Some local residents have found a way to side-step higher prices for organic produce by becoming members of a co-op. And for members willing to lend their time and garage space, a little work buys them produce, with an added bonus — home delivery.
An organic grocery store in your garage
Coordinators, as they are known at Purple Dragon Co-op, which supplies the fruit and veggies, play host to a pod of about 15 families who each buy a two-week supply of organic produce from Purple Dragon.
Through credits the coordinators earn by hosting bulk deliveries of food and for dividing them into 15 equal shares, they can keep from shelling out cash for their apples and eggplants and whatever else comes in the changing array of shares.
For about $50, members take home between 15 and 30 pounds of organic and ecologically grown produce. Shares are a mixed bag of what is in season and what Purple Dragon can get a good deal on. That "usually includes one weird thing," says host Robin Wallace of the Oceanport pod.
What's in a share?
This week that weird thing is multi-colored carrots. The rest of the share is more conventional fare: nectarines and peaches, sweet corn, mini green cabbage, celery, green kale, red leaf lettuce, parsley, frying peppers, heirloom tomatoes, Walla Walla (sweet) onions, cantaloupe and bananas.
Some of the produce, such as the nectarines and greens are from farms in New York. Other items make a longer trek, including cantaloupe from California and bananas from Peru. Each share is usually enough for a family of four for two weeks.
You can read more about Purple Dragon and how their co-ops work here.
Coordinators receive about $40 in credits toward their share. Currently Purple Dragon is looking for hosts/coordinators for Matawan and Freehold pods. The Matawan group needs a host to take over immediately and Freehold by the end of August.
Anyone interest in the job should contact Paula at Purple Dragon.
More information from Purple Dragon on becoming a coordinator:
Types of coordinators and compensation: You can be both a site host and an administrator for a $40 discount per delivery; or you can share the job with another member, and you will each receive a $20 discount per delivery. If the job is shared, administrative and host coordinators must communicate with each other on a regular basis to ensure that they are working with the same information.
Duties of an administrative coordinator ($20 discount):
Reach out to people in your area who contact the office for information about the co-op. (The office sends information packets, but inquirers may need additional details about how your pod works.)
- Keep a list of current members, including full contact information. Email the office and your co-coordinator (if you share the job) whenever there is a change in group membership.
- Maintain a full group (15 members) by immediately filling open spots.
- Keep a list of ex-members, new inquirers, and wait-listers to be called as subs or to fill open spots.
- Keep track of requests for extra shares (beyond 15) or fruit shares, and submitt house numbers to the office by the deadline before each delivery.
- Collect pre-payments from all group members two weeks before each delivery,and keep a clear record of payments.
- Deposit member payments in your account, and pay for the delivery by giving thedriver a check on delivery day or mailing it to the office well before delivery day.
- Appoint designated divider(s) (paid $30); or create a dividing schedule if the responsibility will rotate among members.
- Keep track of quality issues reported by members and check with others to see if they had similar problems. Immediately report to the office for the entire group.
- Communicate with members – answer questions, send delivery reminders, and notify them of upcoming changes in delivery procedures.
Duties of a host coordinator ($20 discount):
- Provide a suitable site – a porch, garage, basement, etc. – that is clean, secure, and large enough. It should be accessible to a delivery van and members.
- Provide equipment for sorting: a scale, table, clipboard and pen, knife andchopping board, plastic wrap, small bags/containers, and grocery bags (or members can bring their own large containers and donate or share the cost ofsmaller containers.)
- If you are available on delivery days, double check the order as it is unloaded.
- If you are available on delivery days, answer any questions members may have (or refer them to the office).
- On delivery days, serve as a point of contact between the office and groupmembers.
- Contact group members if the office notifies you of last-minute delivery changes– e.g., due to inclement weather or a truck breaking down.
- Contact the office for immediate support if any issue arises – e.g., missing items,extra items, or shares not picked up.
Every coordinator agrees to:
- Designate a backup coordinator.
- Represent Purple dragon in a positive manner at all times.
- Complete a 12-month term of contract, which will renew automatically.
- Notify the office of any intent to retire at least 3 months prior to the contract’send.
- Upon retiring, assist with the transition to a new coordinator.