Some folks leave Rochester for bigger cities. Chris Hartman left to live in a cabin in the woods.
Lucky for us, he found his way home.
Today, he runs Headwater Foods, a local distributor focused on marketing local, farm-fresh food to people and businesses. The wholesale side of the company—Three Square Kitchen—specializes in delivering regionally sourced fruits, vegetables and meats to area schools, restaurants and stores.
Among those stores? You guessed it. Hart’s Local Grocers.
Three Square Kitchen has other customers besides Hart’s, some as distant as the Park Slope Co-op in Brooklyn.
“We have distribution partners like Ace Naturals, a distribution company in New York City,” Chris says. “700 buyers have access to Three Square Kitchen.”
But Chris is happy to have Headwater’s headquarters right here in Rochester—and to have Hart’s as one of its proudest customers.
“Our relationship with Hart’s is unlike any other relationship we have,” he says. “This is our home team. Our home turf. We see Hart’s as our flagship partner.”
Chris founded Headwater to create a smarter, smoother supply chain among Rochester-area farmers, businesses, and consumers. Its worthy mission and meaningful model helped Headwater recently earn B Corp status—just the fourth company in the region to do so.
Chris is all about bringing people closer to the food they eat, from farm to table. In that respect, we could all learn a lot from Chris. And every day, many people do.
He also works full time at the private K-12 Harley School in Brighton, where he serves as Sustainability Director—a teaching position he helped create after successfully igniting a local food movement in one of Rochester’s neighborhoods, the South Wedge.
His passion for growing food began as a student. As an undergrad at Vassar College, he landed an internship at Sprout Creek Farm, a Hudson Valley business where he learned how to care for livestock and work the land. While there, he married his fiancee, Vicki, and they settled into the country, living off the land—and off the grid—for five years.
But something called him back to Rochester.
“Like many Rochesterians, we started thinking about moving back,” Chris says. “We got thinking about buying a home we could afford and moving into an urban environment. We wanted to get into the local food and farming scene. Not as farmers, but as entrepreneurs.”
The couple bought a house in the South Wedge, and Chris helped cultivate a local-food movement.
“Around 2007, Vicki and I started to organize with others around the idea of starting a sustainable, organic, focused farmer’s market in the neighborhood. And in a three-month period, we went from an idea to the launch of the South Wedge Farmer’s Market. That’s where it all began.”
The success of the market led Chris to found Headwater, and it also led him to cross paths with Hart’s creator Glenn Kellogg. Chris lent his expertise and voiced his views around the dining room table with Hart’s planners.
Today, as reality takes shape, he sees great potential for the two ventures to grow in tandem.
“We’re excited to work with Hart’s to help local farms expand to meet the community’s demands,” he says.
Hart’s has made a corporate commitment to offering as much locally sourced food as possible. And thanks to places like Headwater/Three Square Kitchen, local sourcing is becoming more and more feasible. That’s good for the local economy. Good for people’s taste buds, too.
Hart’s customers will notice a difference from the first bite.
“Our system offers seasonal, farm-fresh, diverse foods right from our own region,” Chris says.
He leans forward and smiles.
“C’mon, man. The FLAVOR.”