Neighborhood Buying Clubs
Buying clubs are groups of people who live close to one another, and who together decide upon a producer, order whatever cuts they want, and have it all delivered at once to the club host’s house.
The most important thing is to make sure members are on time picking up their meat
To form a club, you must find a producer willing to deliver and a local (probably you, if you’re starting it) willing to provide the delivery spot. Work out how much the producer will charge per pound per person for delivery, and ask if he requires that a minimum order be put together first and what products he has to offer. Unless the producer is ready to shoulder the responsibility, or has a website that takes orders, you’ll need to create order forms and have your members fill them out, then get those to the producer. You’ll have to establish how often the rancher will deliver the meat, and let people know where and when to pick it up. Keith Swanson of the Seattle-area Thundering Hooves farm says that when he delivers to one of his ranch’s clubs, “they have a barbecue going—they’re making an event out of it.”
The most important thing is to make sure members are on time for pickup, so the host doesn’t have to front the rancher money or store all the meat. Robin Magonegil hosts the Thundering Hooves buying club in West Seattle (nicknamed the Meateaters Buying Club). When they started she was nervous that people would be tardy to an 8 a.m. Saturday drop-off at her house. Then the Thundering Hooves truck drove up, Swanson got out with his clipboard, the 25 members showed up with checks and cash, and everything was parceled out smoothly. Now the club has grown to 65 members. “Sometimes my partner makes muffins, and members who are our friends come in and eat them, but the majority of people just wait outside, go up and get their meat when it arrives, and leave.”
A healthy club will buy often and consistently, and will build a good relationship with the producer. Magonegil’s family orders at least $100 of meat a month, and that’s standard in her club. Eatwild.com’s Jo Robinson recommends putting an order form in every box, so people will remember to place their next order. An email list reminding people to order and pick up is also a good idea.
The neighborhood buying club model has potential beyond meat. Lawren Pulse, another Thundering Hooves Seattle host, has used her meat club as a launching pad for other orders. The club has selected suppliers for dairy, grains, and vegetables; its members order through the producers’ websites; and the food is delivered to Pulse’s house for pickup, just like the meat. Pulse points out that besides giving members the power to choose whom they buy from, the club fosters a sense of community and is environmentally sound: less driving from place to place to get your groceries.