Happy Dirt is focused on sweet potatoes and building relationships
When Happy Dirt sets up its presence at booth No. 216 at the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Innovations show in Charlotte, NC, the company will be building relationships with existing customers, meeting potential new customers and spreading the word about its accomplishments and its mission.
Happy Dirt, based in Durham, NC, is making its Southern Innovations debut this year, and one of its goals is to spread the word about its rebranding. Founded by Sandi Kronick in 2004 as Eastern Carolina Organics, the company rebranded itself as Happy Dirt in 2019.
“Even though we’ve been around for quite some time, over the past year specifically we’ve really been just working on building that brand awareness within the industry,” said Taylor Meadows, marketing manager for Happy Dirt. “Obviously, we want to continue making connections with potential customers and our current customers. So, we’ll be there to say hi and introduce ourselves.”
Happy Dirt is a produce-distribution company that uses a mixed-model, including a farm direct model for its largest customers, and a local distribution arm of the company, which serves customers in North Carolina into Southern Virginia and parts of South Carolina.
The company is currently focusing on its organic sweet potatoes program, as it will be working with Covington, purple, Murasaki and Garnet varieties this season.
Taylor Holenbeck, Happy Dirt’s grower services coordinator, said that one program the company is excited about is the Fair Food initiative, which is a third-party certification for farmer safety and well-being. Randall Watkins, a Happy Dirt farmer-owner, recently became the first organic sweet potato farmer in the United States to receive Fair Food Certification and the first organic farmer in North Carolina to receive the certification.
“We’ve just really grown that program a lot and we’re seeing the benefit that it provides for the farm,” Holenbeck said. “Having purchasing preference with those participating buyers through the Fair Food Program has been really great, and we’ve seen the benefit of passing down the premium from every case sold. Each farm worker receives a premium back from every case sold through the Fair Food program, so we really liked seeing that and it feels really good to continue having our ethical and just food system intact because that is one of our core values at Happy Dirt.”
The company is also meeting that core value by switching its 3-pound sweet potato bag for compostable bags. Holenbeck said this development grew out of Happy Dirt’s efforts to launch more packaging options.
“That came, again, with being a value-based company and really pushing forward what’s sustainable in packaging, and trying to be ahead of the game on that in our industry,” Holenbeck said. “Just this week, we actually went out to the farm and tried out a couple of different compostable bags. We found one that works so we’re going to do a bio-based bag for all our sweet potatoes moving forward. That will start this fall when sweet potato harvest starts in a few weeks.”
As a Certified B Corporation since 2016, Happy Dirt takes pride in being a company that is dedicated to meeting sustainability and environmental performance standards. It is also committed to keeping its farmer partners happy, and helping organic farms to grow and thrive for generations to come.
“We are a people above profits company, we put people first,” Meadows said. “We were already doing the things that people need to do in order to qualify to become a B Corporation, so we just kind of made it official.”
Actions like that help illustrate how Happy Dirt is a company that is determined to make a difference.
Photo: Randall Watkins tells Taylor Meadows (left) and Taylor Holenbeck (right) that he uses his own slips each year to grow his organic Covington sweet potatoes and how it works. Photo Courtesy of Happy Dirt