From Around Here: Whole Foods Market program bolsters local producer Organic Mechanics Soil Company

In 2007, a flyer for a new Whole Foods Market program caught the eye of Mark Highland, founder and president of Organic Mechanics Potting Soil. It asked for local producers who had products that were grown, raised, harvested or crafted within 100 miles from a Whole Foods Market store (measured as the crow flies). Highland had such a product. His 100 percent organic potting soil and planting mix was made outside of Philadelphia in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and used locally sourced ingredients, so he applied. “I got lucky,” he says. 

Whole Foods Market brought him onboard and used his company as an advertisement for the program when it began it in 2007. Previously called Local, the program name was changed in the summer of 2013 to From Around Here to be more specific and get away from the fuzzy definition of local. 

Through the program, Whole Foods Market wanted a way to share the stories of the companies it was endorsing with its customers—to help bridge the gap between producer and consumer and to promote the shared dedication to environmental sustainability. “When you tell the whole story, then that transparency tends to build a connection,” Highland says. “It compels [customers] to pick up a bag and try it right then and there.” And before long, “we have a customer for life.”

Whole Foods Market eventually started selling Organic Mechanics products in multiple markets, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic region, the Northeastern region and most recently the Midwest, although the company still gets most of its business from local stores. From Around Here products in Whole Foods Market stores that are beyond the 100 miles away are highlighted using a “From Pennsylvania” signs and call-outs. 

According to Highland, the support he has received as a result of From Around Here has bolstered Organic Mechanics and helped increase sales. “When people learn that Whole Foods is one of our major customers … it’s an impressive thing,” Highland says, adding that the name recognition has prompted other companies to sell his products. 

Highland is looking forward to attending Philly Farm & Food Fest. The event is a good way for him to come face to face with customers and to share his story about wanting to create a nutrient-dense organic soil that touted earth-friendly benefits. Highland says that using Organic Mechanics soil cultivates healthier produce, makes the planet more sustainable, groundwater safer to drink, promotes cleaner air and helps keep your family healthier. “Even if you’re a family of one,” he says. 

Organic Mechanics Container Blend Potting Soil is ideal for container gardens, transplanting, tropical and indoor plants, and because it’s peat-free, you'll water half as often. To purchase, head to your nearest Whole Foods Market or visit organicmechanicsoil.com.

Folks flock to Philly Farm & Food Fest

Interns Meredith and Corey chat with visitors to the Grid table on Sunday.

Philly folks interested in a sustainable local (and delicious) food system showed up in force for the second annual Philly Farm and Food Fest, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Sunday, April 14. Practically the entire Grid team was in attendance, handing out more than a thousand copies of Grid, meeting with Grid readers and soon-to-be Grid readers, and tasting all sorts of great local foods, from ice cream to baked goods to meat products and even raw oysters, as well as plenty of local produce.

A collaboration between PASA and Fair Food. the event had a definite focus on food, but the real stars were the folks who produced that food: the bakers, cheesemakers, confectioners, and others, and especially the farmers. And the best part of all was having all those producers together in one place, with hundreds of folks who appreciate how important their work is. We can't wait for next year's PF3!

Countdown to PF3: Meet Urban Apiaries

Philly Farm & Food Fest is almost here! A partnership of PASA and Fair Food, the event brings together regional farmers, unique food producers, and sustainable businesses and organizations. We're counting down the days to Sunday, April 14 with videos of exhibitors you can expect to find at this year's PF3. To learn more about the event, check out our exclusive event guide. And don't forget to buy your tickets. See you there!

Urban Apiaries takes locally sourced food to a microscopic level. Their hives are located in backyards and on rooftops throughout the city, producing honey with a flavor unique to the specific neighborhood the bees live in. Want to taste for yourself? Stop by the Urban Apiaries booth to pick up and bottle and hear from beekeeper Trey Flemming about the distinct character and flavor each zip code bears.

Get great Grid gear at Philly Farm & Food Fest

This Sunday’s Philly Farm & Food Fest (tickets $15 in advance/$20 at the door) isn’t just a great place to meet farmers, sample food and learn about local sustainable businesses, it’s also a great opportunity to come and say hi to your friends here at Grid magazine, and maybe pick up some Grid gear. We'll be unveiling our limited edition waxed canvas tote bags, from South Philadelphia's Fabric Horse. Hand-crafted from recycled materials, these totes feature a special Grid color combination, four pockets, vinyl interior, a snap closure and sturdy seatbelt handles. Specially priced at $75 for PF3, they're perfect to fit in your bike basket and carry home your PF3 haul.

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Countdown to PF3: Meet Sweet Stem Farm

Philly Farm & Food Fest is almost here! A partnership of PASA and Fair Food, the event brings together regional farmers, unique food producers, and sustainable businesses and organizations. We're counting down the days to Sunday, April 14 with videos of exhibitors you can expect to find at this year's PF3. To learn more about the event, check out our exclusive event guide. And don't forget to buy your tickets. See you there!

Don’t let their name fool you – you won’t find any plants in Sweet Stem Farm products. What you will find, and what keeps customers coming back for more, is locally and humanely raised, pasture-fed meat. At year’s PF3 booth, Sweet Stem will feature different cuts of their famous pork and samplings from their new line of gourmet sausages. Eating locally means sourcing your food from regional farmers working on all stages of the food chain. There are few farms more dedicated to the project of raising humanely treated, delicious, local meat than Sweet Stem.

Countdown to PF3: Meet Birchrun Hills Farm

Philly Farm & Food Fest is almost here! A partnership of PASA and Fair Food, the event brings together regional farmers, unique food producers, and sustainable businesses and organizations. We're counting down the days to Sunday, April 14 with videos of exhibitors you can expect to find at this year's PF3. To learn more about the event, check out our exclusive event guide. And don't forget to buy your tickets. See you there!

If you’ve visited farmers markets in the region, you know that the key to pleasing any cheese lover is a wheel of the Miller family’s Birchrun Hills Farm all natural, artisanal cheese. The Millers make their cheese with raw milk from the Holstein cows on their family farm in northern Chester County. Watch the video above to learn more about Birchrun Hills from owner-operator Sue Miller and hear why she thinks kids are the best accompaniment to cheese. And be sure to stop by their exhibitor booth this year to see if, as rumored, they’ll be debuting a new variety of cheese at PF3.

Countdown to PF3: Meet Gilda's Biscotti

Philly Farm & Food Fest is almost here! A partnership of PASA and Fair Food, the event brings together regional farmers, unique food producers, and sustainable businesses and organizations. We're counting down the days to Sunday, April 14 with videos of exhibitors you can expect to find at this year's PF3. To learn more about the event, check out our exclusive event guide. And don't forget to buy your tickets. See you there!

From the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market to some of Philadelphia’s most popular coffee shops, Gilda Doganiero’s biscotti are the favorite of beanheads citywide. After you pick up a morning cup at the Golden Valley Farms or ReAnimator Coffee exhibition booths, stop by Gilda’s for her all natural, award-winning, authentic biscotti. And as Gilda says, don’t forget to bring the kids. There’s no better place to teach the little ones about the amazing people and processes that go into local food production, and taste the bounty the region has to offer!

Countdown to PF3: Meet Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative

Philly Farm & Food Fest is almost here! A partnership of PASA and Fair Food, the event brings together regional farmers, unique food producers, and sustainable businesses and organizations. We're counting down the days to Sunday, April 14 with videos of exhibitors you can expect to find at this year's PF3. To learn more about the event, check out our exclusive event guide. And don't forget to buy your tickets. See you there!

If fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruits, dairy and other delicious edibles aren’t enough to draw you into this year’s PF3, just remember vendors like the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. LFFC works with small-scale organic farms throughout the region to provide wholesale goods to restaurants all along the East Coast. Local customers can also sign up for one of their CSA shares. By visiting their booth you’re supporting more than 75 local family farms. Swing by PF3 and enjoy the knowledge that your attendance is supporting the local farm economy.

Countdown to PF3: Meet the Fair Food Farmstand

Philly Farm & Food Fest is almost here! A partnership of PASA and Fair Food, the event brings together regional farmers, unique food producers, and sustainable businesses and organizations. We're counting down the days to Sunday, April 14 with videos of exhibitors you can expect to find at this year's PF3. To learn more about the event, check out our exclusive event guide. And don't forget to buy your tickets. See you there!

If you’re a regular at Reading Terminal Market, you know that the Fair Food Farmstand is the place to get the best in local produce and goods like eggs, milk, meat and honey. And even better, the knowledgable staff - like Shivon Pearl - can share the stories of the people who produce the food we're eating. This year, stop by Fair Food's exhibitor booth to meet their friendly staff and learn more about shopping or volunteering with Fair Food. Who knows? – they might even have some of Shivon’s favorite, Tait Farm’s Sour Cherry Jam, to share.