Saturday, February 16, 2013
On my Facebook page, I posted that I ordered my first Bountiful Basket. This generated a lot of great comments and questions, and now that I've picked up my first basket, I'm happy to share the B.B. lowdown.
What is it?
Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op is a weekly food pick-up of primarily fruits and vegetables. Get the details on the B.B. website.
How does it work?
1) You sign up for an account on the Bountiful Baskets website.
2) At the "start time" of your state, you log into the website, click "Participate Now", select your state and location, and order a basket, paying on the website. North Dakota's start time is at noon on Mondays. As pick-up locations fill up, those location options close on the website. For example, this week, I've been told the Bismarck pick-up filled by 12:08 pm, the Mandan pick-up by 12:30, so basically you need to log in right at noon on Monday and place your order (unless you live near a less busy location). There are approx. 100 baskets per location. Click here for a list of current ND locations.
3) You then pick up your produce and other ordered items at the designated time and place later that week (my Mandan pick-up was Saturday at 1:45 pm). They will NOT hold it for you if you forget to pick up. Also, you do NOT have to order every week; you choose when you order, and you pay per order.
How much does it cost?
Aside from the $3 first time user fee, my "basket" cost $16 (or maybe it was $16.50). There is an organic basket option for an additional $10. Using my unscientific "this is what I think I usually pay for this" method of calculating retail price, my retail estimate for my basket came to $28.50.
What do you get?
You never know what exactly you'll get in your basket; it changes every week, and according to people in line, sometimes you get crazy stuff like yuzu fruit, but typically it's your more traditional fare, always 1/2 fruit, 1/2 veg. Here's what I got this week:
5 lb. bag of yukon gold potatoes
1 head iceberg lettuce
1 large bunch broccoli
4 green peppers
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 bunch spinach
You also have the option of adding bread, granola, coconut oil, flats of oranges, and other seemingly random items to your order on the website. Being more of a seasonal eater, I don't typically purchase cherry tomatoes in the winter, I'm not an iceberg lettuce eater, and in general I try to minimize my tropical fruit consumption, so I can't say I'd typically purchase all these items, but there is certainly some variety here.
How's the quality?
Very good - everything seemed fresh. The bananas, avocados and pineapple were underripe, which is how they are typically transported, so it seems like everything came right off the truck. Certainly nothing seemed moldy or past its prime.
Is the produce local?
Hell no. Not all the produce was labeled, but the items that were came from the U.S. and Mexico. Actually, most of it seemed to come from Mexico. Plus, I don't think the co-op's distribution system really allows for locally procured items. For example, I don't see how one small farmer's North Dakota potatoes could get in the distribution cycle. It seems to be the same items from a supermarket distribution route, but where exactly it comes from, I do not know. A woman I spoke to in line said it started in Washington state and the produce comes direct from farms, cutting out the middleman. But we're talking about the enormous corporate farms of California and Mexico; certainly not Ma and Pa farms.
What happens at the pick-up?
You must go to the designated location at the designated time. Look for a bunch of mini-vans and women holding empty laundry baskets - that's your pick-up spot. In addition to something to carry the produce, you must bring the order# that you get when you place your order online - you may not be able to pick up if you aren't able to verify your order#. The volunteers verify what you ordered, then hand you a couple baskets of produce, which you then transfer to your own basket. That's it.
So Beth, what's your personal opinion of the whole thing?
Well, so glad you asked. I think it's a good thing. Good quality food for a good price. Yes, it sucks that it's not local, and in an ideal world, we would all join an organic CSA and have backyard gardens - and I, for one, will definitely be keeping my CSA share and backyard garden. However, I also believe that a family who has more produce in the home will eat more produce, local or otherwise, and that is always a good thing. There were all ages and sizes of people there - heavy people, lean people, small children, teenagers, yuppie types, elderly, etc, and standing in line, it was cool to observe people carrying all these colorful veggies out, seeing a small child be excited about broccoli, or a large woman carrying a flat of oranges. It's not local, but it's also not McNuggets.
Also, I see this as an especially good option for rural communities. I have a dear cousin in Baker, MT (hi Amber!) who has been a loyal B.B. customer for quite awhile and loves the fact that she can get a good variety of good produce in what many people would consider "the middle of nowhere." There are many rural communities on the pick-up list, showing this as one way to eliminate rural North Dakota "food deserts" when it comes to nutritious fresh food.
So is Bountiful Baskets perfect? No. Is it a nice option? Yes. Can it co-exist with supermarkets, CSAs, local food co-ops, and backyard gardens? Absolutely.
I'd love to hear your comments on it as well. If you have any other questions, feel free to comment below or comment on my Facebook page.
Posted by Rhubarb and Venison at 4:27 PM