Farm to Freezer

Regionally Grown Frozen Fruits & Vegetables

Your local food co-op works hard to offer products that grow local economies, support sustainable agriculture, and strengthen our communities.  And working together, we recognize that we have a greater impact than when we work alone.

An early goal of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) was to explore opportunities to use our shared purchasing power to support local producers.  For example, we noticed that most of the frozen fruits and vegetables on our shelves were grown far away and processed by distant corporations. Could this be an opportunity to work together to create change in the food system?

The NFCA’s Farm to Freezer project began in 2011 as an experiment to help our member food co-ops answer this question.  Supported in part by a grant from the Eastern Corridor members of National Co+op Grocers (NCG), the project enabled us to test consumer interest, investigate processing infrastructure, and research the availability of regional produce. In collaboration with local farmers, farmer co-operatives and regional processors, we developed a pilot of frozen products to test our concept.   Initial products included Blueberries, Organic Broccoli, and Organic Sweet Corn, all grown, processed, and packaged right here in the Northeast.

After two seasons, the pilot was put on hold as we worked with our partners at the New England Farmers Union and Deep Root Organic Co-op to obtain a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) to explore options moving forward.  We had learned a lot, but there were still big questions to be answered around sourcing, efficient processing, and reliable distribution.

In the Fall of 2015, we relaunched Farm to Freezer, thanks to support from CoBank and our partnerships with The Farm Bridge, a regional processor, and the distributor Associated Buyers.  Available exclusively through our member food co-ops, the product line included Northeast grown Blueberries, Organic Edamame, Organic Green Beans, Green Peas, and Organic and non-GMO Sweet Corn.  This innovative project was a great success, increasing access to healthy, sustainably grown, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables and extending the marketing season for family farmers in the Northeast and demonstrating the potential of food co-op collaboration on a regional level.

Unfortunately, we had to discontinue Farm to Freezer in 2022 due to a lack of sustainable processing capacity in our region.  At the same time, we were able to demonstrate the viability of regionally sourced products in the marketplace.  Over the course of this project, our food co-ops sold more than 20 tons of frozen produce from Northeast family farmers.

We want to thank our food co-ops for their collaboration and participation, and all of the farmers, consumers, and partners who helped make this project a success.   Together, we are building a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system.