joining a new food co op

Madame Filth's picture

just give me the straight poop, would you be able to work with this? it's a new (to me anyway) kind of food co op that has no brick and mortar store. it's coordinated by volunteers, and people go to farms collecting produce, as well as having them shipped to the volunteer's house, where more volunteers split up the "shares." as a co op member, you buy shares, and that's it.

meaning, you take what they select for you. there's a wide variety of stuff, mostly organic but not all, seasonal and local, within reason. some special items are shipped in. they keep a record of past shipments, so she's read them to me. there were a LOT of different items, more than i usually buy. it's just the idea of not making the choice myself.

there are regional drop off points, where people in the area get their shit shipped, another volunteer's house. you then go pick up your shit.

i sat on the phone with a very nice lady in my area who volunteers to be a drop off point, asking basically how it works, and how she works with it. couldn't get my head around not selecting my own food. like, what if one week all i get are parsnips and scallions, what the fuck am i to do with that? she was like oh... you know... i'm happy with what i can get, it works for me. i never got an answer about how it is she plans her meals, shops for the ingredients, then makes her meals.

i bring this up to the Mr and he was like you know, it wasn't that long ago when people ate what was available. if you're really interested in homesteading, you gotta get used to improvising with what you have. learn to can.

that's a very nice idea. but in reality i have two grocery stores within walking distance, and about 18 more within a 15 minute drive. me + seasonal, preselected produce = running out to the store at the last minute for what i really want and wasting money.

however i kinda like the idea. they tell you two weeks ahead of the shipment what will be in it. plenty of time to look up recipes. and, if i can cut down on the bullshit running around to different stores for precisely the right produce, that would be a very good thing.

so... would you be able to live like that? just be honest, i'm probably gonna try it no matter what anyone says, i'm just looking for insight into this model of acquiring foodstuffs.

oh and in addition to all the produce, you can get pretty much anything you want "special order," which is not really like it sounds, you're getting the shit at cost. so my other items, nonfoods, non produce like dried grains and legumes, i can get those too, organic and cheaper than i currently get it.

most co ops require work. with this one, i will have to show up once every three months to help volunteers split up the shares.

there is no "membership," per se. if i participate, i work every three months. if i decide i don't like it, i just stop, i don't lose anything because i don't pay to join.

so it's essentially a buying club for organic and healthy foods. most coordination is done online, so there's none of the overhead my current co op has, with it's infinite committees, directors, meetings and bylaws. it's pretty straightforward. i like that too.

but someone else decides what i eat. weird.

another option i was thinking of is starting a new food co op with a brick and mortar store, because i think people like to buy their food like that. my regular co op looks like it's imminently closing down due to mismanagement. i wasn't able to really get much of my food there, but i will very much miss being a member and worker bee.


shadeshaman's picture

I did this last fall. Around here, we call it a CSA for Community Supported Agriculture. The one I did was like what you describe.
I think it's good in that you are forced to eat local, seasonal fruits and veggies, which puts you more in touch with the seasons than, say, buying Chilean grapes at S*feway or P*ggly W*ggly or whatever chain grocery store is up the street. It's also good in that you are sometimes forced to try shit, because it's in your box, that otherwise you might never try. The CSA I used also had recipes every week that featured one or two of the items in the box. They also had regular "visit the farm" days where you could also pitch in with some weeding or other stuff, so you could be more connected to what goes on at the farm.

There are also CSA's where you get to choose what's in your box, and I've done that in the past. They are generally more expensive.

If I were to join a CSA again, I would choose the latter, because of my dietary restrictions and food allergies. Really, a box of veggies that's got hot peppers, bell peppers, grapes and eggplant is a box of veggies that I'm giving away because I can't eat any of those--and it's not cost effective for me.

I might consider this CSA: because the food is grown in Oakland, in people's yards, and part of the money goes toward feeding people who have dietary diseases. But, for me, it would probably be just as easy to go to their farmer's market and to get fruits and veggies that I would actually eat.

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius"--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

shadeshaman's picture

One more thought about eating what's available. There is a hilarious chapter in "Farm City", by my buddy Novella Carpenter, wherein she decides only to eat what she has grown on her urban farm for a month--to be an urban homesteader. Just read it.

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius"--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle