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Food Co-Ops: What You Need to Know

Food Co-Ops: What You Need to Know


Travel to any other country and you’ll quickly notice that our produce back home is blah. Much like a vacuous beauty queen, it is vibrantly colored and attractive with very little substance. Part of what has driven our markets away from quality and toward mass production is the ability to maximize farming resources_pesticides, hormones, substandard animal housing_to increase the amount produced. This is great for quantity, but the quality just isn’t up to par with fresh stuff.

I’m all for choices, so if Everyday Shopper would rather pay low prices in exchange for substandard food, it’s a good thing he has that option. One thing to ponder if you like wholesome and cheap are the grocery prices on organic food. Maybe you get a superiority kick out of paying more for your load of food than I do. That’s fine with me. But if you also value other forms of green, think about a co-op.

Member Owned

When you subscribe to a food coop, you generally pay a fee, either monthly or annually, in exchange for discounted produce and access to other bulk buying groups. You become a business partner and can make decisions on food buying. Most coops are open to shopping from the general public, but you’ll usually come out ahead paying the membership fees and getting discounts.

Organic Produce for Less

Most coops only offer food with minimal processing_some are even exclusively organic. What products they offer depends upon the members’ needs and wants. You’ll get much better prices on organic stuff from a coop than you would from Average Grocer.

Non-profit Saves You Money

Since the coop doesn’t generate much extra revenue, you aren’t paying for overhead other than a building or large tnet. If a coop becomes profitable, members receive a partial rebate for their dues or outright split the profits.

Volunteer for the Cooperative

Some groups require a minimal number of volunteer hours per month as part of membership. Others encourage giving volunteer time to the coop in exchange for a bigger discounts. Regardless, the democratic nature of food cooperatives require that members work together for mutual advantages.

Eliminate the Middle Man

In going straight to a local distributer/grower you not only reduce food mileage and enjoy excellent quality goods but you’ll be charged for fair_not under or over_priced food. By becoming a member you can get in touch with real food prices and have a better understanding of the farming industry.

On average, Americans spend 11% of income on food while Canadians spend 14% and the Japanese a whopping 20%. While there are a number of variables that affect the food market, it gives me great pleasure that we have multiple choices when it comes to putting food on the table. Food coops might not be for everyone, but organic junkies should definitely investigate membership to reap serious yearly savings.

(Coupon Sherpa is the penny pinching, coupon clipping, deal digging, Himalyan haggling, he-man of bargains. Visit for more shopping advice, insider tips, and coupons./)

© 2009,

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