Gardens Grow as Local Shoppers Turn to Co-Ops Instead of Corporations

Categories: Eating Local

CoOp.jpg
Driving through rural Mansfield, we pass by miles of green pastureland speckled with an array of trailers, big houses, small houses, pools, tanks, goats, horses and dogs. We're headed to the home of Elizabeth Preibe, who hosts a local food co-op called Life Through the Garden. Every two weeks her members make the trek out to her place to pick up their local organic fruits, veggies and other goods.

"When I joined the co-op I was looking for a source of local produce and dairy. I wanted to be closer to my food source," says member Adrienne Vaughan of Arlington. In doing so, she has completely changed the way her family eats -- for the better.

Every co-op is organized differently, but the general concept is the host gathers the food from local sources, including farmers, ranchers and bakers, and then distributes the food to members at a set place and time. It's one-stop shopping for the modern day farm advocate who is looking for a row of the tilled life in their urban homes.

Cost is usually based on a "bin" of produce, which for Life Through the Garden two weeks worth ranges from $40 to $55. Exceptions in the selection can be made, but typically one just takes what has been collected, leaving the host responsible for providing what is available locally. Things like meat, milk or eggs are ordered and priced separately.

Supplying plentiful bins throughout the year can be a challenge, though, because of the highs and lows of the seasons. Priebe aims to have a variety of growers in order to offer more options.

"Here in Texas, the growing seasons are somewhat muddled with mild winters and scorching hot summers," Priebe says, "but, currently we have seven farmers providing our co-op products. Most of the produce farmers quit in the winter because they do not have a warm place to grow. Now we have a new farmer with large green houses, which will allow us to get more produce through the winter."

But sometimes, it's just not enough. So while the goal is to purchase all local, Priebe will occasionally shop at grocery stores to ensure the bins are filled.

"If our members were amenable to just seasonal produce, we would only do local," said Priebe. "However, many people are not satisfied with eating seasonally, so the store supplements produce like lettuce in the dry, hot summer. Further, certain fruit and veggies will not grow in Texas without a serious amount of time, effort and money. Bananas, for instance. No matter how locally minded, most people are not willing to give up their bananas. To put a number on it, the bins usually contain about 75 to 80 percent local during the summer."

Co-op members don't seem to mind, though. The benefits outweigh those exceptions. "First, picking up my produce every two weeks saves me multiple trips to the store," Vaughan says. "I would never buy this amount of produce at the grocery store at once."

Taking time to properly store all the goods is important in making it last. After that, the dinner table looks different.

"I feel like I get a very good variety, though sometimes I struggle with using it all," says Vaughan. "I have to be creative, and it takes practice to get into the habit of shaping our meals around what we have instead of buying the ingredients for a specific meal. But again, that's the reason I joined to begin with."

Another perk of purchasing through a co-op is personally knowing those who provide food for your family. If there's a problem with something, you know where to go.

Lastly, there's buying local. "Instead of supporting a large corporation I support a local family and farmers markets. Even if I pay a little more for my produce and dairy, I know it's going towards the local economy," Vaughan says.

Priebe encourages anyone who is interested in either hosting a co-op or becoming a member to contact her.

"We have lots of contacts and resources for both producers and consumers," she says. "Our goal is to have small, neighborhood co-ops throughout the metroplex. It matters not that we head them. What does matter is that consumers begin to realize the freedom they have in choosing what they eat and where it comes from."

For more information on this co-op or how to start your own, visit Life Through the Garden or email elizabeth@lifethroughthegarden.com.

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.
My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Texascheibel
Texascheibel

The coop holds classes/info sessions on ways to extend the life of your share. Hefty Green bags are a huge help.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

I'm in a produce co-op.  We're getting kinda shafted right now due to drought, so there is a downside to joining one.  But the freshness and taste is unbelievable.

Storm_71
Storm_71

That sounds like a great idea. The only problem I see is how long a bin of produce was last. I run into this at the super market as well. Fresh produce for the most part just does not keep that long.

Danielslauren
Danielslauren

Storm - 71. Was there a storm in '71 we should know about? I love storms. Do tell. But, yes, it is a challenge to eat all that fresh produce before it goes bad. At the same time, it's encouragment to eat up! Like if you have a cheesecake in the fridge... you know that it will only last a couple days, so you devour it quickly, right? Just imagine doing the same wiht squash, tomatoes and brocolli. Yummers. 

sherribowers
sherribowers

Interesting article! I just now got Coupons of my Favorite Brands for free from Printapon you should search for them online

brian
brian

Thanks for the spam sherri. 

Danielslauren
Danielslauren

Wow Sherri! THANKS SO MUCH! Gosh. Printapons just for a co-op article! I'm on it. Consider it done. 

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...