joining a local organic fruit & veg co-op

Last week I was super excited to be making my first order as part of a local organic fruit & veg co-op. And I’ve had a couple of questions about it so I thought I’d put down my thoughts for you. You would be right for thinking that I had been using Aussie Farmers last year but the quality was inconsistent and one week I received 2 bunches of black bananas in my delivery. I couldn’t believe someone could have packed that box! The bread wasn’t fresh, I had leaky milk twice and after a couple of other things I just had to say that it wasn’t for me.

OK so the way the co-op works is about 10 families order via a spreadsheet each fortnight.  Everything is ordered in bulk and you can order organic grocery items as well as fruit and veg. If there are enough people who want the same item – say 20 kgs of potatoes or 20 cans of chickpeas and the bulk quantity is split between enough people then that  item is ordered. If you don’t want the entire bulk amount or there aren’t enough people to share with you, then it isn’t ordered. But not all items are bulk – like herbs, butter, egg cartons etc.

You pay a small admin fee each order as one person in co-ordinating the paperwork and payment side of things. And once every 2 months you are required to pack the orders with another person in the co-op and it can take about 3 hours of your time sorting and packing. Unfortunately it’s on a monday afternoon before school pick up and with 4 little ones here with me it wouldn’t work.  You also collect your own boxes from someone’s garage when the packing is done and it’s up to you to check quantities and the items are correct while you are there. Kind of hard with 5 kids in tow……………..

But the savings are huge. That is probably the biggest thing that attracted me to the group and the quality of the food was lovely. Half of my kitchen table was covered in fruit and veg for the fortnight and it’s organic!  So if you are into organic products and you know that you pay more in the stores or through a delivery  company then this is a great option. My order included some dairy, some grocery stuff, loads of fruit, vegies and some fresh herbs. I haven’t been invoiced yet but I’m expecting it under or around the $200 mark. And we’re talking about 4 boxes overflowing with food. I’ve looked into organic delivery boxes and it’s a lot more expensive.

But for me it was a bit of a disaster, I went to the wrong house, had to go and pick up everyone from school, go to the right house where I had no idea what I was doing, I took the wrong butter that I later had to drive all the way back and return. So at the end of day I left home at 2.15pm and we finally got home and in the door for good before 6pm because of the trips back and forth.

One of my readers said on facebook that in their organic co-op the first few deliveries are done to your house to help out the newbies. Nice. I think a great one pager of how a co-op works is a great idea. That way when people join they have everything spelt out on a page and can take it with them for the first pick up and know what they’re doing. It was all messages here and there and me calling and trying to work it out. It just wasn’t meant to be for me right now  but maybe in a year or so when I have less babies at home and can really commit to the packing and also the picking up and loading up the car on my own. The savings and quality were very attractive but I think door to door is going to be my best option.

Do you have a co-op or are part of one? How does it work and why does it work for you?

Comments

  1. What a great idea! I love the potatoes, they remind me of when I was a kid. My parents always bought the dirt covered potatoes. Nan and Pa pa used to grow their own. There was something really yummy about the earthy flavour. The Christmas Day potatoes in their jacket were always the best!
    You could make some really yummy hommus with the chickpeas too!

    • yes these potatoes were a gorgeous yellow colour and so fresh! compared to the potatoes I usually get at the supermarket. And yep plenty of hummus coming this way
      corrie:)

  2. Wondering where the pick up is (what suburb). It would not work for me if I had to cross the bridge to do it.

  3. Corrie, I found a wonderful organic community garden at Dural called Common 2 Us. Last holidays I went with a girlfriend and our kids had a wonderful time picking strawberries and running/playing in the fields. They made us a delicious coffee to go with our picnic and we sat on hay bales and enjoyed the sunshine then we loaded up our boots with seasonal produce from the farm shop!. They do weekly box deliveries to order in the Hills district but advised if they have enough group interest in an area they will deliver there. The owners Borja and Soraya are just lovely. Let me know if you would like their details.

    • oh thanks for that! how nice do they sound:) I might even go out to the farm shop for a look around!
      Corrie:)

    • Hi Cath R, I’d love those details if you don’t mind. I’m just on the other side of the gorge and would love to check it out. x
      suzi.healthyhome(at)live.com

  4. Yes does sound like a bit of a nightmare – good in theory but just not right for you right now. I do my fruit and veg shop at a growers market, I love it.

    • you lucky thing! we do have one nearby on a sunday and it’s now so popular! but getting everyone organised and out the door for church is a bit enough thing for us!!!!!!

  5. We don’t have anything like that round here. You can buy organic at the Farmers market once a week or buy from the local orchards. I like the idea of having it delivered though. My mum STILL buys her potatoes with the dirt on them. She always “passes” comment on my store bought washed ones xo

  6. Charlotte E says:

    I’m not sure how big your garden is but maybe you and the children can get a veggie patch going in there and grow your own produce.

  7. Hi corrie,
    I’ve had great success with “Aussie farmers direct” online orders – that in conjunction with Coles online has been a lifesaver with babies and young children! It’s so easy.

  8. I am super lucky. I live in Minneapolis USA and the local food movement is huge here. There are countless traditional co-ops at the local farmers markets, which don’t work for me because I am a single and the quantities are just too big and I don’t have the time to can. Instead I shop at the local co-op shop. Same general idea, you have the option of buying shares in the store to receive a discounts, or you can go and buy produce without shares. the prices are decent (much better if you own shares) but the produce is lovely and locally sourced. The biggest advantage for me is I can buy the quantities that I want and need.

    • that is fabulous! love that idea, see I’d pay to buy the shares! which we had that here:) you are lucky!
      Corrie:)

  9. It does sound wonderful in theory but I can see how it is not going to fit in with life just now. There is nothing like getting the freshest of fresh fruit & vegetables at the right price and especially if they are organic. I go, with my daughters, to a farmers market every 2 weeks. It’s a wonderful experience, not necessarily cheap but it is all still fresh till I go again, even the green beans and it is so lovely getting to know the stall holders even though they come and go with the seasonal changes. It makes me wonder just how old a lot of the supermarket fruit & vegetables are? Hopefully someone can come up with agood solution for you.

  10. I had a similarish experience with a co-op – we went out to the markets ourselves but the group insisted on going weekdays which wasn’t great for me having 4 small kids. I loved the cost and the quality, but in the end it just didn’t work out for me. So I found this company called Harvest Hub which basically run a co-op on a very large scale and do all the hard work for you – you just pick up your order once a week from somewhere local and it is already packed into a chiller bag for you.(or you can pay a small fee for home delivery) I’ve been using them for a couple of years and have been very impressed. It ticks the convenience, cost, and quality boxes for me at the moment. Might be worth looking into them in your area.
    PS I adore your blog and paricularly love seeing little Emerson grow – my youngest is the same age – such a lovely age they are at the moment too!

  11. what an exhausting endeavour !!! You must of been on the verge of tears trying to get the rest of the evenings’ tasks done…I hope retro daddy made you a nice cup of tea at the end of the night : )

  12. I’ve heard Food Connect are quite good here in Brisbane. I haven’t used them myself but have friends that use them. Believe they are in Sydney too. http://www.foodconnect.com.au
    I’ve just joined our local co-op. I’m yet to experience it. They have a shopping night where you go in and pick out what you want and take it home. It’s right on dinner bed bath time in our house, so I’m not sure how well it’s going to work. But we have very limited options for good fruit and vege in our area.

    • Hi Petal,
      I just wanted to say thank you for posting the link. Food Connect is exactly what I’ve been looking for – so I signed up and can’t wait to get my first box next week.

  13. Wendy Suarez says:

    Hi Guys, You have to check out Harvest Hub in Sydney. They are amazing. Since I’ve been buying from them my produce lasts, is tastier than ever my packaging waste has reduced and my kids love the fact I give them a budget and let them do the fruit and veg shopping on line. We get a value bag weekly that we can completely customise if we want. Fresh off the markets that day. Best thing I ever did for my family. Hubs all over Sydney and growing. Check it out at http://www.harvesthub.com.au

  14. We operate a local organic food hub in Melbourne that runs on very similar guidelines to a buyers group or co op.
    It’s an incredible thing what group buying power can achieve when working more directly with local farmers. Up to 30% of perfectly good quality fresh produce never makes it to the store because it is bent, too big or small or marked. If you as a group make the collective decision to value food for its taste and nutrients over its look and eating within the seasons, your not only reducing the cost of your weekly food budget but creating a more sustainable and efficient food system and most importantly supporting farmers by making their whole crop valuable. :) http://www.localorg.com.au/

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