Frequently Asked Questions

Resilient, regional food systems and healthy, interconnected communities will only thrive through relationship building. We cannot wait to partner with you to improve the food system, but first, let us answer some of your burning questions! We don't want to see any of your inquiries go unaddressed. Don't see your answer below? Fill out our interest form or contact our team today!

What was the inspiration behind The Common Market?

Our founders Haile and Tatiana recognized the disconnect between their North Philadelphia neighborhood and small family farmers located nearby.

In 2008, they formally started their nonprofit, a food distributor that would transcend the word vendor, working to support and develop sustainable family farms while providing food access to vulnerable communities through the institutions that served them.

Learn more about our history here.

Why local?

Local sourcing increases the amount of fresh, seasonal, highly nutritious foods reaching our communities. It supports equitable economic development by creating more market opportunities for local farmers and producers, and creates jobs in our communities. Building relationships between our communities and local farmers strengthens consumers’ knowledge and attitudes toward agriculture, food, nutrition, and the environment.

The Common Market is a nonprofit! Why?

Our mission is to build vibrant and sustainable food systems, which means working with both the grower and the customer to change the status quo. We found that structuring as a nonprofit social enterprise was the most effective way to help everyone involved in the supply chain build a better, healthier food system!

Wholesale Buyers: These are are FAQ to help guide you!

Where does The Common Market deliver?

The Common Market makes deliveries throughout three (soon four) major U.S. regions: the Mid-Atlantic (New York through northern Virginia); Southeast (metro Atlanta, metro Birmingham and surrounding areas); Texas (Central and (Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and surrounding areas); and soon, Great Lakes (metro Chicago). We are building new routes to expand our reach often, so please be in touch with our team to discuss delivery area possibilities!

How do I get started?

We are here to make local sourcing easy and accessible, and we can’t wait to hear from you. Please fill out our new customer interest form and a member of our outreach team will be in touch to schedule an initial conversation. For new customers we require a credit application and signed customer agreement in order to begin placing orders. If your account is part of a food service management company or purchasing group that we already work with, all we need are details about delivery location, delivery windows, and points of contact for placing orders and invoicing.

Can you deliver directly to my site?

Yes, we have a fleet of refrigerated trucks that help connect our network of family farmers directly to your loading docks. Make sure to hit our order minimum, and we can be there starting next week!

What are your order minimums?

Our order minimums range between $200-$500, depending on your location. Please fill out our new customer interest form and a member of our outreach team will follow up with more details!

What days do you deliver?

Our trucks are on the road at least 5 days a week. Specific delivery days vary by location. Please fill out our new customer interest form and a member of our outreach team will follow up with more details.

Do you have your own trucks? Your own warehouse?

Yes! We invest in aggregation and distribution infrastructure to help make connections between regional family farms and communities as easy and efficient as possible.

Each of our locations has a physical warehouse space where product is aggregated, checked for quality, and safely stored and staged for delivery. We own a fleet of refrigerated trucks that help pick up products from family farms and deliver those goods directly to your loading docks. We take care of trucking and warehousing so you get to focus on accessing the region’s best food and preparing it deliciously for you and your community.

How do you manage food safety?

The Common Market invests deeply in food safety both within our own operations and across our direct supply chain partners. We know the importance of delivering food that is safe, source-identified and fully traceable back to its growing location, and handled with care.

We demonstrate this commitment across our supply chain by working with growers to obtain industry standards around food safety. All meat is processed in USDA facilities, and we aim for GAP certification across all of our specialty produce growers. For many of our farm partners, we may represent their first wholesale buyer, and so we work alongside growers who may not currently meet the GAP certification threshold to provide technical assistance, cost-sharing, and market-side support. We visit every farm we partner with, and generate plans for obtaining certification within a timeline that makes sense for their operations.

Within our own warehouse and operations, The Common Market holds food safety tantamount to our mission of connecting communities with good food from sustainable family farmers. Our Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Great Lakes warehouses are SQF Certified, a globally recognized standard for the highest levels of food safety. We believe in a culture of food safety that permeates across our team, from our delivery drivers temping product as it enters our trucks to our full and comprehensive recall plan.

We’d be happy to answer any specific questions that you have about our food safety practices. Reach out here!

Is The Common Market an approved vendor?

We work directly with anchor institutions—hospitals, universities, public schools and government agencies—that are rooted in community, often feeding our most vulnerable populations each day, and that represent a level of purchasing power that can meaningfully impact local and regional food systems. To achieve this, we have gained supplier approval status with most of the third-party contracted food service management companies and serve as a solution for their client’s local and values-based sourcing commitments.

The Common Market holds all the necessary insurance, food safety, and vendor compliance requirements in order to supply delicious, wholesome, and local foods within managed food service.

To find out if The Common Market already has supplier approval within your management company, please reach out to our team here.

How do you vet your farmer network?

We are proud to hold direct sourcing relationships with all of our farmer and producer partners. We know our farmers' names, the stories of their family and their connection to the land, and we have visited the operations of all of our approved suppliers. Every new farm partner must complete an extensive onboarding process, which includes abiding by our sustainable sourcing philosophy, providing proof of food safety practices, and completing our comprehensive Farm Impact Assessment.

These requirements paired with on-farm visits provides The Common Market a holistic understanding of our supply network’s production practices, labor standards, environmental impact, quality and safety of delivered product, and the story behind these operations.

I have specific purchasing goals, based on values, like local, healthy, environmental, can you help us with this?

Yes! This is the value of working with a food hub partner that knows each of its producers and their practices. The Common Market assesses all of our growers across multiple value categories including; Local & Community-Based (i.e. business size, distance, ownership structure, labor practices, leadership), Humane* (i.e. animal health, space, environment, and nutrition practices), Nutrition & Clean Label (i.e. additive types and quantities, grains, proteins), and Environmental Responsibility (i.e. soil health, pest management, water and energy conservation). We can easily provide reporting and impact data that demonstrates how your spend is contributing across these values, and we can help you align internal or external commitments to our local supply chain offerings. We’d love to learn more about your purchasing goals and see how we can support them.

*The Humane category is only for animal product suppliers.

I want to purchase Organic. Do you work with organic farms?

We work directly with small, independent family farmers. For many of these growers, the organic certification is too expensive, even if they are using aligned production practices. While not all products are certified organic, all of our farmers must meet a strict set of sustainable growing criteria and are thoroughly vetted by our procurement team. For instance, all our growers must reduce or eliminate pesticides, provide humane conditions for livestock and eliminate hormones and unnecessary antibiotics, and grow only non-GMO crops.

Funders & Partners: These are FAQ to help guide you!

What areas do you serve?

We presently serve four U.S. regions, but are expanding to other areas of the country where food access is high, and sustainable family farmers seek new markets for their food. Check out our Locations page to see where we currently operate.

What are your focus areas?

Few sectors offer the opportunity for broad, intersectional systems impact as food. A focus on food has allowed us to drive impact across these focus areas: the achievement of vulnerable children, public health outcomes, immigration, regional economies, water quality, racial equity, land conservation, and climate change. Learn how you can get involved here!

Who are the primary beneficiaries of your work?

The primary beneficiaries of our work are urban, low-income communities where access to healthy fresh food is scarce, hunger is high, and diet-related diseases are prevalent—most often communities of color due to historical and ongoing structural racism in the U.S. We are intentional in our service of vulnerable populations in both urban and rural communities by bridging the many divides that separate the two. Our work seeks to establish sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships that improve health and wealth for children and families. Our approach to local food distribution is informed by the need to serve people of all incomes and backgrounds to reach large enough economies of scale to make local food affordable to communities that have traditionally lacked access.

Can you explain your structure?

The Common Market currently drives impact throughout four regions: The Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Texas and the Great Lakes. Each of these locations operate as individual chapters that manage their own warehouses and a fleet of refrigerated trucks. Each chapter functions as an independent nonprofit organization that works in federation with the other chapters and our umbrella nonprofit: The Commons. All the back office operations of the chapters are handled by The Commons so that each chapter can focus on aggregation and distribution functions.

How is The Common Market different from a food bank?

Similar to food banks, The Common Market has managed the distribution of fresh, local food in response to emergency food needs. Food banks often receive donations of food from food manufacturers, restaurants, retail establishments, and by gleaning unpicked vegetables from farms. As a mission-oriented regional food distributor, The Common Market pays farmers directly for the produce that we distribute to schools, hospitals, universities, and community institutions.