Starting a Simplified Co-op with Free Range Eggs

The more I knuckle down into living a more sustainable, low impact life the more I realise how large corporations and businesses aren’t as sustainable as I would hope. Did you know that in Australia, at least two of the largest supermarkets have the duopoly on all areas of grocery shopping, but they also own the largest number of liquor outlets, pokies, shopping centres, hardware stores and discount retailing stores?

This breadth of mass corporate ownership of our everyday living pushes me to supporting more locally owned and operated businesses. Going smaller than that, I’ve started my own simplified co-op initiative with my friends, where there’s something in it for everyone. For me it starts with eggs.

A Friends-Only Co-operative

I heard about The Local Yolk at the end of last year. A locally owned business delivering to the peeps of Lake Macquarie, Hunter and the Central Coast. There is no middle man – just the farmer and I! And the farmer is only 40kms away, which already means I’ve reduced the food travel miles of these eggs.

Each week, The Local Yolk delivers a whole box of locally raised, fresh, free range eggs at wholesale prices – way cheaper than I pay in the large supermarkets. One box is the equivalent of 15 dozen eggs – there’s a limit to how many quiches, pavlovas, lemon butter and bacon and egg rolls I can make! I asked my local friends to join in the bulk buying power to purchase at least a box each week.

Rather than buy a box with 15 actual cartons of eggs, I now order the catering pack, which includes the same number of eggs but on flat egg trays. Buying like this also means there are no additional labels and the eggs are packed in neutral coloured cardboard egg trays. Friends BYO their previously used cardboard egg cartons. Even though they’re made of plastic, sturdy reusable egg cartons are a great option for travelling, unplanned breakages and keeping your eggs in place. Surplus cardboard egg trays are ripped up and popped in our compost bin (choose your compost bin here) to break down .

My starting point for this little co-operative was the cheaper cost, the convenience of home delivery, supporting locally grown and choosing free range eggs. I recommend this as a very easy, low impact and achievable start to creating your own relaxed co-operative.

Working out the Best System

I have an egg call out on my messenger group each week. Based on the “yes-es”, I ascertain how many equivalent cartons are needed for the week’s delivery.

I’ve established a little “shop” on the front verandah which includes the box of eggs, a money collection box and paper to mark off names once the eggs are collected. Collecting eggs is more than a transaction – it’s a very genuine way of connecting with neighbours and my community who share the same passion.

Top Tips for Building Your Own Simplified Co-op

  • Having a largish group of friends who are committed to buying regularly makes a big difference. Ordering quantities vary each week, as it really depends upon people’s baking and egg usage for the upcoming week. It’s not possible to order a box of eggs without your group to share in the bulk purchase love.
  • People like to support local produce that’s also conveniently located close to their home. This tip is a big plus, as travelling within the neighbourhood has so many community, social and environmental benefits.
  • Selling frequently used and needed produce means friends and family will continue to support your simplified, informal co-operative.
  • One thing leads to the next – friends have brought their excess homegrown garden produce to share with others in the group. Homemade jams and chutney’s have been added to the list of local produce to buy. Now I am looking in to supporting my local beekeeper by selling their honey.

You Can Do It

Take a snippet of time to find out what produce you have available in your area – perhaps a home grown produce swap is your best start. Otherwise, consider supporting already established co-operative groups or community gardens. Co-operatives close to me in the Lake Macquarie/ Newcastle region are Beanstalk Organic Co-op and Belmont’s Habitat in Harmony Neighbourhood garden. They have absolutely fresh produce combined with the deeper social connections of supporting the co-op members and the community.

Next, I would like to chat to my local Sustainable Neighbourhood group to see if there is viability in becoming a co-operative in the area. Thorough information and resources for establishing a more formal co-operative can be found at Fair Trading NSW and Co-ops NSW.

Starting local is the ideal way to minimise your impact on the environment, reduce your food miles and become part of your sustainable living community. Take the time to find your own local passion – where will it take you?!

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