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Farm to Table Programs

Overcoming Challenges in Serving 2,000 Meals a Day Using Local Farm Products


LEESBURG, Va. – September 8, 2011 - The National Conference Center, located in Leesburg, Virginia is one of the largest and most comprehensive conference training centers in the nation.  A member of The International Association of Conference Centers, it has more than 900 rooms and boasts the largest ballroom in Northern Virginia.   Companies, corporations, government organizations and entities, and other past groups such as the Washington Redskins, hold intensive daily and week-long conferences and educational training at the facility.  
 
Several years ago, the Conference Center decided to go green and implemented a wide array of energy saving programs.  Last year, the site also began making a large, concerted effort to serve locally grown food-- quite a challenge for NCC’s Executive Chef Craig Mason who serves upwards of 2,000 meals a day for NCC guests.  So, they invited all of the region’s farmers over for networking and an opportunity to discuss the community’s needs as well as NCC’s needs.  Two local farms immediately came forward to partner with NCC and they have also implemented contract farming.
 
“When Chef Mason first came to our farm and mentioned that he was in need of spinach, I thought he was looking for 30 pounds,” explained Dave Lay, owner of Linda’s Mercantile in Winchester, Va. and one of the farms working with NCC.  “Then I realized that he was looking for 300 pounds of spinach—a week,” Dave added.  “I initially thought he was joking.”
 
“The quantities can often be extremely large for small, local farms,” stated Mason. “When we have large training conferences, or large weddings, I am often cooking one to two thousand meals a day.”   To get the quantities down accurately and be able to serve local food, Mason has to reverse engineer his menus and find out what’s available first.  A typical week would include 200-300 pounds of spinach, 500-600 pounds of tomatoes, 400-600 pounds of lettuce—as a start.
 
While the quantities are often a challenge, the upside is that NCC is located within close proximity to many farms.  “It’s easier for us to go to the farms and pick up the products,” Mason stated.  It’s not uncommon either to see Mason walking the fields with Dave or his wife Linda and checking to see which crops will be ready when.  “Gone are the days when I would just pull some recipes together.  Now, my first call is to the farms we work with,” Mason explained.   NCC has a large herb garden planted on site too, and Mason strives to use as much of the local ingredients as possible.  He also freezes some ingredients for use in the winter.
 
To further the NCC green program and reciprocate to Linda’s Mercantile, NCC provides the farm with all of its used cooking oil which the farm uses to power its tractors and run its greenhouses.
 
Given Mason’s and NCC’s expertise on conference training, meetings and special events as well as their focus on local food, NCC recently released a white paper on how food impacts meeting performance.  The paper emphasizes the importance of eating “brain food” versus junk food and how various foods measure up.
 
“Some people don’t realize the power that food has over us all, including its influence on how we think and react in meetings,” Mason added.  “At NCC we are striving to emphasize the importance of healthy eating for a variety of reasons.”
 
For a copy of the white paper, “Food for Thought”, or to learn more about NCC, go to www.conferencecenter.com.  
 
The National Conference Center (NCC), located in Northern Virginia 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 35 miles from Washington, D.C., is one of the largest and most comprehensive conference centers in the nation. With 917 guest rooms and over 250,000 square feet of meeting space, NCC has become a hub for productive meetings and is on the GSA schedule.  NCC is also home to West Belmont Place, Northern Virginia’s largest ballroom with 16,500 square feet for holding an elegant wedding or accommodating a large trade show or special event.   For information call 800-640-2684 or visit www.conferencecenter.com, or www.westbelmontplace.com.
 
The National Conference Center is managed by ARAMARK Conference Centers.  ARAMARK is a leader in professional services, providing award-winning food services, facilities management, and uniform and career apparel to health care institutions, universities and school districts, stadiums and arenas, and businesses around the world. In FORTUNE magazine's 2009 list of "World's Most Admired Companies," ARAMARK was ranked number one in its industry, consistently ranking since 1998 as one of the top three most admired companies in its industry as evaluated by peers and analysts. ARAMARK seeks to responsibly address issues that matter to its clients, customers, employees and communities by focusing on employee advocacy, environmental stewardship, health and wellness, and community involvement. Headquartered in Philadelphia, ARAMARK has approximately 260,000 employees serving clients in 22 countries. Learn more at the company's Web site, www.aramark.com.
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Contact: 

James M. Mahon
JMM, Inc
JMMahon@aol.com

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Also See: The National Conference Center Presents New White Paper: "The Science of Food for Thought: Enhancing Meetings Through Food" / April 2011

The National Conference Center Introduces QR-Coded Green Tour of the 917-room Conference Center; 12-stop Tour Features Quick Response Codes Providing Relevant Information / March 2011

US General Services Administration Awards the First – and Only – GSA Schedule Contract for a Conference Center, Hotel or Resort to The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia / September 2010

The History of Xerox Document University Training and Conference Center / Nov 2001

Oxford Capital Partners, Inc. Acquires Xerox Document University, a 951 room Conference Center in Leesburg, VA / July 2000
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