"Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark."

~ Saying of the Gladdagh Gypsies of Galway

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Joining a Buying Club

Back in March, I wrote about Joining a CSA. In addition to Community Supported Agriculture programs [CSA's], there are also Buying Clubs [BC's].

A Buying Club is essentially a group of people committed to placing an order than meets a minimum dollar amount every so many weeks. The goods ordered by the group are delivered to them on a set day & time by the supplier. Usually, a Buying Club is set up to receive items that you don't readily go into your local chain grocery store to purchase, but not always. There is a common thread in your Buying Club that brings the people together, and it also saves members money as most of the time, the products purchased are offered at wholesale prices. Sometimes a Buying Club can also be referred to as a co-op.

I recently started a local Buying Club in my area through a local farm. This farm raises beef, chicken, pork and lamb - humanely and without the use of antibiotics or hormones. Their animals are all grassfed and/or pastured.

Our Buying Club with this farm brings together people who want to
  1. Support Local Farms
  2. Purchase Local Food
  3. Consume grassfed meats raised humanely and without antibiotics or hormones
A reason for choosing this Buying Club versus just purchasing a quarter or half a cow (or hog or lamb for that matter), is because we can place an order every 4-6 weeks rather than make one large purchase all at once, up front. When we place our order, we also are choosing the specific cuts we would like. To an extent, you can still do this when you purchase a quarter or half of an animal, however, you are still getting X number of pounds regardless, all up front at once. So, especially for those without excess freezer space, the Buying Club can be the better option - you choose how much of which cuts you want for that order.

This Buying Club also offers raw honey, raw milk cheeses, maple syrup, eggs and occasionally produce as well. Some Buying Clubs are produce-based, versus meats. You have to search out a Buying Club in your area that offers what you are looking for. Just the same as you would do for a CSA. 

Which brings me to my next point in how a Buying Club is different from a CSA. When you sign up for a CSA, you know up front what you are paying for, for the term of the CSA season. For example, in my Pork/Poultry CSA that I signed up for, there was a $ amount due and in exchange for that cost, I know that I will receive 12 chickens, 1 turkey and a 1/4 a of hog between the months of June and November. Once that kicks in, I will not place orders through the buying club for pork or chicken, obviously.

If you join a produce CSA, you receive your orders in whichever fashion they are scheduled (usually weekly or bi-weekly) and your 'basket' for that pick-up is whatever is in season. Some allow you to pick and choose items for your basket, but a lot of produce CSA's I am familiar with give you whatever is in season that week. For those who are a tad more picky about what they eat, or aren't interested in trying out new things, this option isn't always the best choice. What if you get Kohlrabi in your basket one week and have no clue how to cook or eat it? If you don't enjoy cooking or trying new things, you probably aren't going to have much use for that Kohlrabi you paid for!

Buying Clubs can have openings for a new club to be formed (which is what we did), or they may have established clubs that accept new members. 

Last night was our first delivery for the Buying Club. I placed an order for a various array of items! I was able to purchase various cuts of lamb, beef and pork. I also purchased some Rhubarb & Asparagus as well as some soup bones. I can't wait to try everything out. A beef roast I received came bone-in -- I love that! I am sure it will give the roast much more flavor and I know I can't recall the last time I spied a roast at the grocery store that still had the bone in!

To help search out a buying club in your area, try the following resources.

Eat Wild

Local Harvest

Organic Consumers Association

Sustainable Table



suzanne said...

Good morning Allison

Your co op sounds wonderful! i wish we had something similar here. My problem here is that we have so few people compared to your numbers. I also never find like minded people close by. But for a few spread around all living far away from each other..

I must say I think everything works in America..

Have a good day with your gorgeous boy.

Lots of love

Jen said...

My co-op has saved me from having to buy in the grocery store for most things. I love that we can support local farmers and have a direct relationship with them. The bigger the co-op gets the more our demands are heard by the farmer for quality food. Co-ops are soooo important to the community. Thanks for sharing this!