Community growing projects
Some food co-ops buy produce from community growing projects or other non-commercial growers such as allotment holders.
Many growing projects are set up with the main aim of providing training and so they don't always have an outlet for their fruit and vegetables - so linking in with local food co-ops is often a very attractive proposition for them.
The main disadvantage with most non-commercial growers is that they probably won't be able to supply all your needs all year round and so you will have to rely on other suppliers as well. However, they can help to provide variety and interest to the produce you sell and many customers will appreciate the fact that it is grown on a small scale, and possibly by members of their own community.
Because community growing projects aren't necessarily trying to make a profit and probably won't provide class A (visually perfect) produce they can also offer very good prices or even provide surplus produce for free, or trade it for something else.
There are also other community initiatives that could help you find produce in season, for example scrumping projects that gather surplus fruit from trees in people's gardens or unused orchards. You can try to find other local food projects by contacting your local volunteer centre or local authority as they often have information on community-run groups. Or why not just start by asking people you know about what food projects there are in the area.
NB Strictly speaking, produce from allotments cannot be sold, but many food co-ops report that there there is rarely an objection to the occasional sale of surplus produce. What is prohibited by law, under the Allotments Acts, 1908-1950 (section 22, subsection 1), is that an allotment cannot be used to support a business. But if an allotment holder can prove they have more than they can use themselves, it won't be regarded as illegal to sell the surplus.
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