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About 40 years ago a legendary hippie named Steve Gold was instrumental in starting food coops in Tucson, and later on Mt Lemmon (a mountain neighbor to Tucson). I was a founding member of both. The coop on Mt Lemmon flourished and died after a few seasons, but was good while it lasted. The Food Conspiracy is still alive today, although in an altered form. I am a member of that coop, which operates as a well stocked health food store downtown. I shop there when I am down there, but have been avoiding the place while they build our streetcar line. Eternal construction is jamming the area. Eventually I will be a happy shopper directly connected to this fun transportation option, but all of us have had to deal with a favorite part of our city being “revitalized” through massive construction.
In the first months of the Food Conspiracy, about 1970, we met in an alley with baby scales and weighed out wheat berries and the like which we purchased as a group. Steve pulled up in a pick up truck, and we did our distribution behind the store that is on 4th Avenue today on the bed of the truck. We didn’t even have a table. We became popular enough to rent the building for storage, later opening as a store. We all had to work from the beginning, but after the store opened, non members were allowed to shop, and years passed, the IRS eventually intervened to make the “coop” part a big taxation problem. I am happy the business has survived and serves the population interested in organic health food.
As a consumer I have a nearly obsessive desire to spend my money as close to my home as possible. ”Keep the money in the ‘hood” is my motto. This practice flows from a conscious desire to support the people who own businesses near me. I want my immediate area to thrive and stay vibrant. I think I inherited this from the Swiss. I have spent lots of time with them and admire the way they make provincialism a good thing. I drive very little, loving to find everything I need and want without spending time in my car. I have become very proficient at internet shopping, which is a blast to me. Delivery suits me perfectly. Imagine my thrill when I learned that a food coop was making deliveries very close to home. Yesterday was my first day as a member of Bountiful Baskets Coop.
It is run as a true coop, with the help of the internet. Now it is easy to track orders and account for everything. My first impression is excellent. I paid extra to upgrade to an organic surprise produce box, and bought a couple of extras. In the extra category the bread and the fajita packages were of excellent freshness and quality, and the 20 pound box of tomatoes arrived at a perfect ripeness. I do like everything in my produce box, and think the freshness is pretty good. I normally do not buy iceberg lettuce, but this is a chance for me to knock off P F Chang. The coop sends out an instructional e mail about shopping, making sure you use all your produce, and shifting your family diet to a more plant based selection. The emphasis in the educational materials is on saving money, therefore it stresses new shopping habits and mindful planning. I could not be more thrilled to have this new food option. I like everything about it. The surprise is even fun for a person who is crazy about reading recipes. The best part is that I prepay, show up and instantly leave with my boxes and bags, organized and perfect. The meeting spot is in a parking lot of a school, not so unlike our back alley, but so much more high tech. I simply bring my confirmation number from the e mail I receive as a receipt, and off I go with my food. I am in the mood for fall now as I roast my veggies and fill the house with aromas of fresh vegetables. If you live in the area in which they operate I highly recommend this organization. The value is outstanding. It is easy to evaluate and feel good if you regularly shop for food in grocery stores. The value pendulum has swung back in my direction, and I could not be more pleased. This is the most pleasant of flashbacks…..a food conspiracy indeed, about 2 miles from my house.
Brilliant, Pam! I love stories and this is a good one. Local is best! And “local from c.1970″ is a story I know very little about.