I’ve been struggling for a few weeks now on a topic for my next blog post. I’ve thought about sharing some of my current personal struggles, but I’m just not quite ready to do that yet. Instead, I’d like to share my thoughts & admiration for ECO (Eastern Carolina Organics) and the farmers who have made it successful.

When we started at Guilford College, one of the first people we met was a representative from ECO. They’re a co-op of sorts…it was explained to me that they use money from big tobacco lawsuit settlements to help farmers throughout the south turn their tobacco farms into organic vegetable farms. ECO then contracts with the farmers to promote, sell & deliver the products grown on the farms.

In my studies of the local and organic produce movement, some of the biggest hurdles have been finding enough quantity of product to make transporting to foodservice locations worthwhile, and how to go about that transporting. ECO has developed the system that I think should be a template for farmers & chefs worldwide. How can you not love & respect a company that promotes organic & local produce, sustainable practices for harvesting, transporting & delivering those products, and providing farmers a better-than-living wage.

Who would have thought that so much positive could come out of big tobacco?!

Below is a brief note (included in the product availability listing I receive twice a week), from the folks at ECO about a farmer, Charles Church, a founding father of ECO, who recently passed away. It shows the depth of caring by the company he helped create. There is also a short video of the Charles, talking about his land and how he came to be an organic vegetable farmer. I hope you take a few minutes to view it-he seems like he was a very likeable guy… tho I think most farmers are.

Friends, our hearts are breaking as we mourn the loss of one of our own – Charles Church of Watauga River Farms in Valle Crucis, NC. Charles was a founding owner of ECO, and helped organize other organic growers in the High Country to grow more produce and carpool their product down the mountain for ECO. He believed in what we were trying to do from day 1 back in 2004. He was always a powerful mentor to new and young organic growers around Boone, and was tremendously proud of the organic community in the High Country. A great farmer, a Valle Crucis legend, and most importantly, an incredibly nice man. Charles was a ridiculously hard worker, and sweet and generous in every way.

Charles, we will miss you dearly and will continue to make you proud! Our love and prayers go out to Charles’ family and the Valle Crucis community.

“You got to just about have an inborn love for farming to do it… you got to understand what you get in to, and you got to love every day of it.” -Charles Church