What is an Urban Pickup Cooperative?

Involving Urban Members in CSA, The Pickup Cooperative Model By Sue Andersen, former farmer of Good Earth CSA in Westborough, Mass.

An urban pickup cooperative is a group of people who join together by agreement to take turns sharing the responsibility of picking up vegetables from the farm site in Westborough and returning them to a dropoff locale in their own neighborhood.

For shareholders interested in joining a pickup co-op who are not already a member of one, please send an email to the farm with your phone number and email address to: farmer (at) heirloomharvestcsa.com. The information will only be made available to others near you who are interested in forming a pickup co-op. The following was originally written to help farmers organize pickup co-ops, but it may be helpful to anyone who wishes to organize such a group in their neighborhood. – Heirloom Harvest

Advantages of pickup cooperatives:

  • A way to involve urban people without requiring the farmer to spend time driving vegetables into town.
  • Members get to the farm more often than in delivery CSAs, which creates a greater connection to the farm.
  • They are small, easy to organize, and easy to maintain.
  • They promote neighborhood-based community.

How pickup co-ops operate: Each group is made up of 10 to 12 shares. More than this number of shares won’t fit in small cars. Most shares are split between two households. Each week, a different household comes to the farm and picks up the veggies for everyone and takes them back to the group’s local pickup site, generally someone’s shady porch or garage. In the spring, the group has a meeting and sets the driving schedule, decides on a local pickup site and sets their internal rules: When the produce must be back and when people can pick them up at the site, how to pick up the shares (numbered canvas bags, plastic bags, etc.), whether to have a trading table, etc. Some groups plan a group volunteer day to perform their work commitment at the farm, and hold potlucks.

Basic things needed for a pickup co-op to function:

  • The people
  • Group administrator
  • Local pickup spot: shady porch, garage or basement
  • Members must take the responsibility seriously

Forming neighborhood-based* pickup co-op’s house party organizing approach: *Groups can also be workplace- or organization-based.

  1. Recruit a few people to join you in an urban member expansion campaign (e.g. star CSA members, dedicated friends with organizing skills).
  2. Set goals – number of pickup co-ops, general location of co-ops, diversity, timeframe for the campaign.
  3. With your committee, identify people who might be the foundation of new pickup co-ops.
  4. Meet in person with these people and ask them to help your committee to recruit people to attend a gathering at their house in which you’ll explain about the farm and how they could participate in the farm by forming a co-op.
  5. Organizing the meetings:
    • Make an invite list: Neighbors and friends of the person hosting the party, people committee members know who live in the area, people from the area who’ve contacted the farm.
    • Mail invites 3 weeks in advance. The meeting host can also go door-knocking in their neighborhood.
    • Do follow-up calls shortly after people receive the mailing
    • Do reminder calls 1-2 days before the meeting

6) Holding the meeting Incorporate the following:

  • Be sure to have some food and drink available.
  • Ask host to say why theyĆ­re excited about the farm
  • Explain the history and purpose of the farm, how the CSA works, how pick-up co-ops work
  • Answer questions
  • Put a big piece of paper on the wall and sign people up
  • Decide on a pickup day
  • Discuss possibilities for the pickup site
  • Collect payments, or agree on a date for payments or deposits to be sent
  • Schedule later meeting to do driving schedule and make other logistical plants

7) Follow-up meeting Allow at least 2 hours. Incorporate the following:

  • Introductions
  • History/purpose/vision of the farm/CSA
  • Determine/review where pickup site will be and how it will be organized (bulletin board for list of share items, etc.)
  • Review farm pickup routine
  • Make driving schedule (and decide if there will be reminder calls, what to do if someone needs to change their driving date mid-season, etc.)
  • Determine who will be the group’s administrator(s) and what their role is
  • Schedule any volunteer days or potlucks