Durham, NC to Raleigh, NC
By Kat Lane
September 18, 2020
On September 8th, The Farmlink Project facilitated the delivery of 1,400 pounds of yellow
squash from Happy Dirt in Durham, North Carolina, to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern
North Carolina. Happy Dirt is a produce distribution company that set out in 2004 with the
intention to make organic, fresh produce more relatable and accessible for everyone, especially given the difficulty of finding in their corner of the country. What started as a radical partnership between 14 organic farmers has since turned into a robust farmer network that distributes thousands of pounds of farm fresh produce every year.
Because Happy Dirt is a distribution company and not a farm, they are not dealing with
the same magnitude of surplus as producers are during the COVID-19 pandemic. Laura Cloak,
the Happy Dirt sales coordinator, explained that Happy Dirt typically tries to order from farmers only what they anticipate their retail customers needing. However, occasionally they over-buy and risk having to send produce back to the farm. This can mean losing the ability to cover labor and transportation costs for the farm; and potentially risking the loss of the farm partnership for Happy Dirt. Luckily that is where The Farmlink Project comes in— helping to redistribute this surplus produce to communities in need instead of sending it back to the farms.
“We always try to find a home for the produce if it doesn’t end up going to our retailers.
We’ll donate directly if needed, but what’s amazing about Farmlink is that we don’t have to put
our farmers in that terrible position—they already did the labor and Farmlink can come in and
make sure we don’t lose that partnership by covering some costs.” Laura explained that this is
hugely impactful for their bottom line at Happy Dirt—their business relies on strong relationships with farmers. She also emphasized how critical this is for the small and medium-sized farms they buy from. “Being able to tell farmers we can pay them more than zero for an item keeps our network alive and our relationships strong across the board.”
The Farmlink Project is humbled to work shoulder-to-shoulder with companies like
Happy Dirt that share in our values of reducing food waste, supporting farmers, and
strengthening connections in our communities.