While many of us buy our organic food at supermarkets, farmers’ markets or via shares in CSAs, another important avenue is through a co-op.
The idea of a co-op is that by pooling the purchases of organic food, a group of people can lower their costs.
Co-ops typically have physical locations where you shop, there is a membership fee to join, and a certain number of hours of work is required each month.
If you love the idea of starting a co-op one but don’t have the slightest idea of how to do it, there is help. Purple Dragon, an existing organic food co-op in New Jersey, can show you how.
Janit London, the founder of Purple Dragon, has some serious expertise in this area.
With over 40 years of experience in the natural foods business, Janit London started Purple Dragon in 1987 and has grown it to over 1,300 families.
She sells a manual for $100 that teaches you everything about how to get started — what to order, suggestions to find farmers, pricing, storage, arranging delivery by truck or air, etc. Janit London also offers phone consulting as an additional service.
Even though it is based in New Jersey, Purple Dragon has helped people get up and running in places such as Hong Kong, Hawaii, California and Pennsylvania.
Location, Location, Location
I had two important questions for Janit London regarding starting an organic food co-op.
Q: Do you have to have a retail location to start a co-op?
A: Absolutely not. Depending on your local and state health codes, you can run it out of a garage or small warehouse. A 8×8 location would be big enough for a group consisting of 15 families.
Q: If you live in a somewhat remote location, can you still start a co-op?
A: Yes. Just because there are not a lot of farmers nearby is not an impediment. You can always have food shipped.
A Good Example
If you are going to learn from someone, it is important that this person knows what they are doing.
Janit London has been able to purchase food for her members at 1/2 the cost of a local, established CSA, is very committed to recycling, re-using boxes and biodiversity, scours the country looking for unique organic fruits and vegetables, and will even shift her buying habits to support the needs/schedule of the farmer.
Members of Purple Dragon receive a box or bag of fruits and vegetables every two weeks. Each pick-up weighs between 15-30 pounds and costs $46-53.
If you are interested in starting your own organic food co-op or want to join Purple Dragon, please feel free to contact them.