Buying clubs are a solution to the failures within the food industry; they give us this choice without disrupting anyone else’s choices in food.

Buying clubs can transform our food systems. We all know that our food system is deeply flawed. Between food waste, chemical agriculture, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and the current obesity and diabetic health crises in the US, several arrows point to our food system as the main culprit. Today, I can serve my family sugar-laden junk food three meals per day, but I cannot easily buy food from local sources of my choice.  With liquor stores and fast food joints on every corner, we should have access to farm fresh food just as frequently. Furthermore, our food system should allow us to support our local economy, environment, and farmer through our food market.

As our food system has developed over the years, it has sought “efficiency” in production and convenience for the consumer. As a result, we have the opportunity to get a wide variety of foods from farms around the world. But what is the quality of that food? Much of the food consumed in America comes from large farms producing through the industrial system.

Above all, we want choices in what we eat. More than ever, we want the option to support biodiverse farmers in our regions. There are many ways of doing this. One of these ways is through a buying club.

An example of the food choices available through a buying club. Milk, meats, veggies, eggs.

Buying clubs shift the food system back to local, sustainable farms. For that reason, they empower consumers to make better choices.

Health, environment, farm animals, humans in the food industry–all are affected by our food choices. By supporting community-based buying clubs, we create an alternative system–one that honors the farmers position in the community. We cultivate a system that considers the animal’s quality of life. We endorse farming practices that take human rights seriously. And we show that we cherish our world by nourishing the ecosystems that keep us alive. The best part is that we can do all of this as we connect with our community and improve our own lives.

Cows graze on pasture at a diverse farm.

What is a Buying Club?

Of all the ways to get local foods or foods direct from producers, buying clubs are my favorite. The term “buying club” refers to a broad set of structured farm-to-consumer buying models. There is no “one size fits all.” The models are easily adjustable to meet the needs of the community each individual club serves. In all cases, this includes the farmers/producers and the buyers. The idea is simple: buying directly from a farmer reduces the price for consumers, while providing access to the freshest, best, and hard-to-find ingredients or artisan foods. For the farmers, they receive retail prices and get to cultivate relationships with their final consumers. The buying club model is growing exponentially in the US and Canada.

Why Buying Clubs?

  • Provides you maximum flexibility and convenience. Predictably, the modern farmers’ market model does not meet the needs of many farmers or many consumers. Buying clubs offer an alternative to farmers markets, CSA’s, and retails stores. It is perfect because different people in different places have different needs. Local pick-up locations (or in some cases door-to-door deliveries) make it easy for busy families.
  • Gives you options. These arrangements give customers food chocies that are not otherwise available to them through common channels. For instance, if the club orders a wide variety, members get the opportunity to try new, healthy foods.
  • Stabilizes income for farmers. Producers are able to sell their products at fair prices. They don’t depend on costly intermediaries that can only offer low wholesale prices, or even refuse to work with those deemed “too small”. This allows small farmers to have stable income – and keeps them farming the land.
  • Builds community through networking and collaboration. Consumers searching for local foods are likely to find a buying club in their area. They establish relationships with the producers as well as other members centered on mutual interests in clean, healthy food.
  • Empowers you to take back the food system. You can support access to fresh, nutrient-rich food and healthy eating while reducing community food insecurity.
  • Creates sustainable and responsible solutions. It is a sustainable venture, not only economically, but environmentally. By supporting ecological farmers, you are supporting a return to healthy ecosystems. Direct purchases and short-distance transport require less packaging and less fossil fuel consumption which is good for all of us and the environment.

And finally – they are fun!

Buying clubs are a community-driven and healthy option for obtaining food. This new model puts an emphasis on quality of food and the relationship between the farmer and consumer. Ultimately, as our communities face overdevelopment, we must find better ways to support our farmers to keep them on the land. This model offers that while further promoting health, quality, and consumer choice and convenience. It’s a win-win for everyone and a delicious way to make our food systems (and hence ecosystems) resilient.

Cows coming in to be milked in the winter

Liz Reitzig

Food is the Foundation of Liberty. Nourishing Liberty is where we plant seeds for ideas to grow and flourish A place to be inspired by each other, to join together in peaceful activism, to build community.

Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.
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