The Source Report: The Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop (Pt. 1)

Mila, our produce buyer, recently toured the Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop farms with a group of local buyers. After several seasons of buying top-quality local organic produce from this group, it was great to be able to capture photos and notes for our customers (plus spend a beautiful day out on the farms)!

new.morning.farmWhenever we’re talking with growers, it’s always nice to see all the various groups that also support our local food movement. On this day, the tour group was particularly diverse–I met chefs from the DC-area restaurants, farmer market managers, a lawyer who is considering starting a finance company to assist small organic farms get certified, coop and small grocery storeowners and employees, as well as many of Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop’s employees and farmers.

Located in a beautiful rural area outside McConnallsburg PA, the TOG is tucked away at the end of winding back road in the foothills. New Morning Farm is next door, owned by Jim Crawford, who founded TOG in 1988 and is its current president.

 Jeff Taylor (GM of TOG) gave us the history and tour of the coop. One of the main reasons Hometown Harvest orders TOG produce is because of the consistently high quality and freshness, a feat achieved through frequent harvesting from over 40 farmer members and large walk-in coolers that are regulated at different temperatures depending on produce types. TOG is a mix of older farmers who have been farming since the 70s, like Jim from New Morning Farm and the owners of Shoestring Acres & Harnes, many multi-generational Amish growers like Back Forty, Country View Acres and Country View Farm (brother owned), as well as new and younger farmers who have been farming for 3-5 years. All maintain Certified Organic growers status from the state, following strict regulated guidelines.

Due to its success and quality standards, TOG’s business model is being duplicated all across the US. Each farmer follows over 32 pages of quality standards for each variety of produce, resulting in only a 1% QUALITY loss for the group (meaning produce rejected at the loading dock). This is virtually unheard of for most produce distribution standards.

Stay tuned for more info on the various farms included in the coop in Pt. 2!

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