Find fresh produce at these Chicago area co-ops.
For those unfamiliar with food co-ops, think of it like this: A co-op is like having a grocery store that you and your friends own, run, and manage. Food can be purchased for cost and divided amongst the members, and the focus is usually on local, organic or natural foods.
Chicago Honey Co-op
Operating since 2004, the Chicago Honey Co-op was the brainchild of three passionate urban beekeepers with an entirely sweet mission: to provide job training opportunities for the under-employed while operating a business dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices. Its 100-plus beehives are owned by its members, the fruits of which become locally-produced honey products like lip balm, candles, moisturizing bars and, of course, honey. Its goods are available at select shops and farmers markets.
Wicker Park Food Co-op
This Wicker Park organization has the first inkling of a start back in the mid-1990s, two members of an Edgewater co-op became tired of the commute and splintered off into the WPCO. The cash cost to join the WPCO is minimal, a $13 startup fee and $12 a year, but some effort is required here as well. Organizations take work to keep going, and as the website says, "If you are unable to do your share, please consider not joining." But then, the payoff of doing a little bookkeeping or fridge cleaning is bulk grocery prices and the co-op community.
South Suburban Food Co-op
It says it all in the name: south suburban Matteson and the co-op therein ensure that residents of the Tinley/Orland/Matteson area have access to affordable organic produce, gluten or wheat-free products, and vegan foods. Membership isn't required to stop in and check out the co-op, but a one-time visitors pass must be purchased. After that, you must purchase a membership for $50. Seniors receive further discounts, and yearly renewal fees are required. Members must volunteer two hours per month, or pay a $10 surcharge.
Dill Pickle Food Co-op
This long-anticipated Logan Square co-op finally opened in fall 2009. You can sign up to be a member by purchasing $50 in co-op stock a year for five years; members are allowed to purchase up to $500 in co-op stock and are encouraged to do that so the co-op can build equity. The focus, of course, is on affordable and high-quality organic and local produce.
Duck Soup Co-op
Despite Dekalb's location out in rural countryside, there's still a need for reasonably priced organics, cruelty-free products and other healthy foods. Duck Soup has helped fill that need since 1974. Membership is not required to shop the co-op, but members get percentages off special-order case purchases. There's a $25 refundable equity fee attached to your membership, and donating time to the store gets you further discounts up to 20 percent off; members even have the opportunity to sell approved craftwork.
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