Washington Officials Visit Tuscarora Organic Growers
Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission Earl Gohl and other top federal and state officials visited Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-op (TOG) near Maddensville on Monday to help promote economic development in Appalachia.
“Our visit is part of a series of trips across the region showcasing the role local food systems play in boosting economic growth and the jobs they create,” said Guy Land, office of the federal co-chair, chief of staff.
Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-op was formed in 1988 when area fruit and vegetable farmers joined forces to create a food hub to ship their produce to market. According to Jeff Taylor, general manager for the food hub, TOG now has 44 member farms throughout a seven-county region of south-central Pennsylvania. The co-op sends trucks into the Washington metro area twice a week.
Founding member of TOG Jim Crawford of New Morning Farm told the officials the co-op had over $3 million in gross sales and has handled more than 2 million cases of produce through its distribution building located on his farm. According to TOG’s Web site, the co-op is able to coordinate crop production to complement one another rather than compete and enjoy economies of scale in shipping and selling. The cooperative form of business fits the farmers’ needs, allowing ownership and market access to be divided fairly and decisions to be made jointly.
Federal Co-Chair Gohl said that TOG is streamlining the distribution of produce to restaurants and markets and “we want to encourage them as they build up local economies and draw dollars into their communities.”
Also visiting TOG Monday was Brian Snyder, executive director of Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture from Millheim,
Pa. Snyder said his organization was formed over 20 years ago, and its mission is promoting profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment. Snyder’s organization has honored Crawford with awards in the past.
Also on-hand to learn more about TOG was Joani Walsh from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Ed Silvetti, executive director, Southern Alleghenies Commission; and Neil Fowler, director, Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development.
Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-operative has grown steadily as a food hub for organically grown produce. Its Morning Star Farm box trucks are seen coming through McConnellsburg as regularly as clockwork. TOG is now being recognized by Washington as an economic model for rural economies.