Communications and Development Coordinator
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Organic Co-op Deeply Rooted in New England Agriculture
Founded in 1986, Deep Root Organic Cooperative is one of the oldest co-ops of organic vegetables growers in the United States. Having evolved into a 23 member farmer-owned cooperative, they source organic produce, year-round, from member farms located throughout northern Vermont and southern Quebec.
“We have a deep bank of expertise (…) within the co-op, we have over 200 years of experience,” says Tony Risitano, sales manager for Deep Root Organic Cooperative, “We’ve seen every pest, every weather incident, every soil type, and our farmers are very open about sharing knowledge with one another.”
“By supporting each other, we’re taking away the element of competition and we’re working together as a team to find our way in a larger marketplace that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise,” he added.
Deep Root’s member farms produce up to 100,000 cases of organic produce annually, consisting of over 150 crop varieties, which supply local and regional markets throughout the northeast and down the East Coast. Currently, they ship about 85 percent of their food outside of the state but are continue to work hard to get their food back into the Vermont food system.
Programs like Green Mountain Farm Direct (Farm Direct), a regional food hub that connects Northeast Kingdom institutions to local producers, is helping them work toward their goals. Farm Direct is run by Green Mountain Farm-to-School, a nonprofit in Northern Vermont whose mission is to encourage the consumption of seasonal, local produce throughout the community while increasing the economic viability of small farmers in the region.
“Farm Direct gives us a way to connect the farmer to the consumer here within the state,” says Risitano.
“The idea of sustaining local economies is so important,” he adds, “It creates a cycle of investing in your community (and) when your neighbors are doing well and your tax base is doing well, typically, you tend to do a little bit better.”