Happy New Year to all of our friends and followers! We hope you took downtime over the holidays and enjoyed great food with friends and family! Here at Red Tomato, I am having fun!!! We have built an outstanding, ambitious, and super-creative team! There is so much energy inside Red Tomato as we close 2022; you can feel the energy return.
At year-end 2022, We left the good fight for rest and recovery and came back into the ring swinging hard in 2023! Again, we closed our year slightly ahead of budget, with bottom-line sales just under $5 million.
Suppose you are familiar with how Red Tomato operates. In that case, you know, we coordinate our business’s farm-to-wholesale/retail distribution. We also manage the program side of our business, tackling social/systems change issues affecting market access for all and fair prices for small farms.
I am excited and anxious to keep working on two Red Tomato programs in 2023, which are our EcoCertifiedTM and Bypass programs.
- Eco marketing program – The EcoCertified Fruit program was created to empower our region’s farmers to deliver top-quality, ecologically grown fruit — season by season, crop by crop, orchard by orchard. Red Tomato manages the Eco program and works on behalf of our local farm networks to market and distribute fruit grown under the certification. The growing protocol, audits, and certification is managed by a third-party non-profit, the IPM Institute of North America. The program is guided by an advisory group of growers, scientists, and fruit experts. Together we are able to accomplish what none of us can do alone: ensure sublime, ecologically-grown fruit, and a viable future for local farms.
- Bypass supply chain program – Bypass connects Connecticut producers and food insecure communities to co-create and implement solutions to the following needs:
- To remain viable, mid-size wholesale New England farms must receive prices above their production costs and access new and stable markets.
- Residents in low-income communities in Hartford and Bridgeport experience limited access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food as an obstacle to essential health and well-being.
- Sovereignty. People in Bridgeport and Hartford’s vulnerable communities want to participate in food system projects with agency, dignity, and partnership. Residents desire ‘ownership’–to be co-creators of solutions and a valuable, necessary part of the supply chain, not ‘hand-out’ recipients. Solutions require collaborative relationships that draw on the participatory principles of cooperatives (workplace democracy, shared ownership) and the down-to-basics approach of business (customer-oriented, metered by efficiency and profitability).
- Producers need Bypass to scale to sell wholesale volumes and operate profitably. Bridgeport and Hartford’s communities need Bypass to scale so that more people can access a wide variety of fresh, healthy foods. The region’s (and nation’s) food system needs models for building multi-stakeholder collaboration(s) that lead to financially secure and self-sufficient supply chains.
We continued to lay the groundwork for our Eco Certified brand campaign. We developed and launched the following:
- Updated Eco Certified brand logo.
- Increased our social media presence.
- Worked with Bark Media and Marketing Consultants to develop deployment and analytical strategies and tools that we will use to explore, test, and guide the marketing tools that will support the dissemination of the eco story to “eaters.”
- We updated our marketing tools accordingly.
- We have been awarded an LFPP grant from USDA to unify and strengthen our co-branding efforts to support our grower’s Eco brand.
- Learn more about our work on Eco certified brand here: https://redtomato.org/eco/
Excited to share more with you this year as we begin to deploy, explore, & test various elements of our eco-brand deployment plan!
For our Bypass supply chain program, we accomplished the following:
- Significant improvements to our ordering and delivery systems.
- Added new participants
- Forge City Works, Hartford, CT
- Hands-on Hartford, Hartford, CT
- Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT
- We increased purchases from local farmers by approximately $30K for a total of just under $60K.
- Added local dairy items to our weekly availability lists.
The landscapes for our region’s small farmers continue to be arduous due to constant low market prices, further complicated by supply chain disruptions and the elements of nature. Yet, we are constantly thinking creatively, experimenting and exploring new business ways, and reinventing food systems. To continue to fight for and nourish our passionate belief that a farmer-focused, place-based, ecological, fair trade food system is the way to a better world!
Onward and Upward, my friends, Stay Tuned for more of what’s to come!