Inaugural run for AMI organic produce co-op
SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Anna Maria Island now has an organic
produce co-op with deliveries every Friday. Here, Alice Newlon,
left, organizer of the co-op helps Andrew and Alyson Noune
unload the first delivery at the AMI Community Center.
ANNA MARIA — Fresh, attractive, tasty, clearly better than what I’ve gotten elsewhere. Those are all descriptions applied to the organic produce purchased by eight families last week during the inaugural run of the AMI organic produce co-op.
Two Anna Maria residents, Alice Newlon and Mary Shelby, both of whom are regular consumers of organic produce, thought there had to be a better way to get their fruits and vegetables. They were tired of trekking to Sarasota or into town to one of the health food stores.
"It’s time consuming and difficult to get to Sarasota, and the local stores really don’t do enough volume, so things aren’t too fresh," Newlon said as she waited for the first delivery to be made to the café at the Community Center.
"Some of the produce comes from Jessica’s Stand and Organic Farm in Sarasota. That stuff may be picked that morning and delivered to us in the afternoon on the same day."
That’s the local seasonal produce. Other items come from an organic wholesaler.
Foods delivered include farm-fresh greens, vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, grains and seeds.
The company processing the orders is Harvest Produce, which is basically an organic produce delivery service, according to Newlon. To deliver here to the Island, they needed to get enough people to make it worth their while.
"You order exactly what you want via the internet by noon on Friday, and the food is delivered in a plastic bin that day at 4 p.m. at the Community Center," Newlon said. "Pickup is from 4 to 7 p.m."
Brother and sister Andrew and Alyson Newlon pick out everyone’s order and place it in the plastic bin and then deliver to the Island. There is a $10 delivery charge for each order.
Organic produce is something that people either want to use or don’t want to use. It’s generally between 10 and 20 percent more costly than traditionally grown food, but the co-op prices compare quite favorably with prices usually paid for organic produce on the Island.
For example, on Friday, Oct. 17, the co-op price for a head of romaine lettuce was $1.99. At Publix, in the organic produce area, you could purchase three small heads of tired looking romaine for $3.99.
Publix organic apples were $2.99 a pound for galas and $1.99 a pound for golden delicious, while the co-op price was $2.69 a pound for gala.
In terms of freshness, there was really no comparison. The Publix produce was tired and wilted. The skin of the apples was wrinkled. The co-op produce was all fresh looking and plump.
The organic nuts, which aren’t available at Publix, were quite expensive when compared to the non-organic nuts. Non- organic pecans sell for $8.99 a pound at our local supermarket; the co-op price for organic pecans is $14.39 a pound.
The people who were picking up their first orders on Friday, were not necessarily die-hard organic consumers.
"We have not eaten organic before, but many of our friends do, and we are in a health and fitness phase, so this seemed to fit nicely into our program," Janet Aubrey said. "Gene (Aubrey) does the cooking, ordering and picking up and everything food related, and he said the produce looks really good and fresh."
Newlon, who prefers to use organic products, said that the red leaf lettuce she ordered was quite fresh and tasty: “It was clearly better than what I’ve gotten elsewhere. I couldn’t tell much difference in the romaine lettuce than the other organic I get. Perhaps it’s because the red tip is so fragile."
Charlie Shook and Lois Finley were among the initial co op members who picked up produce on Friday.
“It looks wonderful," Shook said of the produce. "It looks good and young and energetic. It’s fresh and attractive and nicely packaged."
Shook added that he thinks there was an air of excitement as everyone picked up their tubs of produce.
"It’s great to be part of something new, and it’s great to be part of something that’s going to be good for us."
The co-op is open to anyone, according to Newlon. To register, log onto www.harvestcycle.com/market/. There’s an application on line, and you can check out what’s available as well of the price of each item. They ask for a $100 deposit. Your produce is deducted from the deposit. Credit cards are also accepted, but there’s a 3 percent charge for using a card.
Any one with questions not answered by the Web site can call Newlon at 778-4184.