Tuesday, May 3, 2011
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a food co-op is a collectively owned purchasing group that focuses on making local or natural foods more affordable for its' members. In most groups, you should expect to work some volunteer hours at least a few times a year. Depending on the co-op you choose, you might pay online before a prearranged payment deadline or pay at the pickup site. There are many different ways to make it work, however most ways are based on two types of co-ops:
In a private food co-op, shopping is limited to members only. You pay an up-front fee and possibly a set amount to purchase a share. You will act as part of a governing board responsible for making decisions as to the what, where, who and when.
In an open co-op, anyone may shop but only members get discount prices. The up-front fee is pretty much the same, but unless you are directly involved in the providing of the food, you will not have a lot of say in the process. Volunteers might help at each distribution site and members would be offered extra/leftover produce in return for their volunteer time.
The one we participated in was open. We paid a one-time administrative fee of $3.00 and then whatever the contribution was for the basket we wanted for the week. For instance, if we wanted a conventional produce basket the contribution was $15, or $25 for a 100% certified organic basket. Depending on the time of year and how far we want to drive to get the basket, we may have a huge variety of extras to choose from. Bread, herb packs, Mexican ingredient packs, tortilla pack or even a cookies pack to name a few. Early on Saturday morning we would drive to a local park where the baskets are distributed. Wait in line to confirm our participation has been paid for, pack it up and off we went!
Now that we are growing so much of our own produce, we've not as much need for a co-op. If you are interested in finding a local co-op near you, try Local Harvest.