Connecting Farmers and Eaters
Our team develops partnerships with growers and buyers, and with local, regional, and national organizations. By building trust and cooperation we’re able to deliver 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!
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 progressive, ecology-based farming and certification program created by local farmers, scientific advisers and Red Tomato. Eco delivers the freshest, best-tasting, safe, locally grown fruit while supporting and rewarding progressive, environmentally responsible growing practices. Launched in 2005, the Eco certification program currently includes 14 orchards and over 1400 acres throughout the Northeast.
Growers in the Northeast face twice as many pest and disease pressures as growers in the drier climates of the Pacific Northwest. 93% of US organic apple production comes from Washington state, where the climate and growing conditions are a good fit with national organic standards. For many NE farmers, trying to follow the organic guidelines is extremely difficult at best — and crippling enough to threaten the stability of their crop and livelihood at worst. Some throw in the towel entirely, needing to keep their business afloat. But others — like Eco growers — believe in sustainable growing practices for more than a certification and price premium. They value the health of our earth and take their role in that seriously. And they know there’s many responsible growing techniques, within the organic guidelines and beyond, that they can use. Where does that leave them?
The Eco program has created a rigorous protocol of the most advanced IPM practices, tailored to what it takes to grow in the Northeast. Farmers are able to make ends meet without sacrificing their ethics and commitment to sustainability. The Eco Apple and Eco Peach certifications empower our region’s farmers to deliver top quality, ecologically-grown fruit — season by season, crop by crop, orchard by orchard. Read more: What is Eco?
Red Tomato works on behalf of the grower network to market fruit grown under the certification. The IPM Institute of North America administers the certification with third party audits conducted on a rotating basis. Growers interested in joining the program should contact Red Tomato, who will put you in touch with the Eco Program manager.
Don’t want to wait for our team? Dig deeper into the protocol, its efficacy and the program’s history!
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 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 will be shared widely with farmers, agricultural scientists, and advocates for sustainable agriculture, along with training, equipping these voices to lead a more productive public conversation. Learn more at www.farmingandfoodnarrative.org.
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
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.