he says. “And it’s a great quality egg. We want to get the freshest ingredients as possible.”
Now that Berry’s chickens have matured enough to produce a consistent number of eggs at the right size each week, the enterprise hopes to expand to serve more local businesses, says Charlie Morgan, general manager of Blue Hen Eggs and a senior at Berry College.
Berry’s enterprise providing naturally grown produce, Season’s Harvest, began sourcing Doug’s Deli Downtown on Broad Street in September, says Methus Weldon, general manager of the enterprise and a Berry junior.
The enterprise also supplements the produce of a handful of Community Supported Agriculture farms in Adairsville, he says. For CSA farms, customers prepay for a “share,” typically a box of vegetables. Any time a farm is short on a particular item, Season’s Harvest helps supplement the shares.
Season’s Harvest also is looking to partner with farmers markets in the Atlanta area, Weldon says, adding that naturally grown, local produce is appealing to growing numbers in the surrounding area.
“You want to know exactly what you are getting, and with local [farms], you can know what all has happened to your food,” he says.
Beef and bees
Angus Beef is one of three enterprises in the program that makes a consistent profit, says Haley Hasting, senior and chief of staff of the enterprise program. One reason for this is steady business from Harvest Moon Cafe on Broad Street, which sources its beef exclusively from Angus Beef, says Lelia Stina, front-of-the-house manager of Harvest Moon.
The decision to serve Angus Beef was spurred by the desire to provide healthier meat in a more honest way, Stina says.
“You can taste the earth on the beef, you know?” she says. “A lot of people have no idea where their food comes from. When you’re sitting here, eating one of our burgers, you’re making a vote on how you want to eat.”
Healthy, more natural foods also are better for the environment, says Rufus Massey, dean of student work at Berry.
The Berry Bees enterprise, for example, does more than sell honey, he says. The bees pollinate both the crops for Season’s Harvest, one of the enterprises that sell fresh produce, and the flora of Oak Hill & The Martha Berry Museum.
In light of the crisis of dwindling bee populations in the nation, this enterprise has an important role, Massey says.
Eventually, the Berry Bees hopefully will be able to rent hives to other farmers. This might be possible once the enterprise has accumulated around 50 hives, Massey says. Today, there are 13.
Sales records for cheese
One of the older enterprises, Jersey Milk, is seeing big gains in sales, offering more evidence of an impact on the local dining scene. Producing and selling six varieties of cheese, Jersey Milk broke its weekly sales record of $1,700 over this past summer. In the same season, the enterprise later matched that record in one day, according to Michael Turner, a Berry senior and marketing director and sales representative for Jersey Milk.
“I think Romans are ready to support local and homegrown stuff,” says Turner. “What I’ve noticed is that if you show some initiative and kind of stick your neck out, people will respond.”
The enterprise has done local events such as wine-and-cheese tastings at La Scala and the Chiaha Harvest Fair, which returns in late October at Ridge Ferry Park. Turner says the enterprise also hopes to begin sourcing local grocers.
Many of the enterprises’ products are available online as well, so that anyone, anywhere can buy.
“There’s immediate impact here in our community but it also goes way beyond us,” Massey says.
The Genetics Enterprise has more directly expanded to international markets by sending embryos of Berry’s cattle to Europe, South America and Jamaica, among others, Massey says. And Viking Furniture has shipped pieces overseas to Berry alumni.
Locally, Viking Furniture can be seen at Dark Side of the Moon, a bar adjoining Harvest Moon in downtown Rome. Two of Viking Furniture’s Adirondack chairs and a small table sit just outside of the bar.
For more information on the enterprises, visit https://www.berry.edu/studententerprises/.