the Whole Life Food Buying Club
Some of the local produce on display at the Whole Life Food Buying Club. On the shelves in the rear are packaged goods. The pickup point has no fancy trappings in order to keep overhead down, pay farmers a fair price and supply affordable food to members.

A food club differs from other food distribution models by being producer-centric. At the author’s club, the yearly goal is that 80 percent of the dollars spent by members get back to the producers. This makes the conventional system look like a killing field for farmers compared to getting into a local system that is cost- and scale-efficient, and effective.

Food clubs don’t have wide palatial paths in our pickup location and thousand-dollar display racks ribbed with mahogany stained hardwoods, but we have farmers and homesteaders who are fairly compensated for their work and a more affordable food system for the members.

Starting a food club means hard work, but it’s a truly rewarding experience, here’s what you need to know before starting:

  1. Do your homework by contacting other clubs and reading up on how to organize one.
  2. Get in touch with like-minded people who want to know where their food comes from.
  3. Contact food producers in your area who are looking for a local market.
  4. Find a place where members can pick up their food. A small club can operate from a home at first, but not when the membership grows.
  5. Once you do all of your homework, draft a membership agreement explaining the requirements for membership and the club rules. Have a lawyer look over the agreement.
  6. After determining operating costs, come up with a membership fee that will cover them and collect it in advance. Remember that the purpose of the club is to collect and manage fees on behalf of members so it can provide them with food.
  7. Running a successful food buying club requires a team of at least two, and maybe three. Don’t bite off too much! You cannot do all of the work yourself.
  8. Use an online system such as to keep track of orders.
  9. Keep a sharp eye on operating costs.

This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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