Sandi Kronick’s business partners over at Eastern Carolina Organics are not your typical suited men clutching crammed briefcases. Instead, she works collaboratively with a motley crew of seventeen dedicated farmers.
During her time with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Sandi recognized that many local farmers lacked the infrastructure to get their produce into major restaurants and wholesalers. In 2004, she set out to craft a company that functioned to fulfill the needs of these farmers and thus ECOOrganics was born.
“Every aspect of the ECO’s design was built around their baseline expectations,” Sandi says.
ECO immediately garnered impressive commercial success and brought in nearly a quarter of a million in revenue its first year. Demand for local, organic produce continues to grow with the season. Today, the company has thirteen employees working across eighty farms – all within North Carolina.
Sandi and her team provide this expansive network of farmers with production planning, packaging and pricing guidance. They also coach them through the often-rigorous organic certification process. Sandi notes the National Organic Program’s stringency as a facet of ECO’s legitimacy.
“There’s no way we would be able to be in business with the clarity of sustainability if it wasn’t for the Program. It shouldn’t be easy. If it was easy, there would be no respect for it in the marketplace,” she says.
One step into ECO’s walk-in freezer on East Pettigrew Street and you’ll get a sense of the operation’s scale and bounty. Despite being confined by the climate of a single state, they offer seasonal favorites alongside year-round staples like kale and sweet potatoes. They ship their variable lineup of fruits and veggies across the Eastern seaboard, up to New England and down as far as Florida.
“We’re able to look, smell and feel like a regular distribution company except we would never have avocados and limes and what’s inside the truck never comes from far away,” Sandi explains.
She says that North Carolinian’s distinct appreciation for slow food and culinary histories is what makes them so receptive to the local farm movement. Sandi has noticed that conscious eaters across the country and beginning to regard the state as an authority on small-scale, organic production.
As this reputation continues to flourish, ECO and its partner farms will continue to work to meet demand. With 80% of company profits going back to the growers themselves, ECO truly a leading feeder of the local food economy.