NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Last November, Michele Wallace and fellow residents of the borough formed the North Plainfield Food Cooperative (NPFC). Through the food co-op, residents of North Plainfield and the surrounding community can purchase organic produce and other items, such as eggs and dairy, normally unavailable in their area at a discounted rate. The next delivery scheduled for Saturday, March 19.

According to Wallace, the benefit of the co-op is that families can receive better, healthier and sustainable food options. “The co-op brings healthier fair trade options and organic produce right to our community,” she said, adding, “The most important thing is safer, more convenient options with the farmers and small businesses receiving the profit instead of large corporations.”

NPFC’s most popular program is its organic produce cooperatively purchased by Purple Dragon from local farms or fair trade international purchasing. Produce – fruits and vegetables – varies from delivery-to-delivery and according to season. Recent deliveries have included apples, artichokes, avocados, bananas, beets, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, carrots, collards, ginger, mushrooms, onions, oranges, pears, peppers, red potatoes, romaine, spinach, tangerines and tomatoes. 

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The cost of an organic produce share is $52 every two weeks and includes two deliveries a month of 14 varieties of certified organic fruits and veggies (between 15-30 pounds of produce per delivery). Half shares are $26 every two weeks and extra fruit shares or gourmet veggies can be purchased in addition to full- or half-shares for an additional $20. Special orders are also an option.

The NPFC also orders Himalayan sea salt at $3 a pound and single farm coffee from Nicaragua in bulk at deeply discounted prices and, most recently, a new berry share of organic Jersey Fresh items has been added along with a buying program from the Westfield-based Savory Spice Shop and Patricia & Paul Artisans of Fine Oils and Balsamics. NPFC has also recently developed relationships with fresh poultry farms to option grass fed, pasture-raised hormone-free beef, chicken, quail, turkey and pork.

Through NPFC, residents also have the ability to purchase pasture-raised, hormone- and cage-free eggs – including those from chickens, turkeys, ducks, quail and geese – that come from a local private farms as well as Wallace’s own chickens. Eggs are available every weekday when ordered in advance; the cost of the chicken eggs is $4 per dozen. The food co-op is also now raising chicks this spring for purchase; all one needs to do is supply the coop and follow local borough ordinances in regard to licensing and raising. To provide information, NPFC will hold a backyard poultry class on April 16 (see below for more information.)

Additionally, the co-op also supports local milkman and dairies by offering participants the ability to purchase hormone free milk and other dairy items. Dairy, including half and half, yogurt, sour cream and heavy cream, is delivered weekly by Jeff Milling of the Old Bridge-based Udderly Delicious on Tuesday evenings or Wednesday mornings; Yes, it is the traditional glass bottled milk, including the delicious chocolate milk of your childhood, from Bryne Dairy. All varieties of milk are $3.99 a half gallon - two dollars below the same milk offered in local supermarkets.

"You can have a standing order, or update your order on Mondays via text, email, or phone call,” Wallace said.

According to Wallace, the cost of produce purchased through NPFC is about the same as buying organic from large chains (and farmers are making the profit) but there are significant discounts on the dairy and eggs. “The shares get less expensive as more homes participate and more and more options become available,” said Wallace, adding that 45 households currently participate in the produce deliveries and 60 receive eggs.

Residents from North Plainfield and the surrounding communities can try out the co-op to see if they like it. “We like for people to commit to the produce for three months, when possible, and there is no commitment to the eggs and dairy,” said Wallace.  

 The next Purple Dragon delivery date is share is scheduled for Saturday, March 19. Trial shares are also available for those interested but not yet ready to commit; members who bring along a friend to purchase a trial share will receive $10 of their next share. All items are delivered to Wallace's home, the William Tappan House on Tappan Avenue.

In addition to providing residents with access to good foods, the NPFC is also working to give back to the community through outreach and informational workshops. Members continuously collect for FISH, the North Plainfield Food Pantry and St. Vincent de Paul.

"We are always open to trying new things to help support local residents and contribute to food justice," said Wallace. 

Additionally, on March 5, the food co-op hosted a trap, neuter and release (TNR) collection and information session with local animal activities, including North Plainfield Councilwoman Wendy Schaeffer and resident Ryan Narine. A workshop on homemade balms, salts and scrubs is scheduled for March 19 at 10 a.m. and a candle making workshop with a honey lesson will take place on May 28 at 10 a.m.; the aforementioned workshops have nominal materials fees. The backyard chicken keeping workshop on April 16 will take place a 1 p.m.; the cost is $20 per person, which includes a $10 credit for the purchase of chicks from Bivona Farms. All workshops will take place at Wallace’s home.

For more information, on the North Plainfield Food Cooperative, contact Wallace at mgeu@aol.com or call 908-644-8475. The North Plainfield Food Cooperative also has a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/906974979382289/) that enables participants and interested residents of the borough and surrounding communities the opportunity to share recipes, arrange delivery, discuss new ideas and options and communicate.

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