For a good while now, I’ve been trying to get hold of fresh produce that I could be absolutely sure is organically grown and ethically reared, with all the right kind of care taken not to use poisonous chemicals and sprays on their farms. It’s been quite an adventure but I think I may have found an answer, literally down the road from where I live and easily available online for everyone else: Ethical Co-op.
Formed in 2005 by a group of organic-conscious consumers, Ethical Co-Op is a hub that brings together produce sourced from smaller local farmers who farm in a biodynamic manner, who (where possible) use compostable packaging, and who work with suppliers to do the same. The co-op tries in every sense to ensure that all the goods on offer are organic, or what they call ‘ethically organic’, as many of the small farmers cannot afford the long and expensive certification process but do still grow according to the organic standard.
With the Co-op having done all the hard work in the background, ordering from the various farms is as simple as filling your basket on their website. Once you’ve paid for your goods, you can choose to have them delivered to you by courier or collect them from specified collection points around Cape Town. Orders to the rest of the country are only available for dry goods.
Browsing through the site, you’ll discover an impressive range of dairy, fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, pet food, home care products, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, sweets and personal care items. The process is incredibly simple and one EFT payment later and you’re done. With all this in mind, we decided to order a test basket with a sample of goods to see how the whole system worked and whether the organic difference would come through in quality and taste. We were pleasantly surprised on all fronts, including:
- As far as convenience goes, one of the drop-off points on offer is a few doors down from us so I didn’t need to use more than a drop of petrol to collect my goods – far less than what it would take to get to a supermarket to find just a fraction of this range of products, never mind the quality.
- Everything was already packed for us in a cardboard box (which is returnable) with the fresh goods stored temporarily in a cooler box, crisp and cold.
- The lovely lady who operates the drop-off point from her home was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, warm and welcoming. This is how humans must have felt when bartering in times of old. The personal handing over of food from one to another is a very special transaction when treated with this type of care.
- So far so good. Unpacking the box at home, I was struck by the fact that the fresh herbs were still so fresh without all the condensation in the packets that you see in supermarkets and I could smell those herbs right away.
- The onions still had their green tops on them and a bit of farm soil still attached!
- The fruit was lovely, large, bright and fresh. I haven’t seen lemons this size in decades.
- The raw (unpasteurised) milk tastes just like the milk that I remember drinking when growing up. More yellow than white, it’s creamy and delicious. Nothing like the ‘full cream’ varieties in supermarket freezers. Every sip leaves a rich, silky feeling in your mouth and already a million things are going through my head of what to make using this bit of heaven.
Besides it being the most painless shopping I’ve had to do in a long while, the end results make any amount of effort worthwhile. The products speak for themselves in their quality, freshness and genuine flavours. It’s commendable and exciting that in 2013 there are groups of people who care enough about nature, animals, food and their fellow man that they’d not only go to the trouble of putting this all together, but also support it through regular weekly purchases.
We’re delighted to have had our first encounter with this rewarding initiative and look forward to many more orders to come. If you’re already an Ethical Co-op customer or become one in the future, let us know about your experiences in the comments below.