"We started in 2004 as a project for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA). The purpose is to support organic growers, and to stimulate the supply of local, organic products. Today, ECO works with a hundred growers on a surface area ranging between 8 and 120 acres. The conventional growers are also helped with the transition over to growing organically," says Sandi.
Not in negotiation
They call ECO an atypical fruit and vegetable company. "We are not your traditional company. Both the growers and the staff are owners of the company, and if the growers want to be co-owners, they can ask for that. The growers get money prior to the beginning of the season - that is when they need the most capital - and then they fulfill their weekly obligation by supplying organic fruits and vegetables. "If a retailer is not willing to pay a certain price then we will not start negotiations with them, we will just go back to our growers."
"Kale pays the bill"
ECO's revenue last year was $3.8 million. In their first year, back in 2004, their revenue was only $200,000. Covington sweet potatoes are the biggest product for ECO, making up 15-20% of their stock. But the product that brought in the most profit was kale; this is due to the popularity of this product in the U.S. "This year we had a joke with each other about this popular product: Kale pays the bill," laughed Sandi Kronick. In regards to volume, blue berries and greenhouse vegetables are also doing well. In the coming years ECO expects further growth in their volume of greenhouse vegetables.