Three years ago Julia Ferguson agreed to help a friend from Carlsbad who was interested in bringing a food co-op to the area. What began as an offer to help has turned into a weekly staple for many Artesians.
“My friend from Carlsbad had heard about Bountiful Baskets and she wanted me to help her start one in Carlsbad,” Julia shared. “They had a site running in Portales, so we went and participated to make sure it was really something we wanted to put our effort into.”
“We loved it!” she continued. “So she decided to start one in Carlsbad and I decided, after talking to many people in our area and realizing there was interest here, too, to start one in Artesia, rather than just helping her start one in Carlsbad.”
Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op whereby participants contribute money each week, fresh fruits and vegetables are then purchased in bulk, and the goods are delivered to participating sites throughout the country.
In order for Julia and her friend to start new sites in this area, they first had to volunteer at an already established site three separate times. By then, Roswell had jumped on the Bountiful Baskets bandwagon, so the women were able to volunteer a little closer to home. For the first of their three sessions, the ladies worked as volunteers only. The second time, they shadowed a site coordinator, and the third time, they were required to coordinate the site on their own. After completing those requirements, Julia then collected 50 email addresses of people in Artesia who had expressed an interest in participating in Bountiful Baskets and submitted the information to Bountiful Baskets Food Services. “It took a couple of months, [but] once they were able to fit our groups onto the truck, they started in Artesia and Carlsbad pretty close to the same time,” she recalled.
Since then, hundreds of residents have benefited from the fresh fruits and vegetables as well as the other add-on items Bountiful Baskets offers, such as organic granola, multigrain breads, flavored wraps and even cases of seasonal fruits like strawberries and peaches.
Suzanne Pearson is a loyal participant who enjoys being able to try new and different fruits and vegetables with each new bounty. “Bountiful Baskets is a great deal, not only monetarily, but the products are amazing,” she proclaimed. “Everything we’ve received has been so fresh and delicious.”
“Participating is really easy,” Julia declared. “Participants just need to go online and order by Monday or Tuesday each week, and then they can pick up their baskets on Saturday.”
According to the co-op’s website, each basket is comprised of approximately 50% fruit and 50% vegetables. The fruits and veggies are grown by farmers in the Southwest – with the green chilies coming from New Mexico – and then purchased by a company called Kodiac, which takes the produce back to a warehouse in Arizona. At the warehouse, the produce is divvied up and loaded onto trucks for distribution to coordinating sites across the country. Kodiac purchases as much produce as possible with the week’s contributions, which means the more people that contribute, the more money there is to purchase food and in essence, the larger the amount of produce in each basket. “Instead of selling to a grocery store, they (Kodiac) put the produce on a truck to go to the site locations,” Julia explained. “It cuts out the middle man, and that’s how we are able to get the baskets for such a low price.” They do have a fuel surcharge, which in New Mexico is around $2.75 but can be a bit higher for places further away from the Arizona warehouse.
“What I love about it is that my family tries things that I wouldn’t even think to try,” Julia confessed. ”Things like celery root! You find out you like things you didn’t know you liked, and it’s always fun to try out new recipes with those items.” One such recipe that has become a hit at the Ferguson household is Celery Root Soup, which Julia compares to a hearty potato soup. “It tasted like it had bacon in it but it didn’t!” she quipped. Her daughter even discovered she likes artichokes because they were in the basket one time.
Julia, a mother of six, confided that her family started out purchasing one basket a week and was barely able to finish it. Now she says they have all come to love fresh fruits and vegetables so much that their large family has no problems polishing off two baskets a week.
For smaller families or families who don’t consume quite as many vegetables, here’s a tip for the weeks when the veggies are still sitting around by week’s end. On Fridays, Julia revealed she will often take all of the vegetables she has left, toss them in some oil, sprinkle them with ranch seasoning or other spices, and then roast them all together. “It is delicious!” she beamed.
To purchase a Bountiful Basket, visit bountifulbaskets.org. Participants must order by 10 p.m. Tuesday to receive a basket the following Saturday. The pick-up location is the old CVE building at 13th Street and Richey Avenue, and times are 10:45 a.m. on “A” weeks and 10 a.m. on “B” weeks. The reason for the alternating times, Julia explained, is that some locations only offer pick-ups every other week, so on those weeks the trucks have fewer stops and arrive earlier. Participants are asked to volunteer an hour of their time once for every six orders. To volunteer, simply show up an hour before the scheduled pick-up times, and children are always welcome. “Kids can help out, too,” Julia added. “They can smash boxes or help carry baskets out to cars. It’s a great way to get them involved in volunteering.”
Along with the health benefits, Julia suggested volunteering and participating with Bountiful Baskets is a great way to socialize and make friends as well. “I’ve met so many people who otherwise our paths might have never crossed,” she reasoned. “Volunteers are always so nice and helpful. I just really enjoy it.”
FAQs for Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op
It’s my first time participating. Any do’s or don’ts?
• Bring something to carry your produce home in
• Bring your contribution confirmation (aka receipt)
• Make sure you get all your items before leaving
• Gently transfer your produce to your own container to carry home
• Hesitate to ask questions
• Hesitate to find out how other people cook items you are unfamiliar with
• Hesitate to find out how to get a Bountiful Baskets site in your community from the Volunteer Site Coordinator
So no hesitating. Jump right in and get involved!
How do I know what is in each Bountiful Basket?
Each week, different items will be in the Bountiful Basket. We base the basket contents on what is in season, is of high quality, is a good value and is local. We generally have six fruit items and six vegetable items.
How do I know the produce is safe to eat?
The produce is chosen by us, and we feed it to our families, too! It is the same produce you get from your local grocery store. If there is ever a recall, we would be notified immediately, and because we have records of exactly who received baskets, you would have better notification than if you purchased at a grocery store. As always, you need to wash the produce properly and keep it refrigerated if appropriate.
What happens if I don’t pick up my Bountiful Basket?
Your Bountiful Basket will be donated to a local fire station that provides service to your community.
How do I volunteer?
To volunteer, just arrive an hour early at your pickup site.
What if I forgot to make my contribution online?
Can I buy a Bountiful Basket at the site? No, this is a co-op. We take the pool of money that has been contributed for each site and spend it all. There are only enough baskets at a site for the people who contributed in advance.
For more information about Bountiful Baskets, or to view more FAQs, visit bountifulbaskets.org.
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