Good evening, friends! I am so happy you have taken this journey with me. I’m not sure what the future holds for our Little Red Farm Stand food group, but these are some observations I have made:
Our beef from 529 Meats was great!!!
Our 2nd beef buy, left something to be desired. Because the meat from the calf came in at 100 pounds less than what we were promised by the supplier, I ended up losing $100 personally (the calf cost $100 more than what you guys paid when you picked your orders up) and did not receive any of the meat myself. The order itself was incorrectly processed. We ended up with cuts that we didn’t order and were missing some of the cuts that we ordered. One food club member let me know that one of her cuts wasn’t what was labeled on the outside wrapper. Two other members stated that their meat had a bad taste (not that the meat had gone bad, but it did have a strong, gamey, cow-y taste). I have heard from several others that their meat is fine. I’m not sure what the problem was.
I am enjoying the organic spices we have ordered.
The organic bulk goods buys were problematic due to delays in pick-up. The rice we received both times had bugs in them and pick up delays made it so that I could not return the rice (Anyone want buggy rice? I still have 25 pounds of it in my freezer and even my chickens said, “PASS!” Preppers tell me that you can boil it and the bugs will float to top so that you can skim them out to save for a low-protein day).
All things considered, I have been satisfied with the produce we have purchased from Peralta Farms. There have been a couple of times that potatoes seemed old or that my squash only lasted a day, but, for the most part, quality has been good.
I love the eggs from our supplier in Nixon!
We are continuing to have trouble obtaining GMO/Soy Free eggs. These are expensive eggs to produce! My understanding is that due to feed costs, our suppliers break even and don’t make any money off of them. These eggs are simply a labor of love and conviction.
Lessons I have personally learned:
I spend at least 45 minutes inside of River City Produce each time I pick up an order. My kids “patiently” wait in the van during this time.
River City Produce is unpredictable. I hope to figure out the pattern to their unpredictability. 🙂
Our contacts at Peralta Farms give us prices that can’t be matched! Although the quality of the items has occasionally not been what I would have liked, the prices make up for it.
Produce wilts super fast in this hot Texas sun!
I. HATE. FLIES. There are at least 30 flies in my house at the end of produce day. Yuck! Today, we bought 2 Venus fly traps to help inside and lemongrass plants and citronella to plant outside.
Last, a recap of our Little Red Farm Stand Journey:
Several months ago, a friend suggested I consider starting a produce co op. I wasn’t too sure of the idea at first (what mom really has the time to take on something extra?!), but once I got started I was in my zone! I realized that the previous years I had spent buying healthy food items for my family paid off with many contacts that benefited our group.
After a couple of months I figured out that the time and money I spent running the group was exceeding what I initially thought it would. In other words, although I was receiving some extra items because items never came to us in exact case amounts (a 25 lb. case might actually be 28 lb. or it might be 23 lb.), I was still paying for all of my own produce and contributing some of my own gas to go pick up items. During food co op weeks, I drove to San Antonio once or twice to pick up produce (depending on whether I was using one or two suppliers) and to Stockdale to pick up eggs. If there were extra items ordered, I made trips to San Antonio to pick up beef, salt, bulk dry goods, and picked up our spice orders in La Vernia.
To more fairly distribute the expenses shared within the group, instead of order fees, I started marking up items a uniform percentage. By doing this, those of us that ordered more contributed more towards gas and expenses; those of us that ordered less, contributed less. I had to play with the percentages over a few order cycles to figure out what worked.
Finally, I decided that it would be nice if at least some of my produce, if not all, was paid for by the group in exchange for the time I spent organizing the buys, communicating with members, and collecting payments. I love working with people, organizing buys, and even enjoy handling all the yummy produce. But, I also realized that none of us has that kind of time to “donate” to the running of the group. If my personal produce were free, it would justify the amount of time I was spending putting it all together. Enter, the Little Red Farm Stand and the blog. The biggest plus for the blog was that communicating with members would be simplified now because the blog automatically generated emails to all our members that signed up.
Unfortunately, since switching to the blog and increasing prices so that my produce is closer to being free, our orders have slowly dwindled. Members have left one by one. At the end of Part 1 of our order this cycle, we didn’t have enough orders to get the items we need from River City Produce. I understand that River City Produce’s prices are higher, but, with it being so hot here in South Texas, River City is our only option for greens (lettuce, spinach, kale) and carrots. The plus side of ordering from River City is that we now have access to other items that aren’t locally grown, such as apples, plums, etc.
I checked our order form a few minutes ago and even the Part 2 orders for Peralta Farms aren’t sufficient to place an order. We can skip this week’s order and try again in 2 weeks, but I worry that our numbers have become so few that there won’t be enough of us left to offer enough variety to make a food group worth it for any of us.
In my experience, in order for a food co op to be successful, we need 15-25 group members that order so that we have a good variety of items to choose from and we have enough orders for full cases. We were below 20 members the last order cycle and it looks like there will be even fewer orders this time.
What comes next? In order to figure that answer out, I need input. We could go the way of Bountiful Baskets and create baskets where everyone receives the same things and pays a certain amount. That is significantly easier and takes much less time than what we are doing now. The down side is that I will have to work in groups of 12. This means there would have to be 12 baskets ordered or 24 baskets ordered, nothing in between (this is due to how the cases of produce are sized). A second possibility is that I could work with a few of you that are here local and split cases between us once a month. Or, we can all go our merry ways and go back to shopping at HEB and the specialty stores in San Antonio.
What do I want to do? I would like to go on running the group and ordering produce in bulk. My family enjoys the produce and we eat so much more of it when buying this way. I have made many new friends that have similar healthy eating interests. Because of running the group I was finally able to kick my sugar/soda habit (I was uncomfortable encouraging healthy eating, yet continuing to have that bad habit myself).
This gives us all a lot to think about. Go ahead and place your orders today. Most importantly, please leave me feedback in the comments below so that we know which direction to take or changes to make in the future. We have received very little feedback in the past, other than “everything’s going great”. I would like to know what needs to change to benefit everyone so that we can get orders back up and don’t continue to decrease.
Much love, Darlene