A kinder, gentler middleman for our local livestock farmers
Writer Elaine Springer, Photographer Laura Mortelliti
The team at Red Gate Grocer in Trumansburg consists of humble people up to some very big things. Launched in 2016, the Red Gate Grocer model is an ambitious one that brings together regional livestock farmers, meat processors and one savvy food distributor under one brand to grow, process, distribute and promote clean, sustainably-farmed meat and eggs to a wide audience.
Staffed by the same folks who run Regional Access, the food distributor responsible for getting so much produce across the state and beyond, the Red Gate project is committed to creating a sustainable business focused on customers, employees and the development of local economies all over New York State. The company now works with more than 150 regional farms and small-scale producers serving customers in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, making sure to tell the stories and farming practices of everyone they work with along the way.
Given all that there is to be proud of, no one at Red Gate wants to take credit for launching the brand. Instead the team members acknowledge each other’s contributions and give credit to Regional Access founder, the late Gary Redmond.
In 1989 Redmond and his wife, Daisy, who gave up organic farming to create Regional Access, launched a home garage based “warehouse” as a community-oriented local food distributor. They’ve since upgraded to a 25,000-square-foot building on Route 96 just north of Ithaca and there’s a steady stream of chefs, consumers,
farmers, wineries and delivery folks coming in and out of the place.
Redmond held a strong desire to create a sustainable food system that gave producers fair pay and still offered affordable prices for consumers. He felt that in the new global business of food, his hyper-local approach would help to create trust from the farmer to the consumer and everywhere in between.
Creating such a brand would support farmers who struggled with getting an outlet to sell their product at a fair price. Redmond passed away unexpectedly in 2011 before seeing that dream fully realized. Redmond’s children, who now own the business, along with their dedicated and inspired staff have seen that dream come to fruition with Red Gate Grocer.
The staff at Regional and Red Gate are quick to point out their shared desire to fulfill and carry on Redmond’s legacy and vision for the Finger Lakes and upstate New York foodshed.
“Gary’s passing was a shock to all of us in the Regional Access family, and a huge loss,” says his son Asa Redmond. “In the midst of all of us working hard to make sure that his vision for Regional Access continued and came to fruition, we also wanted to find ways to take his thoughts and ideas about working directly with farmers further to develop a focused local meat and dairy program.”
Asa credits President and General Manager Dana Stafford, and Farm Sourcing Lead Joe Cronk with getting the program off the ground, and Communications Specialist Jesse Wysong with developing the marketing strategy.
“Red Gate was born through a desire of Gary’s children—Asa, Sim and Anna—and myself to honor his passion and ethics following his passing,” Stafford offers. “It began to crystallize and come to fruition through the similar passion and boots on the ground approach of Joe, who got to work meeting the farmers and lining
up the logistics.”
“It’s all about providing quality products at a price point that is accessible to consumers while still supporting farmers and reducing the carbon footprint,” Cronk notes. “Every part of this is a partnership.”
“It all circles back to a having a regional food system,” Wysong says. “You have to sustain it in all its parts.”
And the players involved are certainly appreciative of what Red Gate is doing.
“We really appreciate having the folks at Regional Access as a partner. We currently purchase all of the breakfast sausage, hamburger patties, some chicken and pork, and the majority of the shell eggs for campus from Red Gate,” says Derek Roy, chef at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY.
“We have a commitment to provide fresh, local and sustainable foods to our client” he adds. “And this partnership is integral to that goal. Knowing where the food comes from and that we are receiving
a superior product that is locally raised makes this a no-brainer.”
“In my opinion, putting quality food on the plates of consumers starts with healthy soils and being transparent about the way things are done,” says Jon Jenkins of Jenkins Beef Farm, who thanks every cow before it goes to the processor. “That holds true from the farmer to the processor to the distributor. Consumers deserve to have trust in the process and that is why we are fortunate to work with Regional Access.”
Never one to take all the credit, the Red Gate team is humbled by their reception in the food and farming industry.
“We are just really grateful for the commitment and support,” Wysong says. “Everyone welcomed us into their institution or restaurant, and they have wedged Red Gate in between the other giants of the natural foods world.”
Elaine Springer is the president of the Trumansburg Chamber of Commerce and an event planner in Trumansburg. She loves growing her own food, cooking with her two children, living locally and has big dreams of living off her own land.
Laura Mortelliti is a freelance agricultural photographer based in upstate New York. Her background in animal science and wildlife biology inform and lend passion to her work. lauramortelliti.com.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 edition of the magazine.