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Co-op a different way to buy food

40 families buy produce, meat, dairy and baked goods as a group to get wholesale prices

Friday, March 5, 2004

News Staff Reporter

Looking for an alternative to traditional grocery shopping?

There's an option right here in Livingston County.

The Brighton Food Co-op, created in 1981, delivers fresh produce, baked goods and meat every other week for the 40 member families. Members are from all parts of Livingston County and surrounding areas. Starting next week, they'll be doing their pick-ups at a new location, the Chilson Hills Baptist Church near the intersection of Chilson Road and Brighton Road.

For the past 12 years, the Father's House Church on Old US-23 and Hyne Road has been the distribution and pick-up site for the co-op, but the rent for the use of the recreational building was increasing.

"The advantage of being in the co-op is that we pay wholesale prices because we buy in quantity," said Cindy Damon, president of the Brighton Food Co-op. "The items available change according to season and specials that are being offered."

Besteman's from Grand Rapids provides the produce, which is seasonal and currently includes organic lettuce, red chard, avocados, oranges and apples.

Hebron, an Indiana-based company, provides milk, eggs and meat, which is hormone and antibiotic free. Michigan products such as honey and syrup are also brought in, as well as bread, pastry and cheese from Ed's Bread, Zingerman's and Rosewood Cheese in Ann Arbor.

Members also order items such as herbs, spices and soy products from catalogs such as Blooming Prairie, which is owned by United Natural Foods and includes many organic and healthy foods.

Every co-op member must help. Some members pick up foods, some participate in the distribution, and some work from home, like Jim Brown, who maintains the co-op's Web site.

"I started several food co-ops in Ann Arbor," Brown said, "and then I was part of Oats R Us, which was located in Hartland and has since dissolved.

"The people who stick with the co-op clearly enjoy the social interaction of a cooperative enterprise, the feeling of having more control over the distribution process, and the lively exchange of ideas about the impact that food and household products have on health. "

Members who participate in the distribution gather every two weeks, on Friday or Saturday, to dole out the goods. They divide the produce equally among members, stuffing the fresh fruits and vegetables into paper bags marked with members' names.

Specially ordered breads and other products are divided up separately. Additional foods are set up on an extra table for interested members and visitors, and include such items as cereals.

The co-op is run by a board made up of seven members. It costs $25 to join, and the annual dues are $10. The money pays for renting building space, shopping bags, paperwork and operating equipment. A subscription to the Blooming Prairie Catalog costs $8.50 per year.

For more information on the Brighton Food Co-op, go to the Web site at or call Terisa Tengler at (810) 229-2464.

Lisa Carolin can be reached at or (810) 844-2010.

© 2004 Ann Arbor News. Used with permission

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