Many people would like to buy organic or local produce but find it too expensive or difficult to find. Setting up a food buying cooperative can be an excellent solution.
What is a food buying cooperative?
A food buying cooperative consists of a group of people - often friends, neighbours, work colleagues or perhaps a club - who get together to buy produce wholesale from a producer. The goods are then sold on to the cooperative members at cost price. Belonging to a food cooperative helps you have a say in the quality and variety of produce you are buying. The running of the cooperative also provides an opportunity to learn new skills.
A food buying cooperative is therefore a great way to access health, unusual or wholesome foods at low prices. Anybody can set one up and you may be able to obtain a grant to get started.
How does a food buying cooperative work?
Every cooperative operates slightly differently - each set up to suit its members needs. Some concentrate on purchasing specific foods e.g. Fresh vegetables, while others buy in a wide variety of produce. Some cooperatives link up with a local school, village hall or club in order to use a community building for the the distribution of produce on delivery day. Others organise a home delivery rota.
Many smaller producers find belonging to a cooperative a more successful and cost effective way of working.
What is a producer cooperative?
It is a group of producers who work together, often over a particular aim or function. For example, producers may form a cooperative in order to jointly order materials or packaging, share equipment and market or distribute produce.
This set up is very advantageous for each individual producer as it cuts down transport costs, enables bulk purchasing, opens up new marketing opportunities and provide access to specialised staff or equipment.
How is a producer cooperative formed?
There are many different ways to form a cooperative. Many have structured legal format and many work as a single company under a cooperative name. See the resources section for organisations that can support with starting and structuring a cooperative.
Inspiring examples in Somerset
Elderflowers food cooperative
Elderflowers food cooperative in Langport is open every Friday from 5 - 7.30 at Eli's (the Rose and Crown) in Huish. You can buy fresh organically and locally grown veg, Fairtrade fruit, eggs, preserves and dried foods such as pasta, rice, porridge oats.
Vikings Veg, Watchet
Vikings Veg is a Food Cooperative based at the Little Vikings Children's Centre in Watchet, West Somerset providing about 25 boxes of fruit and veg each week to the families and the local community. More.