Social entrepreneur and University of Rochester alum, Chris Hartman, recently spoke at the Simon School regarding his new local economic development plan. To give you his back story, Chris is a Rochester native, born and raised. He attended Vassar College and declared an independent major in environmental education. Post-college, he worked for eight years at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, transforming it into an efficient, organic, grass-based dairy farm. Not long after, Chris moved back to Rochester to start a family and attend the Warner School of Education for graduate studies. Noticing a lack of access to healthy and nutritious food options for his neighborhood, Hartman created the South Wedge Farmers Market in 2007. He went on to create the West Side Farmers Market and The Good Food Collective as well.
Now a teacher at the Harley School here in Rochester, Hartman sees the need for a community food enterprise that retains profits locally, encompassing the entire food supply chain from farming to restaurants. “Rochester spends $400 million on food and only 2% of that is local,” said Hartman. He continued, “If we move that figure to 10% – and that’s a realistic goal – we’re talking $40 million being reinvested into our community on an annual basis.” Hartman is now in the process of growing his latest, and possibly greatest, endeavor, Headwater Foods Inc. Headwater Foods is Hartman’s attempt to vertically integrate all possible links in the supply chain for local food including distribution, processing, restaurants, compost centers, etc. This for-profit, for-change company has a “triple bottom line,” as Hartman put it: profit, people and planet. Headwater Foods is committed to growing the community economically, socially and environmentally.
“There’s a lot of exciting possibility for the Rochester community and local businesses with this vertically integrated model,” Hartman noted. “We need to think creatively beyond the current, boutique, high-priced nature of local food and make it more widely accessible.” Hartman acknowledged that future business leaders, such as current Simon School students, need to realize the enormous potential for local and sustainable economic development here in the Rochester community.