Mercersburg Academy has announced a partnership with Tuscarora Organic Growers, a local cooperative with 50 member growers and more than a dozen non-member growers. The warehouse and offices are located near Maddensville, Pa., which is less than 30 miles from the Academy campus.
Tuscarora Organic Growers began in 1988 when three neighboring farms decided they could be more efficient and profitable by establishing a cooperative. The growers coordinated their crop production to complement each other rather than compete. Thirty years later, the co-op sells hundreds of thousands of cases per month.
The co-op will supply the school with a variety of spring mixes and potatoes, along with watermelon radishes, green kohlrabi, baby carrot roots, and more.
“Tuscarora’s growers, who are the owners of our co-op, combine and coordinate their efforts to grow a variety of organic products,” says David Earle, general manager for Tuscarora Organic Growers. “We are 100 percent organic and pride ourselves on the quality and freshness of our fruits and vegetables.”
Many of the farms in the co-op are located in seven counties in south-central Pennsylvania: Bedford, Franklin (which includes Mercersburg), Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, and Perry. Each farm is organic-certified and diverse. Some farmers have been growing organic goods since the 1970s, while others are new generation farmers. The co-op also includes a large number of Amish and Mennonite growers and alumnus Jeff Taylor '77 is employed by the co-op.
“Adding Tuscarora Organic Growers to our menu is another step in the right direction,” says Maria Kimsey, assistant head of school for finance and operations. “We want to lead the charge in school dining and we are excited to meet with other farms.” Kimsey also helped facilitate the partnership with South Mountain Creamery, which was announced in early September.
As with South Mountain Creamery, the school had specific requirements when choosing a farm, and one requirement was sustainability. The produce is picked and packed at each farm and brought to the main warehouse once or twice a week for distribution. Earle says, “We bring the products in from the fields to match our sales orders. What you receive on Tuesday and Friday mornings came from our growers fields on Monday and Thursday. Not only do the fruits and vegetables taste better, but the model means less transportation and no chemicals which is better for our environment too.”
“At our school, we sit down every day as a community and eat our meals family-style,” says Katie Titus, head of school. “It’s important that we take time to share a meal with each other and what better way to show our students, faculty, and staff the importance of that time than with food grown locally, by families in our community? Tuscarora Organic Growers share the same family values in their farming, and that is just one reason we are excited to have them as a partner.”
Tuscarora Organic Growers are looking forward to working with the school. “We are excited about providing Mercersburg Academy with our foods, so that the students will be able to be a part of our organic, local, sustainable agriculture model,” Earle says.
Visit Tuscarora Organic Growers
to learn more about their history and participating farms.