When I joined this coop we were, in the words of one of the members, a "buying club". We had a distributor that we ordered most of our food from and on a given night we would all gather to sort and claim our food and then go home. In the last few months our coop has been changing in a very exciting way. We unfortunately lost our distributor that we loved dearly to rough economic times, but this forced us to be more independent and creative in the way that we obtained our food. Now each member of the coop has a vendor that they procure food from for the group and on delivery night we all bring something. My vendor is an awesome farm in Michigan that grows all of their own organic grains and beans and grinds their own flour. We have a place for frozen organic blueberries and cherries; certified organic meat; organic apples and cider; a cheese place that offers raw milk cheddar; raw goat's milk; raw cow's milk; a place in California that sells raw nuts, nut butters and other raw items; a natural and organic bread company; and the list goes on. Doesn't that sound awesome? I will, as time allows, feature some of these places in this blog for you to check out.
I know the coop idea sounds like a lot of work, but there really are some great benefits to shopping in this way over strictly using a grocery store or health food store. I get to shop from roughly 17 vendors that I trust and "know" through the coop, but I only have to do the research and work with one vendor. I can't emphasize enought the importance of knowing your farmer when possible. Almost daily you hear of tainted meat, produce, milk products, and etc. from media reports and it's comforting to know where the majority of your food is coming from and know you can trust their farming practices. Another benefit is the savings that you realize by buying in bulk directly from the vendor. There isn't a food store markup. Just last night I picked up some beautiful frozen organic cherries from the coop and the price was at least $.15/pound cheaper than frozen non-organic cherries in the grocery store. Wow! Lastly, joining a food coop allows relationships with people who are interested in the same things you are and they can encourage you and teach you along the way on your path to better health.
Unfortunately most coops including the one I belong to don't advertise so finding one may prove challenging. Check with local organic growers as well as in local health food stores. Even better, grab a group of friends that are interested in changing how they eat and start your own coop. Google organic and your state and see what you find. You may be surprised to find you have some great resources right in your own back yard. I did find a web site called Local Harvest where you can enter your zip code and get a list of local farms, coops, and resources. Please feel free to email me any questions or concerns regarding coop membership and I will try to point you in the right direction.