Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fresh, Local Food for Free: Starting a Produce Cooperative

You all know how much I love free stuff, right? And how much I love food? Well then, in my world it can't get much better than getting free food - especially when it's fresh and local!

That is exactly what's happening in my neighbourhood with the advent of the West Hamilton Produce Cooperative. I got the idea to start this group after Angela Barton shared her experience as a member of the Hillside Produce Cooperative on her blog last year. I was so smitten with the idea that I knew I had to give it a shot in my own area.

Last Saturday, the West Hamilton Produce Cooperative held its first exchange and in my opinion it was a great success. We have over 20 members signed on to the group thus far, and about half a dozen participated in the first exchange (we had a really cold, wet spring so a lot of people's gardens aren't producing much yet).

The offerings included: 

Cilantro, dill, spearmint, peppermint, chives, garlic chives, oregano, lettuce, arugula, two kinds of basil, lovage, parsley, sage, thyme, summer savory, lemon balm, rhubarb and a variety of ornamental plants (echinacea, coral bells, daisy, black eyed susan).
I was very impressed with the quality, quantity and variety of items participants contributed to the group. It took me about an hour to sort through everything and distribute the goods evenly amongst the members' bags. When they were all packed up and ready to go, it looked like everyone had just hit up the local farmers' market - but instead, all the food was FREE! It reminded me a lot of picking up my share back when I belonged to a CSA. You never knew exactly what you were going to get, but you knew it would be fresh and local.
The co-op really didn't take that much work to get up and running. I'm excited to see what types of offerings we get as the season progresses. It's pretty cool to enjoy another member's lettuce and know someone else is getting to feast on my arugula! Plus, I've enjoyed the opportunity to meet other enthusiastic backyard veggie gardeners in my neighbourhood. Not to mention the fact that I don't have to spend as much money on produce at the grocery store.
If you're interested in starting a produce cooperative in your area, Hynden Walch (the founder of the Hillside Produce Cooperative) wrote an article sharing her experience starting her group. 

1 comment:

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