If you’ve just recently joined the crusade to ditch supermarket produce (and all the plastic it comes in) and support your local farmers, you’ve probably discovered that it doesn’t only make you feel good, it’s also a whole lot better for your bank balance. But if those weekly trips to farmers markets or farm gates are starting to take up too much time, we’ve found a way to get that farm fresh produce without the hassle—and it might just work out even cheaper.
Formerly just for quirky hippie aunts with a lot of time on their hands, fruit and veg co-ops and bulk buyers clubs are becoming increasingly popular, because it means getting super fresh, local food at super low wholesale prices. And between the recent drought and fires and the current pandemic, it’s even more popular, with friends and family groups, neighbours, co-workers or just like minded people buying produce in bulk directly from producers, and divvying up the goods between them.
You don’t even have to start your own—there’s a heap of bulk buying food groups around town that you can join, with regular meetups to divide the spoils. Turnstyle Bulk Buyers in Highgate Hill, Windsor Food Collective and the Chews Day Food Collective in Annerley all welcome new members, though you may need to get involved in ordering, packing and invoicing.
If splitting beans and potatoes with strangers all sounds like a bit much, you can also just order a box of weekly groceries from Food Connect, who give the co-op experience without the commitment, offering seasonal farm-direct produce and the option to pick up from a number of locations to save on the delivery costs. But if you’re keen to start your own, we asked some people who’ve already done it for tips—the crew at Brisbane bars The Scratch and Netherworld.
These guys started their own co-op to support local farmers while creating a food community in Milton, and let us in on the best way to do it. Find their tips below, and then start your own co-op group in your workplace or friend group.
- Find a local source: We pack weekly produce boxes with seasonal fresh veg and fruit from Food Connect, Loop Growers, Neighbourhood Farm and some little extras from Riser Bread, Little Acre Mushrooms and Redhot Kimchi.
- Start small: We kicked off the co-op with a small number of people, consisting of the staff that worked at The Scratch and Netherworld only. After a few months, we were able to add a few more people until we got to a comfortable capacity for our space.
- Make it simple: Everyone has the choice of a full box for $30 or a half box for $15. Essentially everyone gets the same haul—seasonal produce that farmers and suppliers have on offer. Once we got the hang of that, we were able to add in some extras, such as bread, mushrooms and kimchi.
- Be consistent: By having a regular schedule with the process, the group knows exactly which day to order, pay and pick up their boxes. It’s the same every week.
- Share resources and recipes: We use a group chat to not only communicate but to share recipes, ask questions and recommend other local producers.
- Foster a community: We underestimated the community connection that has been fostered from starting this co-op. It’s a great opportunity to connect with like-minded peers in your area and also get closer to the amazing people that grow your food. We take it in turns to volunteer packing boxes each week and connect with the producers that we work with.
Want to make your meat shopping better for the planet? Check out these sustainable butchers.
Image credit: Food Connect