How to Start Your Own Organic Produce Co-op

How to Start Your Own Organic Produce Co-op

For those who have never participated in a produce co-op before, joining one can be a bit intimidating. How do you get your food? Will the produce be good? Where does the food come from? Will it be expensive?

All of these questions about produce coop''s are valid and the answers will vary among the different co-ops. With the demand for organic produce on the rise, but the prices not necessarily going down, co-ops can be a great way to meet your family’s produce needs.

I studied nutrition and alternative means to health for a number of years trying to discover better health for several nagging problems (chronic digestive problems, anemia, hypoglycemia, etc.) I learned of the importance of whole foods and especially raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

I began buying large amounts of produce and started talking with friends about becoming healthy. My husband and I experienced such great health benefits from changing our diet that people began to notice and wanted to know how to follow in our steps.

Initially, we were discouraged at the high price of organic produce, but we chose to make the commitment to purchasing most of our food chemical free or organic. Many of our friends and family did not have access to fresh organic produce. As a favor, we began to ship certified organic food in from out of state to deliver it to friends and family.

Within months, word spread and more people became interested in receiving a regular supply of high-quality organic produce. This was the beginning of our own co-op.

To serve the growing demand and compensate the venture for the labor involved, we followed the design of a co-op model that avoids the difficulties of traditional co-ops. Most co-op’s are volunteer based and have a lengthy ordering process. Another difficulty for co-op’s is getting busy people to participate in the work of running the organization.

Our group operates in an efficient, business-like manner that consumers and suppliers appreciate. Members receive a box containing a variety of the best organic produce currently available. The selection varies with each delivery, but always includes fruits, salad makings, and cooking vegetables. It is almost always what you would go to the store for yourself, plus some nice surprises and new items that you otherwise might not try. We keep the labor low and don’t have lots of meetings and hassles.

People who have the time to help out can work and are compensated by receiving discounted produce. People with busy schedules, physical challenges, young children, etc., do not have to put in volunteer hours just to keep the co-op running. Each group within the co-op handles payment through their coordinator. This system allows us to offer the co-op experience to people in their own neighborhoods, so they don’t have to drive all over town. We also have agreements with our suppliers when the food is less than what we expect, so co-op members are well taken care of.

All members receive the same produce, and while they can’t choose, they can count on a balanced and steady supply of potatoes and onions, greens and fruits.

Rather than scrambling to find ingredients to fit recipes, co-op members scramble to find ways to use available ingredients. Members support each other with recipes and detailed descriptions on how to prepare various foods.

As a group, one of our goals is to purchase locally grown organic produce. We really like to buy what local organic farmers have, when they need us to buy it, because it supports them and helps them stay in business. We realize that family farms all over the country are going out of business and we feel it is important for us to help end this trend. If local farmers call and let us know what they have, our group is ready and willing to purchase.

Eating organic is not just about not wanting to put chemicals and poisons into our bodies. We are making a long term investment by eating food that is produced with sustainable farming practices. We recognize that soil erosion is a significant problem and that good farming techniques do more than just supply us with great food.

Organic farmers give the land the attention it must have for the future of our children and grandchildren. We want to support local growers and are willing to work with transitional farmers as they work to grow 100% organic.

We bring in the freshest organic produce at great prices by working closely with local farmers and suppliers. Our members get a pre-selected variety packaged that includes fruit, cooking vegetables and salad ingredients. They save time (no shopping) and money. And because organic farming is environmentally beneficial (as opposed to conventional farming practices, which rely on dangerous pesticides and fungicides and lead to soil erosion and water pollution), our members contribute toward a healthier earth.

As for members, they come in a great variety, too. We service people throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex from a variety of backgrounds. Co-op’s give people another way of meeting new people and developing lasting friendships. Members get together and have “Share Dinners” where we bring healthy food to the table and discuss food preparation and how we work out achieving better health.

How the Health Source Co-op Works: folks in the Metroplex join an existing group or form one for their neighborhood or business location. People talk with friends and family and develop a list of people with the common interest of getting a better variety of fresher organic produce. Many of our members are working toward achieving and maintaining better health. Food is ordered and delivered bi-weekly.

When properly stored, much of the food lasts well into the second week and in many cases, beyond two weeks. Members go to a local distribution point to pick up their food. Many members form smaller co-ops for purchasing hormone free meat and eggs from local suppliers, as well. Information on joining, see www.YourHealthSource.Org or call Monica at 817/793-3509.

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