Frequently Asked Questions
This page is designed to answer general questions new visitors may have about our co-op. Registered co-op members who have specific questions about ordering, payment, or concerns related to the store pages should see the Customer Handbook. Note that access to the Customer Handbook requires member login.
- What is your definition of local food?
- Why eat local food?
- How is Mass Local Food Co-op different from a traditional food co-op?
- How is Mass Local Food Co-op different from a CSA?
- Do I have to either join the co-op or login before I’m able to browse your products?
- Is fresh produce available?
- Do I have to place an order every month?
- Can I buy either raw or homogenized milk through the co-op?
- Can you explain the home delivery option? Do you charge a fee for this service?
- Do you offer financial assistance?
If you have additional questions that you do not see listed here, please feel free to drop us a line.
What is your definition of local food?
A There is no single definition of local food—consumers choose among multiple definitions, depending on their perspective. Some definitions include:
Food grown in the consumer’s county or neighboring county
Food grown in the consumer’s state
Food grown within 100 miles of home
Food grown within a day’s driving distance of home (which can amount to several hundred miles or more for some consumers)
Food grown near a commercial processing plant, then shipped to grocery stores hundreds of miles away. This is how numerous corporate food companies define and brand local food.
Mass Local Food Co-op’s mission aligns with the second definition. Farmers and producers from anywhere in Massachusetts are welcome to join the co-op.
Q Why eat local food?
A The short answer is that local food is simply fresher and tastes better! Most people, however, seek out local food for a variety of additional reasons:
Local foods are generally more nutritious because they are sustainably farmed and have traveled fewer food miles. (Food miles are the distance foods travel from their place of origin to your dinner table. The greater the distance, the greater the use of oil for transportation, and thus the production of greenhouse gases.)
People want to find alternatives to the industrial food system; they want to know not only where their food comes from, but also who is growing it and whether it is sustainably grown and processed.
Many are concerned about the inhumane treatment of animals in factory farms and want to find farmers who have an ethical approach to raising and processing their food animals.
The desire for local food security motivates some to help create local markets for small farms. By doing so, we lessen our dependence on other regions of the country and the world for our food.
Many are concerned about the environment and global warming and want to find sources of food that have a smaller carbon footprint.
Finally, in these times of economic challenge, many people want to spend their food dollars locally to ensure that the communities they live in and love continue to thrive.
We recommend that you also see 10 Good Reasons to Buy Locally Grown, published by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
Q How is Mass Local Food Co-op different from a traditional food co-op?
A Our online shopping cart and delivery system are our greatest distinction! We connect consumers and producers through an online marketplace.
Mass Local Food Co-op is not a storefront co-op that operates like a retail store. Storefront co-ops are often open to the public, and many offer product “discounts”—that is, you don’t have to pay the retail markup—if you buy a membership.
Likewise we are not a buying club, a group of families or individuals who combines their orders and purchases in bulk from a co-op distributor. Members of buying clubs are required to pitch in with sorting orders when the food is delivered or some other task.
Mass Local Food Co-op does, however, share many characteristics with most traditional food co-ops:
We are a collectively owned, socially responsible co-operative that makes locally grown and produced foods and other products available to our members.
The management and governance roles of the co-op are shared.
Our Board of Directors, committee members, pickup site organizers, and other workers are all volunteers.
Q How is Mass Local Food Co-op different from a CSA?
A When people join a traditional CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), they buy a “share” from a local farm, and then once a week throughout the farming season they receive a box or bag of fresh produce. No additional financial transaction or purchase is required during the season.
Every year the farm announces how many shares are available, which often cost several hundred dollars per member family. Usually CSA members get an equal portion of whatever the farm workers pick that week; members do not select specific items or quantities. Some farms also offer winter shares featuring produce that can be stored for many weeks during the winter.
Mass Local Food Co-op is different, because
We feature many farmers and food producers and list a variety of foods and other products year-round.
You are not required to buy seasonal shares each year. Our one-time, fully refundable membership fee of $50 comprises one share in the co-op.
Once a month you order whatever items you want, in whatever amounts you want, and pay for the goods on Distribution Day.
You can order as frequently or infrequently as you want—monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, whatever—year-round, for as long as you are a member of the co-op.
One share also entitles the member family to one vote in each co-op-wide election we have.
Q Do I have to either join the co-op or login before I’m able to browse your products?
A No—on the Shop main page, simply click on any of the links below the Browse Products bar in the green side panel. You will see the same list of products that our members see, but without the shopping cart feature.
Q Is fresh produce available?
A At the time each month when our farmers are required to list their products in our store, it’s difficult for them to predict what and how much fresh produce they will have available on Distribution Day. Therefore the amount and variety of produce we list varies. We are able to list, in their season, things like squash, pears, potatoes, apples, and other produce that keeps longer with proper storage. However the availability of items that perish within a week or two, like salad greens, is much harder to predict.
Our search for ways to make fresh produce more readily available is ongoing, and we welcome any thoughts or ideas you may have.
Q Do I have to place an order every month?
A No—you are free to order as frequently or infrequently as you want, year-round, for as long as you are a member of the co-op.
Q Can I buy either raw or homogenized milk through the co-op?
A We would like nothing more than to list raw milk. Unfortunately, USDA guidelines prohibit the sale of raw milk by any other means than a farm-gate sale. Farm-gate sales occur when consumers buy products directly from the farmer or producer at the farm location. Because a dairy farmer (or any other person) cannot legally transport raw milk to the consumer, the consumer must go to the farm to purchase it.
Some people have paid membership into buying clubs, whereby a designated member drives a refrigerated truck to a farm, purchases raw milk for everyone else in the club, then delivers the milk to a pickup location. As of this writing (May 2010), however, the state is trying to limit this activity.
Certain USDA regulations prohibit us from listing even homogenized milk until we can meet the mandated requirements of refrigeration. One of our goals is to purchase a refrigerated truck, which will allow us to list homogenized milk.
Q Can you explain the home delivery option? Do you charge a fee for this service?
A We offer home delivery to shut-in members who would otherwise be unable to join the co-op because of their inability to get to a pickup site. We ask people who take advantage of this service to pay a small fee to cover the drivers’ expenses. Because volunteer drivers make this service possible, our ability to offer the service to you depends on whether there is a volunteer driver in your area.
If you are either interested in or in need of home delivery, or if you would like to be a volunteer driver for shut-ins in your town, please let us know.
Q Do you offer financial assistance?
A If it is difficult for you to pay the one-time, fully refundable membership fee of $50 in full at the time you join the co-op, we can arrange a payment plan. Simply send a note to Kelley O’Connor.
In addition, we have a small fund to help with the following needs:
Membership Support, for those who want to join the co-op, but are unable to pay the membership fee
Food Pantry, to allow food pantry patrons to obtain food items from the co-op
Home Delivery Service, for shut-ins who are unable to pay driver expenses
This fund is made possible by the generous contributions of co-op members who choose to make a charitable donation when they place an order. If you are in need, please contact Kelley O’Connor for more information.
News and Alerts (Feb/Mar)
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day locally
Mass Local Food producers have all you need for corned beef and tasty leftovers. Check out the Shop page for suggestions.
Welcome University of Massachusetts Medical School
The latest Mass Local Food pick-up site in Worcester opens this month.
A local gift that keeps on giving
For that special locavore, how about a gift certificate for membership in Mass Local Food? You can find gift certificates on your order form. We will include the certificate with your order and the cost will be added to your invoice.