Ed Farace has worked for the Swarthmore Co-op as the produce manager since 2010. Ed is a vital part of the Swarthmore Co-op community and has revitalized our produce department with his knowledge and commitment to local, organic, and sustainability. Below is an in-depth profile of Ed’s experiences in the produce biz.
Following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, Ed’s passion for local produce began at an early age. Ed’s family always grew a wide variety of produce in their garden, teaching him the importance of local food and honest farming. Currently, Ed and his family maintain a large garden and two beehives in New Jersey.
Before working at the Co-op, Ed worked at Whole Foods and Linvilla Orchards. He also dabbled in consulting for small farms, such as Sunny Harvest, and even local restaurants, such as his neighborhood pizza spot at the time. “I would ask, ‘What kind of tomatoes are you using?’… I said I could get them local tomatoes and we would go from there.”
Since joining the Co-op team in 2010, Ed Farace has transformed our produce department into a locavore’s dream. His hard work was rewarded in 2011 winning Best of the Main Line’s Local Produce, followed by an award in 2012 for Best of Main Line’s Local Food.
While working at the Co-op, Ed can often be seen talking to his customers. “I’m interested in what our members and shoppers want… I always ask customers when they shop what they’re interested in.”
Ed’s buying process is nothing complicated; in fact it’s something we should all be doing, talking to and maintaining relationships with farmers. “I would drive and someone would have a little roadside stand, so I would stop, buy some produce, and ask if they were interested in selling wholesale. From there, it’s easy to network through the farming community.”
As the produce manager, Ed’s first priority when purchasing is buying local. “I always buy local stuff first, it’s something I’ve always been passionate about, something I’ve always done.” If he can’t get local, Ed’s next step is to buy organic “It’s as close to home as I can get.” Ed also buys from local farms that adhere to all of the USDA organic standards, but are not certified due to cost, hence the labels ‘chemically free’ and ‘organically grown.’ Buying conventional is always his last resort.
Visiting new farms and farmers is a key component in Ed’s process. “Very rarely do I get something from someone who I haven’t checked out… I look for integrity in the product and honesty from the farmer.”
Talking to Ed, you can tell he values his relationships with his growers, starting as associates and often transforming into friendships. “Quite a few of these farmers I’ve known for 5 to 10 years… I like what they do and I like to support them.” His knowledge and passion is hard to ignore, spreading throughout the Co-op environment, and quickly seeping into the Swarthmore community.