SUNY Potsdam's PACES Dining Services Supports Local Entrepreneurs

PACES Dining Services Builds Partnerships with Donahue Livestock Farms and Other Local Food Producers

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POTSDAM, NY (09/19/2018) Early in the summer of 2016, Katie Donahue and her husband Brandon approached PACES Dining Services Director Pat Gray about buying their grass-fed beef to serve at SUNY Potsdam.

"We taste-tested the product and were awed by the flavor, and really impressed by Katie and Brandon's story. We started to buy cuts of beef to use in catering and at special events to support their new business," said Gray. "We were pioneers in partnership, and I am really thrilled to know that they expanded to sell to other local business, including Jake's on the Water, 1844 House and McDuff's in Potsdam. They sell to school districts, too. We buy over $24,000 per year, and couldn't be happier with the decision we made two years ago to buy their beef."

Anyone who loves burgers and has tasted one fresh off the grill at Becky's Place in Pratt Commons is a fan.

PACES believes that buying locally helps support the community while also providing nutritious, great-tasting food. Last year, PACES purchased approximately $519,000 worth of goods from 32 producers across New York State, including produce, grain-fed beef, maple syrup and baked goods from local vendors.

By buying from local farmers and producers, the environmental impact of purchasing certain types of food are reduced. Pollutants created by the purchase of foods requiring long-distance transportation, including the byproducts of fossil-fuel combustion released by refrigerated trucks, make locally grown products a better choice for the environment.

Brandon Donahue, a self-described "guy who just grew up in the woods" bought his first cow in 2007. His herd now numbers over 450 head. Brandon works as a full time Corrections Officer in Malone, N.Y., and when not there, he is off managing the herd with his wife, Katie, and their four children: Isaac (13), Elija (10), Ryleigh (9) and Branson (4).

"When you farm, you have to be willing to work hard every day. There really are no days off. Holidays, birthdays -- when you have a job to do, you have to do it," said Katie, who manages sales for the farm. "PACES was our first account, and we are so happy that we have such a good relationship: It is crucial to making a small business successful. Your ideal customers are prompt to order, and prompt to pay."

Donahue Farm beef can be found at the Watertown, Plattsburgh and Keene Valley farmer's markets, where Katie sells their FDA-certified meat to the public. When she isn't there or tending to the family, she is making deliveries to her wholesale customers across the North Country.

"It's really hard to stay ahead if you are a small business in a big marketplace; the animal cost, the feed costs, certification, processing and trucking costs all add up. It's hard, because people often compare our prices (for natural angus cattle) with those that you pay in the store for conventional beef that routinely receives antibiotics, growth hormones and implants, ranging from beef cows to dairy culls," Katie said.

The Donahues have numerous fields they use to manage their livestock, all located in Franklin County. They have their meat processed locally in Croghan, N.Y., at Red Barn Processing.

The Donahues have a number of different breeds on the farm, including Black Angus, Red Angus, Hereford and Charolais. They maintain good genetic crossover breeding to ensure a healthy herd, and a consistent quality of meat, raised hormone- and chemical-free. Katie and her children recently showed some of their cows at the Franklin County Fair, and received awards in their class.

The family's work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit been instilled in their children. Isaac applied and received a loan from the Farm Service Agency at the age of 12. He used the money to purchase a calf, bring it to market and sell it. With the proceeds of the sale after the loan was paid off, he purchased two additional animals to bring to market. With the proceeds of the two business ventures, he purchased a used four wheeler to check on the livestock in the fields.

His younger sister Elija, recently received her first FSA loan. She is raising pigs for market this fall. She and her parents have made use of excess vegetable scraps from their local Walmart to augment the animals' diet of corn and hay.

PACES is sponsoring its annual Fall Harvest Buffet for campus community members on Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Thatcher Hall. Local foods on the menu include Agbotic beet greens grown by SUNY Potsdam alumnus Kevin Richardson. Chef John Van Kennen has created a fall-themed menu, which includes American wagyu beef with rosemary demi-glace, arctic char with blistered New York State heirloom tomatoes, vegan pumpkin and sage red lentil pasta and assorted desserts.

Students can use their flex account to attend, at a cost of $10. Faculty, staff and community members may use cash, credit, flex or Bear Express funds, for $12.50 plus tax. For more information, contact Sue Towne at (315) 267-2657.

About PACES Dining Services:

Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services Inc. (PACES) is a not-for-profit corporation operating under contract with SUNY Potsdam. PACES' mission is to offer high-quality products and services, while maximizing customer value and financial return, to the benefit of the larger SUNY Potsdam community. PACES Dining Services is rated the No. 1 dining service for comprehensive colleges in the SUNY system in the Student Opinion Survey. For more information about what makes PACES No. 1, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America's first 50 colleges -- and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit