Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Where is TOG located? Where do TOG growers farm?
A. 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. We are part of both of the Potomac and Susquehanna River watershed. The co-op’s warehouse and office are located on New Morning Farm near Maddensville, south of Orbisonia and near Exit 180 of the PA Turnpike (within 100 miles of the DC area).
Q. What kind of growers sell through TOG?
A. All kinds! Our growers farm as little as 2 acres of produce and as much as 60 acres. The average farm is managing 20-30 acres of organic ground for fruits and vegetables. Most are farmed as family operations with some occasional hired help, but a few have large work crews. ALL are certified organic. Approximately 90% of the produce we sell comes from our local member and non-member growers. We also get mushrooms from an organic house near Philadelphia, and seasonally work with other organic growers or growers’ co-ops on the east coast, as well as organic citrus growers in Florida. Our main emphasis is on fresh, locally grown, organically grown foods – we don’t buy from California or Texas.
Q. What does TOG mean by LOCAL ORGANIC?
A. Federal law has caught up with what we’ve required of our growers since 1988: third-party certification in order to use the word “organic.” All of our farmers are certified by independent certifying agencies, which include, but are not limited to, the following: the New York and New Jersey chapters of Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), the Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association (OEFFA), and Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO). These agencies insure that farmers are building healthy soils and avoiding the use of synthetic chemicals, while adhering to a set of farming principles and practices which are consistent for all certified organic producers (we’d be happy to provide more detailed information upon request). While we believe certification is crucial, we also believe that “local” is just as important as organic. Smaller-scaled, family-run operations in the Eastern U.S. have more challenges and fewer advantages than large multinational corporate farms. They can, however, provide you with fresher, more nutritious and more exciting food!
Q. How does TOG insure quality produce?
A. We strive to pack our produce to industry standards (or better), and every grower delivery is checked for quality and consistency when it arrives at our dock. Growers are held to strict standards, spelled out in a 17-page set of guidelines covering harvest, grading, packing, storage and food safety.
Q. How can I find out what's available from TOG?
A. Throughout the year, we email availability lists to our customers twice a week. The lists include pricing, pack and supply information, as well as delivery dates and order deadlines. The list is also accessible from the TOG website. Go to the Buyer section to see what is being offered this week. This section is for current buyers only and requires password authentication. If you are currently a customer, please call the TOG office (814 448 2173) to find out more details for accessing this section.
Q. How do I order from TOG? When does TOG deliver?
A. We receive orders over the phone, through e-mail or on our fax line. For most orders, contacting us by our 11 a.m. deadline the day before delivery will give growers enough time for picking, packing, and transport to our dock. Early orders are appreciated, though – especially for unusually large orders! Tuesdays and Fridays are our standard delivery days.
Q. Why do TOG deliveries come in trucks marked New Morning Farm?
A. We lease trucks from NMF – it works to keep costs low for both TOG and NMF. New Morning Farm was the founding member of TOG and we’re located next door to Jim & Moie’s Crawford’s abundant fields.
Q. Who picks up the phone when I call TOG? Who delivers the produce?
A. By working together to share costs, TOG farmers has been able to maintain a staff that handles sales and marketing as well as shipping and delivery. So the person you talk to on the phone or meet with the truck is an employee of TOG’s farmers. TOG is currently managed by Emily Best, who oversees operations, sales, and outreach. Natalie Kujala serves as assistant General Manager, working closely with customers to optimize sales, as well as helping growers with issues around food safety. Teresa Showalter oversees receiving and shipping as well as many other internal details. Shelly Carlton handles produce coordination with our growers. Tim Henry also assists with sales. Robin Newman, our Finance Manager, handles the books. Norma Schooley manages receiving and packing. And we've got a great crew of drivers, including Levi, Zeb, Charlie, Johnny, and Bobby!
Q. What is TOG’s role in the regional food chain? Why not buy from a full-line produce distributor?
A. You might be able to find produce cheaper, or buy from someone who’ll have tomatoes year-round as well as bananas, avocados and more. But most produce distributors prioritize convenience and cost savings over quality and integrity. As one of the oldest and largest organic produce cooperatives in the East Coast, we have developed a rather unusual business model that has successfully provided local organically certified produce to the Baltimore Washington metroplex for over twenty-five years. TOG is the connection between our array of sustainable family farms and the diversity of our restaurants, retailers, farmer’s markets and buyer’s clubs.
Our expanding group of family farms allows for longer local seasons of various produce as well as the production of many specialty items so desired by the culinary diversity of the urban community. Local seasonal consumption is on the rise across the US. TOG has always been at the forefront of the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” trend, well before it was trendy. TOG has long since set the standard by marketing only organically certified local produce.
Q. Who owns TOG? Who profits?
A. We're legally incorporated as a producer's cooperative, which means that the business is owned by the farmers it serves. We're democratically controlled 100% by farmers; we have officers and a Board of Directors who are farmers. Co-op operating expenses are paid out of regular commissions on sales, and any profits at the end of the year are distributed according to the growers’ wishes. The economic goal of the co-op is service at cost to growers.