By 2005, Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO) was up and running as a partially farmer-owned “food hub,” working with dozens of organic farms and making local food accessible to more people throughout the region. The food hub markets and distributes food from nearly 20 farms across the Carolinas and Virginia to various retailers, including restaurants and food clubs. The company also helps farmers who want to transition from conventional growing practices to organic farming.
The majority of ECO’s profits—which are “in the millions” annually, according to CEO Sandi Kronick—end up in the pockets of these small farmers.
“Eighty percent of everything we’ve ever made is sent by check—literally through the United States Postal Service—to farmers that we work with,” she tells TakePart. “So it’s a really great feeling knowing that most of our earnings are going directly to family farms in North Carolina and Virginia.”
The food hub distributes organic produce to big retailers like Whole Foods, but also food cooperatives, natural food stores, restaurants and conventional supermarkets. That broad reach is partially due to the company’s “aha!” moment, Kronick says, which came in 2008 when ECO refocused on becoming a better trucking company. Experts say the kind of logistical focus ECO has developed is vital for the survival of other food hubs.
By: Steve Holt