We have all heard the words - 100 mile diet (only eating things grown or raised within 100 miles of where you live), Locavore, Foodie, Slow Food, Farmers Markets.....Every single one absolutely a FABULOUS resource in eating seasonally, locally, sustainably....
But when push comes to shove, I just want GOOD FOOD. I want roasts that I have to use a couple utensils to get out of the pan because its just fall apart great....I want ground beef that smells like steak and I dont even drain because there is no fat. I want to know that the chicken had a happy life and that her eggs are so ORANGE and firm, I cant use a fork to beat, but need a whisk. I want my co-op.
Everyone needs a co-op. I know, a lot of states / areas dont have them.....at least not yet, but check anyway. Its a great place to find really good food and with the rising grocery prices, it may even be cheaper.
For example - I buy my whole white wheat berries from our local coop. They come in 25# buckets, ready for long term storage. There is also a co-op lady who grinds for those that do not have their own grain mill.
I also buy my cheese from a local member. His cheese is AMAZING. Its also cheaper per pound than the cheapest store brand at the grocery store. The thing about his cheese is that he can make "flavors"....Horseradish Cheddar, Garlic Cheddar, Basil, Cowboy (this is my favorite)....You name it. The cows are grass fed with no antibiotics or growth hormones.
There are items that arent the "usual" - Buffalo - Lamb - Artisan Breads - Venison - Goat - Rabbit - Duck
There is a personal integrity in the producers - an accountability, that is lacking when you purchase from a box store. Some farmer in China does not care if what he sprays on his crops makes me sick. My local producer cares a great deal.
The best part about buying from the co-op is.....I know these people - have talked to them on the phone - asked questions about their products and their farming practices. I have cooked with their recipes.
I have their names and numbers. It may be a small thing, but it also might be a lifeline in the event that delivery routes nationwide are disrupted. Large cities are just days from disintegrating into chaos without regular deliveries of groceries.
They are people I would ask questions of if my own livestock are having issues or trying to make sure something would grow in our local environment.
Our local co-op is so much more than good food. They are an invaluable resource on how to produce, to sustain crops and animals.....they are mentors. They are generous with information, advice, and hard learned lessons. They do not want others to make the same mistakes and will gladly listen to an easier, better, safer, kinder way of pasturing, growing, husbandry, farming.
But its not all perfectly wonderful and easy. Our co-op only delivers once a month. And "deliver" is misleading - I have to go pick it up where the producers delivered it. So, its a little inconvenient. I also have to plan ahead. I have to budget to have funds to purchase a month of what I want. I have to have a place to store it (freezer). I have to keep a list of what I want, what I used, what I still have and have to pay attention to what season it is so I know what will be available or what to buy quite a bit of to put back until the next growing season.
But its SO WORTH IT....I have found that those things, big or little, that require a little effort are those things with which I am most pleased. If our co-op had a store, it wouldnt be the same, it would be Whole Foods. And even as great as Whole Foods is, I dont know my producers and I dont like my organic asparagus coming from 1/2 way around the world....
Now - you dont have to have a co-op to eat fabulous local fare. But it does make life easier. Find local farmers' markets, do an Internet search, ask around, find a CSA....maybe you are the one being led to start a local co-op.
Remember food is precious - thank you Alice Waters....