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Common Market has its own 20,000-sq.ft. warehouse in North Philadelphia, including 100,000-cu.ft. of cold storage space. It operates three refrigerated trucks that pick up from producer locations and rural aggregation points.

Serving on Common Market’s board is Tina Rodriguez, who is also CFO and general counsel of SAGE Dining Services, a contract management company that serves the independent school and college markets across the U.S. and now in Canada as well.

“One of our school clients had been involved with a Philadelphia area business officer initiative trying to find ways to get schools to buy more local, and that led to our looking at Common Market as a potential supplier,” Rodriguez says of her initial exposure to the organization, which was only about a year old at the time. “We determined that before we could use them, they had to secure third-party certification with regard to food safety.”

Since 2011, sales at Common Market have grown by 60% and the food hub is already talking expansion.

It’s a complex process to get third-party certification, and can be daunting for a small organization with limited resources or in-house expertise, Rodriguez explains. “Among the things you need are training programs, training modules, documentation. It’s not just that you have great processes but that they are verifiable.”

Rodriguez joined Common Market’s board in 2009 to help them get through this process. They not only did so but have been able to renew the certifications as needed since and the organization is now at the point where it is able to assist the farmers it works with to ensure their practices are compliant with applicable Good Agricultural Practices.

Third-party certification has allowed Common Market to expand into the institutional market and its cast of large volume buyers like healthcare organizations, colleges and school districts. Third-party certification is required for any vendor wishing to do business with most of the entities in these segments.

That also means that Common Market does business with not only SAGE but its competitors as well. Not only is Rodriguez unbothered by this, but she’s delighted.

“That’s the goal!” she says. “The goal is to get local food everywhere!”