Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative took root in 1988 when three neighboring farmers realized they could become more efficient by cooperating instead of duplicating their marketing efforts. We are incorporated as a cooperative, which means that our farmers are our owners, and any profit yielded by the company is paid out to them.
In the first season, seven growers moved about 1,500 cases of produce to Washington DC retailers over a five-month period. Chris Fullerton was the first general manager during those early years. He managed the cooperative for fourteen years and is credited with leading with the growers in developing a successful cooperative business model.
The growers, led by our first and longtime President Jim Crawford (of New Morning Farm), soon discovered that by working together, they could coordinate crop production to complement one another rather than compete. Each grower could focus on the crops that they do well and purchase other items through the co-op. The co-op was soon providing a diversity of crops and a level of service that no individual grower could provide on their own.
TOG started with no outside funding, just an idea that farmers could work together to grow their produce sustainably and be profitable.
Now, nearly 30 years later, we work with 50 member growers, and over a dozen non-member growers, to sell hundreds of thousands of cases every month.
Through the CO-OP, farms are able to serve their customers better, by providing a diversity of organic crops and a level of service that no individual grower could provide on their own.
Many of our growers’ farms are located throughout a seven-county region of south central Pennsylvania known as the Juniata River Valley. (The counties are Bedford, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Perry). This beautiful, rugged region is sparsely populated, heavily forested, and environmentally pristine. Our small fields hug streams in narrow valleys or sit on ridges above. The co-op’s warehouse and office are located beside New Morning Farm near Maddensville, PA.
Organic certification, and the cooperative spirit, are the common links between our farms. Our farms are diverse: We have early organic pioneers who started to grow in the 1970's as well as many new generation farmers, some of whom graduated from internships on some of our original farms. We have traditional farms which chose to switch to organic farming. We also have a large number of Amish and Mennonite growers in the co-op. Their values and family life truly exemplify sustainability in farming.
The TOG staff serves three primary functions for its growers: marketing, coordination and quality standards.
TOG provides the quality standards that all growers must adhere to so that our customers can expect the same high quality produce from all of our growers.
All produce is packed at each farm and brought to TOG once or twice a week for distribution. Each case of produce has the name of the farm, the certifying agency and a lot number identifying the date of harvest.
TOG's cooperative model allows growers to pool their buying power. By ordering larger quantities, growers can receive a better price for supplies such as potting soil, boxes and labels, seed potatoes and organic pest and weed control products.
The business practices of the TOG’s business model has served as an example to other groups wanting to form cooperatives. TOG staff and growers are active speakers and participants in local, regional and national conferences on sustainable agriculture.
President, Board of Directors: Mark Stanley, Help From Above Farm