Our Local Food Cooperative and how it Works.

Our farm provides fresh vegetables and herbs to our CSA Members. These dedicated members are what make our farming possible. Knowing that our work and food is pre-sold each month assures our efforts and guarantees our income to continue operating throughout the year. Our CSA Members are confident that they will receive the freshest seasonal food each week. It’s a beautiful relationship between our farm and our community. Thus the term, CSA, meaning Community Supported Agriculture.

The Dilemma

Although we are one farm, our members and others in the broader community (from Austin to Houston) are in constant contact with us wanting to find more local food than just our farm can provide. As we have worked to promote good eating and seasonal food, we have met great local producers, and every farm is different, providing different culinary delights.

The challenges we collectively face as local producers is distribution. Producers, like our family, live in rural communities an hour or more from major metroplexes. Farmers Markets are great, but they do not necessarily meet the needs of all the producers. For example, when we sold at a downtown Farmers Market, our family would get up at 5 am, do our farm chores (feeding animals, milking, gathering eggs, etc), mom would wake up the children (ages 5 and 7 at the time), get them dressed and breakfast prepared for them to eat in the car, dad would load up the van for market sales, and we would hit the road driving over an 1.5 hours to get to market. We would then set-up our stand a half hour before Market opening, settle the kids to help with customers (they loved it, and so did we) and interact with our customers selling our produce hoping to have a good turn out and a good sales day. After 4 hours of sales, we would be beat, exhausted and hungry, so the family would have to go out to eat at a restaurant (spending a good percentage of our sales for the day, and against most of our principles about eating local). The family would then get back in the van driving the 1.5+ hours to get back home, in order to unload and do the afternoon chores (watering plants, animals, milking again, etc). Needless to say it was the most exhausting day of the week, and the promise for good sales was risky for all that effort. Thus our CSA… and it has worked out great for our family farm. However, the problem still remains: more people need more local food; the solution: a local food cooperative.

The Solution

Food Cooperatives generally offer their members (for a $50 annual fee) an opportunity to pre-order organic produce, however the food options are generally no different than the factory organic food offered at our specialty grocery stores, i.e. organic produce from California and around the world. Although these Coops are great for some, and need to be encouraged, as they provide food cheaper than most of the specialty grocery stores, they really do not satisfy the demand for more local food, or help cut down on the use of fossil fuels used to distribute food over 1500 miles (on average).

A Local Food Cooperative is different in many ways in that it is a local food network. Local food eaters, for a $38 annual fee (covering administrative costs, location and maintenance), partner together with local producers committed to providing the freshest quality food for our communities. This is going beyond typical factory organic. The Local Food Cooperative offers only local seasonal food, which can be pre-ordered by its members. The program is designed to be more farmer-friendly in that the farmers receive one collective order to deliver each month, making their lives a lot easier, and cutting down on the risk of having a good sales day at a downtown market along with additional costs and time for distribution. Local farmers and local food eaters then gather together each month on the 3rd Sunday to celebrate local food. The best part about it, members and farmers get to experience a rural setting, eliminating the need for everyone to go into the big city. We find that most of our members live in the suburbs outside of the metroplex, and after a hard week’s work do not want to go back into the big city to shop on the weekends. By meeting in a central location and in a rural setting, people can be in more contact with where the food comes from, the country, the fresh air, the rolling hills of green pasture, basically, the farm.

The Details

Members, who join, can order artisan cheeses, raw dairy products, grass-fed beef, lamb, poultry and bison, from an online list updated with the monthly availability from the participating local farms. Fresh produce and eggs are available seasonally, first come, first served. Like other coops, there is a deadline to order, because the meat and dairy producers need to custom process for each month’s market day. Members can join by sending their membership dues by mail or at their first pick-up. Then, by ordering before the deadline, your food will be delivered directly by the farmers for pick-up on the 3rd Sunday of the month from 2-4pm.

You can join our local food market, serving South Central Texas, by visiting www.homesweetfarm.com. Look for links to our Monthly Market Days for more details.

We hope that this innovative local food cooperative can become a model for others wanting to establish a local food network in their region of Texas. Local food, it’s a thousand miles fresher!

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