Food buying co-operatives
Many people would like to buy organic or local produce but find it too expensive or difficult to find. Setting up a food buying co-operative can be an excellent solution.
What is a food buying co-operative?
A food buying co-operative 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 co-operative members at cost price. Belonging to a food co-operative helps you have a say in the quality and variety of produce you are buying. The running of the co-operative also provides an opportunity to learn new skills.
A food buying co-operative is therefore a great way to access health, unusual or wholesome foods at lower 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 co-operative 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 co-operatives 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.
We contributed to this comprehensive toolkit produced by Sustain: The Food Co-operatives Toolkit
Inspiring examples in Somerset
Elderflowers food co-operative Elderflowers food cooperative in Langport is open every Friday from 5pm 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.
Bridies Yard is a well established run organic food co-operative run by volunteers and aims to provide affordable organic food for everyone. They supply wholefoods, food by weight as well as local fresh produce.
Many smaller producers find belonging to a co-operative a more successful and cost effective way of working.
What is a producer co-operative?
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 co-operative formed?
There are many different ways to form a cooperative. Many have a structured legal format and many work as a single company under a cooperative name. Somerset Local Food Direct ran as a producer co-operative and ceased trading in 2023.