Near Our Stores Partner Spotlight: Happy Dirt
When Co-Founder and CEO Sandi Kronick started Happy Dirt (then Eastern Carolina Organics) in 2004, she set out to solve a problem – a lack of local, organic produce grown in the Carolinas. Her goal – increase North Carolina-grown produce by supporting organic farmers, expanding the organic movement, and providing customers with local, sustainable produce year-round.
“In 2004, many North Carolina farmers were needing to pivot from growing tobacco, which was their main source of income,” says Sandi. “I saw a beautiful opportunity to encourage farmers to grow organic produce in their fields. By doing so, they would be able to replace income they depended on in the past, as well as replace nutrients back into the soil. It was a win-win for all.”
In order to achieve her goal, Sandi knew she couldn’t do it without the guidance of the farmers who she wanted to serve. So, she created a company model that gave farmers the opportunity to own portions of the company. Currently, Happy Dirt is owned by 16 farmers and two staff members.
Around that same time, Wegmans started seeing an increase in customer demand for locally and regionally grown organic produce. We have a long history of partnering with regional farms and suppliers to provide customers with food sustainably sourced on the east coast, and in 2007, we strengthened that commitment with the opening of our Wegmans Organic Farm, where our mission is to sustainably source more organic produce and extend the northeastern growing season. At the farm, we innovate and experiment with techniques for growing produce with the most amazing flavor, then work with our partner-growers to supply our stores.
With our strong shared values and Wegmans’ continued expansion south, a partnership between the two companies seemed inevitable. In 2019, as we made our entrance into North Carolina, we added Happy Dirt to our trusted network of nearby-store partners. By that time, Happy Dirt had grown from a small group of North Carolina growers to a network of a hundred farmers growing produce up and down the East Coast. Above and beyond our shared values and goals, Happy Dirt, with its network of partner farmers, stood out for their ability to aggregate great tasting, locally sourced organic produce.
“Growing organically on the east coast has its challenges, so finding growers who can meet our company’s needs is difficult,” explains Charlie Gardner, Wegmans produce category merchant. “Partnering with Happy Dirt gives us access to so many incredible farms that, without the support and resources provided through their relationship with Happy Dirt, wouldn’t have the capability to supply to Wegmans.”
Over the past 18 years, Happy Dirt’s ability to connect farmers to customers has helped them advance their mission, expand and diversify their business, and support the growth of their partner farmers, in some cases, helping them go from three to five acres, to 20, 50, and even hundreds of acres.
“From the beginning, we wanted to make organic farming a reliable career for new and seasoned farmers,” says Sandi. “Wegmans has given us the opportunity to help our farmer partners expand their organic acreage. They have been an authentic partner, and we know our growers will continue to scale because of our partnership with Wegmans.”
“Together, with Happy Dirt and their partner farmers, we’re building a more sustainable food system that minimizes food miles, reduces environmental impact, and expands growth and economic opportunities for regional growers, all while offering our customers the freshest, best-tasting produce sourced near our stores,” explains Charlie.
Look for organic kale and green squash from Happy Dirt partners M&M Farms and Lady Moon Farms at your local store!