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Food Co-op's - How Do They Work, Good/Bad Experiences?

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I've heard of people here and there mentioning that they are in some sort of food co-ops, but I've never really personally looked into them much. I've tried looking for some information on ones in my neck of the woods, but the sites themselves don't seem to provide much details on the programs.

From what I can tell so far, you basically purchase a few months worth of produce in advance for a couple hundred dollars (about 3 months worth) and I guess pick up your stuff weekly. I guess that's how they work around here, but the sites don't explain much more.

Is anyone else on here in one of these programs? If so, was it worth it to you? Did you end up saving money? Was the quality and selection good? I'm interested in anyone else's experience with these.

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  1. You're mixing concepts. A food co-op is typically a community-owned store. You're referring to a CSA (community supported agriculture) which is basically a purchase of shares of a farmer's output for a given season.

    You've summarized how they work effectively. You pre-purchase X output of Farmer Joe's crop for the season thereby giving him a guarantee of payment before he starts his planting.

    I have never joined because our lives are not conducive to a grab-bag (box) of vegetables that need to be consumed within a certain fixed period. They will generally give you a report of what to expect and when so you can at least anticipate what you'll be getting, but I don't think there are bargains to be had (okay, you may end up getting a good value if you tally it all up at season-end, but it requires having a present need for everything you get). It's more of a know-your-grower feelgood service.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Thank you for clarifying that, I was getting them confused. I guess I need to sit down and really do the math on this. I know that I tend to grocery shop on a whim, and can easily blow $20+ on a trip to buy ingredients just to make one thing on a given day. Something about spending a couple hundred for about 3 months of produce sounds appealing if I can stick to using it all without making too many additional trips out to get extra ingredients.

      1. re: Atomic76

        There's been previous threads on CSAs where people talk about their experiences, you can search to get a picture. I think the general 'complaint' us too much produce when peak harvest hits, especially if they are having a bumper crop of something you don't love (looking at you mizuna!). You need to find the appropriate box size for your family and be prepared to cook/prep a lot. If you are used to buying all your ingredients same day for a specific meal rather than working with what's on hand I would say it'll be quite different.

        1. re: Atomic76

          Some of the things you see among many CSA participants are getting a buttload of the same produce all at once, like 3 or 4 heads of cabbage, or getting stuff that they don't know how to cook or no one in the household likes, or getting dead-ripe items like tomatoes that have to be used immediately. If you live alone or have time constraints those are thinking points. Edit: I think Jules and I were both composing our replies at the same time, didn't mean to be repetitive.