Finding a co-op is kind of like dating. You meet, get to know each other, fall in love, and make a commitment. It’s the classic love story.
I’m kidding, but not totally. I met Our Table thanks to that food blogger conference a few months ago, I returned once a week or so to get to know it better, and when I found myself talking to friends about it non-stop while sporting a cheesy grin I knew it was love! My analogy falls apart at this point since I totally want to share my co-op with friends and family. An open co-op relationship is a lot easier than an open dating relationship.
After a few months in love, I wanted to show Our Table how much they meant to me so I decided to become an official consumer member. You don’t have to be a member to shop there or attend events (like the Swell Granola tasting this Saturday!), but being a member does come with some benefits:
- Participate in a local, cooperatively owned business, vote in Co-op elections, and run for the Board of Directors
- Lower food prices – 10% off everything at our on-farm grocery on the 2nd Saturday of each month
- Access to exclusive on-farm events and U-pick days, special small-batch produce and prepared foods
- Discounts on educational classes
- Share of the Co-op’s profits — earn a patronage dividend based on your total purchases in years when the Cooperative makes sufficient profits
I love that being a member means I own a part of it, I get a say and my voice matters. I’m excited to see the whole co-op election process and get to know the people on the Board. I doubt any of them needed to hire Olivia Pope to get elected, but I would imagine they all take their positions just as seriously and do it for a real love of the co-op.
The thing that keeps bringing me back though, and is available to non-members as well, is just the fact that I know exactly where my food comes from, and if I want more info all I have to do is ask. I don’t even know how to express the peace of mind that gives me. With a new article every day about toxic food additives, pesticides, GMOs, meat recalls, and foods being bad for you that were touted as healthy the day before, knowing what to buy can be stressful.
I will admit to being a bit paralyzed at times in the grocery store, trying to decipher ingredients and weed through all the advertising claims you’re never sure you can believe. The easy answer there is to skip the packaged foods and focus on the produce and meat/seafood sections, but that has it’s own issues. Which veggies should you purchase organic vs. conventional (and what do I do with them once I get them home?), was that chicken free-range (and what exactly does free-range mean?), was that cow slaughtered humanely (and how can I even verify that?).
So many questions but so few answers. Most of the time I’d end up feeling like no decision was the right one and I’d just hit Taco Bell on the way home. Obviously that makes no sense since we can all agree that Taco Bell is never the right decision. Not even if they bring back the rolled chicken tacos!
Knowing that I can walk into the On-Farm Grocery and shop without having to question everything is such a relief! Grocery shopping is fun again, and coupling that with the CSA has been getting me back into the kitchen which my husband is certainly a fan of. It doesn’t hurt that the Our Table staff is amazing as well! Whether it’s Royce or Colleen in the store (or anyone else you deal with), they’re going to greet you with a genuine smile and they’ll help you find exactly what you need. It feels how I imagine the old timey General Stores were (local people, local food), but thankfully it has modern conveniences like a commercial kitchen and indoor plumbing!
What really struck me at the member potluck last weekend is that a co-op is a community, people coming together for a common goal. To get the most out of it you need to get involved, and the best way to do that is become a member and truly own your food instead of just buying it. If you’re local and interested, swipe right click here.
Already a member? Comment below and introduce yourself, I’d love to meet you!
(The fun legal disclosure: This September is membership month at Our Table and I’m partnering with them for a blog series sharing my co-op story and how they help me eat local. I am receiving a small discount on purchases I make, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. If I didn’t genuinely love this place I would not be telling you about it. Check out all my Our Table coverage here!)