By Emily Buehler, Weaver Street Market Website Coordinator
This month, we took a field trip to several of our produce and meat suppliers. We gathered at the ECO-HUB in Durham, where we toured the offices and storage areas of Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO) and Firsthand Foods. Then we drove two hours east to Rose Hill, to tour two organic produce farms that sell through ECO: Cottle Organics and Uncle Henry’s Organics, who supply us with berries, greens, muscadine grapes, and more. After lunch, we toured Wallace Farms, who sells pork via Firsthand Foods. This is the first in a series of posts about the trip.
Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO) markets and distributes organic produce to restaurants and retailers like Weaver Street. ECO pools the offerings of many farms, resulting in more reliable and consistent availability for buyers. By managing sales and by supporting tasks like improving packaging techniques, ECO enables its farmers to focus on farming. ECO also helps conventional farmers transition to organic.
When customers order, ECO contacts their growers to tell them what to harvest. ECO staff quality-check the produce and store it until it is shipped to the customer, usually one to two days after arrival. ECO keeps data on sales so that farmers can tailor their production to match the market. Many of the farmers who sell through ECO are owners, and 80 percent of sales go to the growers. ECO is a certified B Corporation and is a Durham Living Wage certified employer.
CEO Sandi Kronick gave us a tour of the ECO-HUB facility. ECO purposely moved to a too-big facility so that they can grow into it. For now, they rent the extra space to like-minded businesses, including sustainable gardening companies and a “green accountant.” We peeked into the cooler, which was largely empty because of ECO’s fast turnaround. ECO farmers harvest after orders come in, so the produce is as fresh as possible when it reaches the store.