Who is Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative?
Many of the items on our store are identified as produced by, “Tuscarora Organic Growers.” You may have wondered who this is and why we have so much of their produce among our CSA offerings. The co-op (known by many of us as TOG) has been essential to our business from the beginning. We purchase from the co-op the many items we have, for one reason or another (too many rocks in our soil, too little experience with the crop, inadequate equipment, etc), chosen not to produce on our own farm. We also sell our own produce to them: cherry tomatoes, yummy snack peppers, broccoli, bok choy, and specialty eggplant are the items we grow in sufficient quantity to wholesale through the cooperative. Its a great system that works well for farmers and customers alike, and has helped small family farmers thrive for nearly three decades. In addition to rounding-out the farm-stands and CSA boxes of member-growers, TOG supplies local certified organic produce to DC-area restaurants and supermarkets (including Whole Foods). If you’ve dined at Nora’s, Equinox, Jaleo, or Cafe St. Ex in DC, you’ve likely enjoyed a dish containing TOG vegetables. TOG is recognized as a model for sustainable food distribution, however it remains a small and humble organization. It is located at the end of a long dirt road in rural Huntingdon County PA. The staff consists of four full-time employees and several part-time/seasonal employees who receive produce from the farmers when they deliver it and organize the boxes of everything from asparagus to tomatillos according to customers’ orders.
Many farmers consider it a mark of pride that they can produce hundreds of varieties of crops on their own plot of land. Although the feats accomplished by many farmers are impressive, we have never aspired to do this because we think cooperating with a network of growers makes much more sense. No farm is perfectly suited for all vegetable crops. Our land is slightly hilly, somewhat rocky, and even with 50 acres all to ourselves, we have limited space for production. So we focus on growing the things we grow best and source the rest from our neighbors who have mastered the art of beans, carrots, and the like. The (mostly Amish and Mennonite) farmers don’t mind the middlemen who purchase from the co-op–they’re content to get a little less per pound for their crops so they can spend Sundays caring for their families and attending church.
This sign from 20 years ago is posted in the TOG office. It reads: “we are a group of certified organic fruit and vegetable growers who have been marketing cooperatively in the D.C. area for the past six seasons…we believe in working together, being good stewards of our land, and bringing you fresh high quality food which is healthy and safe.
The list of growers on the sign
numbers eight. Today there are 44 member farms. Twenty-six years after the co-op began, we are proud to now be among them and look forward to what we and the co-op will accomplish in the decades to come.