What to Expect at a West Michigan Co-Op Pickup

I’ve been intending to sign up for the West Michigan Co-Op for, oh, a couple of years now. As with anything, it’s difficult to make the first step.

I travel a lot for work, so the pickup date would be on a day when I was going to be out of town. Or I’d think of it during the summer, when I had a CSA. For some reason, the stars aligned, and I had my very first pickup last week. I can’t wait for the next one.

The first Saturday of the month, the Co-Op opens for business (it took several hours before the site became “live”; be patient). You can search by category, producer, and “what’s new.” I was really surprised at the amount of non-agricultural items, such as soap, roses, coffee, and ready to eat meals. Also, there were lots of items that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, such as

  • string of garlic from Far View Farm
  • monthly meat box from S & S lamb ( 1 Dozen Eggs, Lamb Stew Meat, Beef Round Steak, Cubed Ground Beef, Pork Bacon, Bone In Pork Chops, 1/2 Chicken)
  • “Butcher’s choice” bacon from Creswick (odd sizes, great deal!)

After I added the items I wanted to my cart, I just waited until the end of the ordering period, which is the following Friday. It’s a bit disconcerting because there’s no “complete order” button.  Maybe that’s because they’re hoping you’ll think of more things you want before it closes :-)

The Wednesday of the 3rd full week of the month is pickup day. I had no idea what to expect. It was actually a Tuesday because of Thanksgiving (don’t worry if you can’t remember which day of which week of the month, they have it spelled out clearly on the website!) and I was told that it would be extra busy because of Thanksgiving. Also, they start distribution at 5:45, but you can come early if you want to stand in line. Friends of mine who are regular Co-op shoppers tell me that if you come later in the evening it’s less crowded (they’re open until 8 PM). I arrived right at 5:45 since I had somewhere to be. It was a dark and rainy night, at the corner of Hall & Godfrey.

I stood in line, not entirely sure how this was going to work. I had brought my reusable bags and felt prepared. The first table I came to was the line where you pick up your order sheet, which is a printout of what you had ordered online. I was a bit confused - you don’t pay until after you have picked up everything, in case there are changes. What kind of changes, you might be wondering?

Many of the vendors have “extras,” so if you had forgotten to add something to your basket, or if the Swiss Chard looks really good that night, you can add it to your order and they write it on the form. So with order form in hand, you then walk around to each of the vendors’ tables, and they put a check to indicate that you have picked up the item (also noting anything else you might add). I have to admit, I didn’t realize how big a half bushel was. I had a half bushel of apples, half bushel of delicata, along with the rest of my order. Next time I’m bringing a cart!

After you’ve made your way through the vendor tables, you check out. The volunteers ask if there have been any additions or changes and then you write your check or pay with cash. (Sorry, no credit cards).

Then you lug everything out to the car and fight your way through traffic.

I love everything I picked out, and can’t wait to do it again!

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