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

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The food is just incredible! I really mean it...I hope you know that I am not just saying this. It's so colorful, fresh, and delicious...so special every day!"

Faculty Member 

Just a note to say thank you for all of the delicious food you and your staff serve each day. I never knew kale could taste so good!


Outstanding food, outstanding service, outstanding people. I brag about MG to my peers at other schools, and even to my friends and family!


Thank you so much for all the gluten-free options this year! All of your staff have been so helpful. They make a point to come up to me at meals and let me know what options you have for that meal. Salads are great, but sometimes a warm meal is just what you need!

Faculty Member 

Thanks for all of the good work you and your team did to ensure that last night’s welcome gathering for new faculty went off without a hitch. I’m so grateful for Team MG working so hard to make sure things are done the right way.

Head of School 

It’s an understatement to say we were surprised by the excellent quality of the food. We could not recall having a better tuna dish, even at the four-star resturants we frequent in Raleigh. Duke Integrative is a special place.


Many times I find a favorite thing out of the many items served during lunch, and although the featured spinach and fruit salad was visually stunning; the SHOUT OUT winner of the day hands down was the very delicious unassuming Vegetarian Pinto Beans!!! The onions were glistening and the peppers served as a complimentary color to the two different shades of beans...I have one regret and that is I didn’t think to take a picture!


Thank you for making pimento cheese today! It not only is divine, but also hit the spot. I now regret wasting 62.5 years of life on this planet in which I did not eat this heavenly mix. As I explore different recipes in my home kitchen I will try my best to live up to the standard demonstrated by what I had today.

Faculty Member 

Everything was wonderful...as usual! The food was scrumptious...and the weather was gorgeous!

Conference Client 

I would not change a thing! Your staff was not only professional, but warm and caring. They truly set the tone for a memorable night. The food was delicious...our family and friends left with hearts and bellies full!

Catering Client 

I just wanted to thank you so much for all the delicious food at Duke. Your food was such a happy and positive experience and it made the days there so much more enjoyable to eat healthy, but tasty, great food.


Thanks for the delicious soup and the new harvest salad - and thanks for removing half the calories out of the Farm Basket brownie...haha.


THANK YOU for your help today with the open house! Our visiting families raved about the personalized environment. We had a student tell us that Guilford went from his 3rd to 1st choice!


Thank you for all of your hard work on the meals and breaks for the Alumnae Board. The food was outstanding; everyone raved about each meal. Favorites included the grits on Saturday morning and the butternut squash soup on Sunday. YUM!!!


The amazing characteristic is that, on a day by day basis, you give us nutritious, varied, interesting, delicious food...not just something special for company. Please know how much you are appreciated and loved by this community.

Conference Administrator