For almost three years I have belonged to the Iowa Food Cooperative. This is a group of local farmers and growers who have come together to offer a wide variety of food to Central Iowans. After reading several books about sustainable agriculture and seeing films such as Food Inc., I was feeling somewhat troubled that I didn’t know more about my food sources or how the animals were being treated. A friend of mine mentioned the Co-Op and it sounded like the perfect solution to my growing concerns.
Here are my top five reasons you should consider joining a food cooperative:
1. You will have a greater understanding of where your food comes from, what the animal was fed (grass fed or grass finished, grain-free, etc.), and how it was raised (free-range, how and where they sleep at night, etc.)
2. Your food will travel fewer miles between farm and plate cutting back on your carbon footprint.
3. You will be supporting local agriculture and sustainable practices.
4. You will experience new foods that you might not have otherwise tried.
5. You can develop a relationship with the farmer and ask questions about the food or request certain sizes and quantities.
While I can only speak for the Iowa Food Cooperative, many states and regions have a co-op you can look into. If you’re in the Des Moines area, here are a few things to note about this co-op:
- Order cycles vary between every other week to every three weeks.
- You don’t have to order every cycle. Sometimes I go several weeks between orders, especially in the summer when the Farmer’s Market is available.
- You order online and select a location for pick-up. Locations include Des Moines, West Des Moines, Ankeny, and Ames.
- There is a one-time membership fee of $50 and an annual fee of $10 thereafter.
- They accept credit cards, checks, cash, EBT (note the membership fee is waived for EBT), Paypal, or Dwolla!
My food cooperative sells everything from meats to produce to baked goods to laundry detergent. My most recent order included: buckwheat, a whole chicken, a NY strip steak, dried apple rings, and garlic sriacha pasta. Here’s my latest food co-op adventure/funny story. I wanted to make ham and bean soup last month so ordered a ham hock. I emailed the farmer and told him that I had a small family and asked if he could give me the smallest hock available (I also did this for Thanksgiving with my turkey). This is what came (minus the tomato soup of course; that’s just for reference). Let’s just say I had never made so much ham and bean soup in my life. Do you belong to a co-op or CSA? Where do you purchase most of your food? Please leave comments with any further questions you might have about joining this great co-op!