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Co-op Newsletter 3/17/24

Dear Members,

As a cooperative, one of our guiding values has always been the promotion of a stronger and more resilient local economy with an emphasis on local production. On March 12th, we gathered to discuss and recommit to that value. Toby Hagerott, Tom Paduano, Rebecca Northrop, and Rachel Brewer spoke on their experiences as local farmers and about the ways that we, as a store and a membership, can support them and others like them.

The conversation kicked off with introductions. Toby, the owner of Against the Grain farm and the manager of Colonial School District’s Penn Farm, is a vendor at our seasonal farmers market, and you can always find his honey on our shelves. Tom owns Flying Plow Farm, another Farmer’s Market regular that is a certified organic farm. Rebecca manages Flying Plow’s CSA program and serves as the farm’s main business contact. Rachel manages the Flying Plow Farmer’s Market tent and runs a generational farm at her home. All four serve on the Co-op’s Board of Stewards and their wealth of knowledge about our local food systems proved to be educational and enlightening for all in attendance.

They spoke on their biggest challenges as local farms, namely increasing their sales enough to cover their costs while remaining responsible growers. We discussed the need for consumers to understand the actual cost of producing goods in ways that are ideal for the environment, the economy, and our bodies. The farmers defined various growing options, including tilling vs. no tilling, organic vs conventional, and monoculture vs polyculture, and they indicated that the “ideal” is an obscure and moving target. The potentially unreasonable aesthetic expectations that consumers hold about produce is a contributing factor to the sales challenges that smaller-scale farmers face, and the group pondered about the benefits of adopting philosophies of subsistence farming communities when it comes to how we treat and think about food.

Beyond products and production, our panel made sure to note that fair employment practices were crucial when defining the concept of “responsibly grown”. They spoke about the efforts that small farmers make to ensure fair compensation and exceptional treatment for all their employees.

All in all, the group walked away with a better understanding of the experiences of our local vendors and the challenges that they face. They also walked away with some action items that I would like to challenge all of you to complete as well:

· Come visit the Co-op Farmers Market in our parking lot, beginning on May 5th and running every Sunday from 9:30am-2:00pm until the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

· Be on the lookout for future educational speaking events, and if you can come, bring a friend! The more the merrier. The next event will be announced in April and will be held sometime in May.

· Buy Local! Check out local farm stands, participate in CSA’s and of course, be on the look out for local products on the shelves at Newark Natural Foods.

This event marks a renewed commitment by the Co-op to support and highlight as many of the wonderful local producers in our community as we can. I want to send out a huge thank you to the farmers and members who attended our event as well as to the many local producers in our area that work so hard to strengthen our community.

All the Best,

Catherine Hallman

General Manager

Newark Natural Foods


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