Connecting Farmers and Eaters
Our team develops partnerships with growers, buyers, and local, regional, and national organizations. By building trust and cooperation, we’re able to deliver local produce rooted in values.
Ecologically grown, fair, safe treatment of farmers and their employees, and wide access to healthy, affordable food. That’s what we call righteous produce! Stay connected to the good food movement we are building by signing up for our monthly e-newsletter.
Eco practices are based on creating an orchard ecosystem that supports pollinators, keeps damaging insects in balance with natural predators, and promotes soil and tree health.
A partnership among local farmers, scientific advisors, the IPM Institute of North America and Red Tomato, EcoCertified delivers the freshest, best-tasting, safe, locally grown fruit while supporting and rewarding progressive, environmentally responsible growing practices.
The EcoCertified labels for apples and peaches empower our region’s farmers to deliver top quality, ecologically-grown fruit — season by season, crop by crop, orchard by orchard.
Eco Certification currently covers orchards in nine northeastern states, but the growing challenges faced by NE farms are shared by growers across the eastern US. If you know a fruit grower who might be a good fit for Eco Certification, let us know. Interested growers are welcome to contact Red Tomato.
Learn more about our EcoCertified program here.
What is Eco Certified, Part 1
Americans care more than ever about where their food comes from — who grows it, and how it is grown. Yet the average citizen has little direct experience with farmers to inform their curiosity. In fact, the public conversation about sustainable farming and its relation to food — in the media, on campus, in supermarket aisles, between growers and their customers, among advocates, policymakers, and the public — is confusing. It is often reduced to oversimplified versions of good versus bad, quickly polarizing. Different sides each show up with their experts in tow and we get dueling science. Methods that are hard to explain, such as integrated pest management (IPM), are left out entirely, even though they have been proven effective.
This poorly informed public conversation about our food production systems has cascading effects on overall farm policies and on citizens’ behavior. It erodes public confidence in food safety, agricultural research, government institutions, and in the development of new technologies. Many positive, sustainable practices go unrecognized, uncounted and unrewarded; progress is slow; and consumers (citizens) remain confused.
In the Farming & Food Narrative Project, Red Tomato is partnering with IPM Voice and FrameWorks Institute. We turn to cognitive science for help in developing a more effective approach to talking to the public about farming and farm practices, such as IPM. To arrive at communications strategies that are evidence-based, we are employing Strategic Frame Analysis®, a proven approach to communication research pioneered by the FrameWorks Institute.
This approach recognizes that humans are “fast and frugal thinkers” who do not subject most new information to deliberation or reason. Strategic Frame Analysis begins by analyzing and mapping the common, recurring mental models that average citizens rely on to interpret the world of farming and food. Then, in an iterative process that combines a variety of social science methods, researchers design and test “reframes” – messaging elements such as metaphors, examples, or narratives—for their ability to lessen misconceptions, build more accurate understanding, and orient people toward the deliberation of evidence. The result is a set of effective communication tools, supported by a transparent evidence base that is strong enough to persuade organizations across the sector to use them.
These reframing recommendations have been created and are being shared widely with farmers, agricultural scientists, and advocates for sustainable agriculture, along with training, equipping these voices to lead a more productive public conversation. Find the final recommendations from the research in the Reframing Farming report. Learn more at www.farmingandfoodnarrative.org
Reframing the Narrative: How We Bridge the Knowledge Gap About Local Food and Farming Systems
Reframing Farming Report
The Equitable Food Initiative was created to transform agriculture through farmworker engagement.
Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) is an international program developed by a partnership of farmworkers, farmers and advocacy organizations to create a new approach to workplace development and worker fairness in the produce industry.
In 2017, EFI, Red Tomato and several growers began a pilot program that applied the EFI model to smaller, diversified farms in the Northeast USA. The goal of this first in the nation pilot was to test the existing EFI training model and certification scheme in a small grower setting. We hope to determine if certification is feasible for small scale growers, and if not, explore what scheme or standards changes might be needed.
The pilot built on nearly a decade’s worth of discussion within our grower network to understand the difficulties faced by both farmers and their workers in achieving fair, safe and reliable farm work. The EFI model focuses on three areas for certification:
- Training and empowerment for employees
- Sustainable agriculture practices
- Food safety standards.
Red Tomato chose to work with EFI because these priorities reflect what we’ve learned from our growers, and also because of their unique partnership with national retailers. Retail partners pay a premium or other financial investment to the farm, and commit to buy from certified farms. This ‘pull’ from the market, paired with a focus on working conditions and communication between employees and farm management, we believe can create a win-win program for all involved.
Equitable Food Initiative Pilot Update
The Double Up Food Bucks program doubles the value of federal nutrition (SNAP or food stamps) benefits spent at participating markets and grocery stores.
Since 2015, Red Tomato has partnered with the Fair Food Network, a national nonprofit founded on the belief that vibrant local food systems can create health and economic opportunity for all. The Fair Food Network pioneers solutions that support farmers, strengthen local economies, and increase access to healthy food – especially in the nation’s most underserved communities.
Central to their work is developing programs with food hubs that create on-the-ground impact and serve as replicable models. The Double Up Food Bucks program doubles the value of federal nutrition (SNAP or food stamps) benefits spent at participating markets and grocery stores. This increased purchasing power helps people bring home more healthy fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers. The wins are three-fold: low-income consumers eat more healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay in the local economy.
Red Tomato is part of the New Hampshire pilot program of Double Up Food Bucks, working as the supply chain consultant. We identify local farmers that are a good fit to work with retailers food safety standards, and help to supply product from throughout the region. There are currently 10 locations throughout the state participating in the program!
This supply chain prototype project aims to address affordability, accessibility, and food security in Red Tomato's programmatic work.
In 2021, in collaboration with Reos Partners, Connecticut farmers, and Connecticut community food distributors in the low-income communities of Bridgeport and Hartford, Red Tomato launched the Bypass Project. This supply chain prototype project aims to address affordability, accessibility, and food security in our programmatic work. Red Tomato developed this project from the idea of bringing together the people who actually grow the food with the people who eat the food. Simple, right? One would think so, but so many systems get in the way of that direct connection. The idea of this project is to determine how to “bypass” those systems so that everyone’s needs are met: underserved communities get access to affordable, healthy food, and growers get a fair price.
Red Tomato is committed to connecting these two parties to build synergies. To figure out the best path forward, we all need to understand how to build an efficient supply chain that bypasses the retailer to reduce costs and create a steady flow of food into underserved communities.
Red Tomato performed a pilot of this supply chain in 2021, and it worked: We delivered more than $25,000 of fresh food in six deliveries! Learn more about where this project stands and our next steps in this article.
Increasing Access and Affordability of Fresh, Local Produce Through the Bypass Project
Red Tomato is farmer focused. Whether it’s a keynote at a national conference or a long term contract to help build a new food hub, our first question is ‘what problem are you trying to solve for your growers?’
As a 20+ year non-profit veteran of the good food movement we welcome our responsibility to work with other organizations and share the knowledge we’ve acquired. Our staff has decades of experience in:
- Marketing/Brand Development
- Financial transparency
- Working on behalf of growers to address their needs!
The Red Tomato team was able to provide wisdom, vital industry insight, and specific strategic recommendations to help us define and grow our business.” Elizabeth Beggins, Chesapeake Harvest
Our team tailors this work to each project and we make commitments based on our capacity and how we can contribute toward success. To see if we’re a good fit for your project, contact us at [email protected].