The Penn State Extension Young Grower Alliance held their 2016 fall tour at Tuscarora Organic Cooperative and New Morning Farm in Hustontown, PA on November 15th.

Learning about the daily operations of a food hub. Photo: Mike Basedow, Penn State

Learning about the daily operations of a food hub. Photo: Mike Basedow, Penn State

The group spent the afternoon learning about managing a wholesale cooperative, touring the coop's new storage facility, and discussing season extension practices. The tour was attended by young growers of all backgrounds, ranging from part-time growers looking to start marketing their produce, to commercial growers that have been in the business for over ten years.

Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative

The tour began inside the offices of Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, where Emily Best, General Manager of TOG, discussed the history of the coop and how it has grown into a forty member operation. Emily discussed how farms can become a member of the coop, and how each farm in the coop is re-certified yearly by a third party agency. She discussed how their marketing streams include selling to other growers in the coop to supplement their product offerings and retailers and restaurants in the Baltimore/Washington DC region. She also discussed how the coop meets with their growers in the winter to plan the next season's crops. Having over 1200 product offerings, the coop meets with each grower to develop a commitment to ensure they can fill their needs for the following season. Emily also discussed which crops they sell the most of, and which crops they would like to sell more of.

The group then met with Natalie Kujala, Assistant General Manager, to tour TOG's new cold storage facility. Natalie discussed how TOG keeps track of all the produce that moves in and out of the storage and how they manage food safety issues. Growers pack their produce on their own farms and drop off at the coop once or twice per week. Every box that comes into their storage is labeled with the farm name, the certifying agency, and a lot number that shows when the produce was harvested. This helps TOG ensure produce is moving through the storage, and the produce is shipped out to markets twice a week.

TOG tracking produce

Natalie discusses how TOG keeps track of the produce in their cold storage. Photo: Mike Basedow, Penn State

New Morning Farm

YGA then went up the road to hear from Jim Crawford of New Morning Farm. Jim gave the group a background on the history of the farm and discussed the various opportunities and challenges they have had over the years. Since starting in 1972, the farm is now 96 acres, and they produce 60 organically certified crops. He mentioned how working with the coop has given them flexibility, as they can always supplement what they produce with what is available at the coop. New Morning has a number of year round and seasonal employees, and Jim described the farm's apprenticeship program, and how many of their apprentices have gone on to start their own farm businesses.

Jim then introduced the group to Stephanie, one of the field managers. Stephanie discussed her role at New Morning Farm. Stephanie discussed how growing 60 crops always gives her something to do, and described how the field staff assigns responsibilities for the various crops throughout the year. After walking around some of the fields, the group came to the high tunnels to discuss their season extension practices. Stephanie spoke about how the high tunnels allow them to grow certain crops later in the growing season, and recommended a number of late season crops to grow.

Morning Farm discussion

Jim Crawford discusses his experiences growing New Morning Farm. Photo: Mike Basedow, Penn State

Morning Farm discussion2

Stephanie discusses season extension practices by utilizing high tunnels. Photo: Mike Basedow, Penn State

YGA offers many opportunities for young growers to come together to explore and discuss innovations in specialty crop production. Learn more about the Young Grower Alliance.

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Donald Seifrit
  • Extension Educator, Tree Fruit