Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Food Co-op

A couple of years ago, before the big switch to city homesteading, we participated in a local food co-op.

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.


Cynthia said...

I am waiting for you to grow a surplus so that you can be my co-op.

I tried buying butter lettus at Cosco. It is just not the same as yours.

My jalapeno peppers look great! My green onions are strong. I planted basil and it seems to be doing ok. Also, I threw in some red, yellow and orange pepper seeds in one of my planters - the seeds from peppers had bought at Cosco. I didn't expect them to actually grow, but they are! I also have a patio tomatoe plant that is still alive. :)

Allison Marcia said...

We have a food co-op opening up in my town in June! My fiance and I are very excited. We love our local farm market, but they're only open two days a week (one of which has been during our class time).

Love the post!

Bibi - Simple Summit said...

Thanks for the link - I've been meaning to find a co-op in our area to support local farming, and I actually found one on the website in the next town :) yay!
My mother had told me just last week that she read some areas have arrangements to where farmers "sell" their produce for the season for a set price to people, not to commercial food stores (like Walmart, Harris Teeter etc) - do you have that, too?

The Cast said...

Cynthia - We're still only pulling in about 1.5 - 2 LBS per day. Our potato harvest was less than satisfactory this year. Tried a new method that did not work. Next year will be much better. Sounds good on the plants! Keep that tomato out of the afternoon sun until Fall and only use a fine mist when watering the pepper newbies. They are very fragile. When they have at least three leaves on them, thin them out so that they are eight inches apart.

Allison - Thanks! Anyway you can support the local farmers is good.

Bibi - You are very welcome!

My advice would be to get to be buddy buddy with a local farmer if possible. This not only has the immediate networking benefits involved with eating locally, but also may be a priceless relationship in those "just in case situations".

Small farms and Walmart do not work well together. Small farms just can't get the production for the price to meet Walmart's demand. On the other hand, small farms and local grocery stores (ma and pop) work very well together.

It is always good to support local business even if it is Walmart. The reason being is that it might be very difficult to find locally grown toilet paper.