You might be wondering, what is a food cooperative? A food cooperative (aka food coop and food co-op), much like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), is a food distribution network that comprises farmers and the local community. The main difference between the two is that a CSA is most often one farmer supplying to several members of the community, where a food cooperative is multiple farmers suppling to several members of the community.
There are excellent benefits to both, and this post is in no way discouraging CSA memberships! However, one downside to CSA is that one farmer can only provide so much produce to its members and they often reach full capacity on memberships very quickly. That’s actually not a downside…unless you are wanting to join, but there’s no room.
That’s where a food cooperative comes in. Members join the food cooperative on a volunteer basis, for a set fee. This fee amount varies from coop to coop and is somewhat affected by the number of members it has. The fee is a financial agreement between the members and the farmers supplying the food. Farmers and members collaborate on how often produce is made available to members.
There is a great amount of trust between the farmers and food cooperative members! These farmers work very hard to do their part in supplying fresh produce. Their efforts go towards meeting the demands of their members. In doing so, they depend on members to uphold their financial commitment as well.
Food cooperatives supply fresh produce on a monthly and sometimes, depending on supply/demand, weekly basis. Each member is assigned a ‘box’ or ‘crate’ containing a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes other items are available as well, such as goat cheeses and farm fresh eggs. This will depend on, again, supply and demand of the farmers and their community members.
There are many reasons for wanting to start and/or join a food cooperative. The greatest benefit to joining a food cooperative is supporting local farmers! There is no denying, farming is tough business! We all need farmers, and joining a food cooperative is one of the best ways to show support to a farmer and their family.
Another great benefit to joining a food cooperative is that you have direct access to the freshest produce available. You can put your worries to rest knowing your food has not been passed through multiple hands (risking contamination), or that it has not traveled hundreds of miles to get to you.
Finally, but equally important, is that you can purchase your produce at or near wholesale prices. By teaming up with your neighbors, you enjoy the added benefit of fresh, local produce, at virtually the same price your local grocery store pays. You become an empowered consumer by choosing to know your farmer personally, and to know how your food was grown.
Every time you make a purchase, you’re expressing your desires. Please choose to support a farmer. Join your local food cooperative and/or CSA today!