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Angie Wieck, Published March 03 2014

Sharing the bounty: Bountiful Baskets co-op brings fresh, affordable produce to local members

MOORHEAD – Danyell Morse began contributing to the Bountiful Basket Food Cooperative years ago while living in Arizona.

When she moved here in June, she was disappointed to find the closest co-op site was in Emerado, N.D., but she faithfully made the 180-mile roundtrip every two weeks to pick up her basket of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Even with the added transportation cost, she felt she was still saving money and getting a better selection than she could find at local stores.

Morse got to work to establish a Fargo-Moorhead Bountiful Baskets site. As someone new to the area, Morse knew the friendships she could make through the food co-op were nearly as valuable as the produce.

The first local Bountiful Baskets order, placed Feb. 10 and delivered Feb. 15, sold out online within two hours. Last week’s went in just 15 minutes.

The Bountiful Basket Food Cooperative was established in Arizona in 2006 by Sally Stevens and Tanya Jolly as a way for participants to pool their money to buy fresh produce at a lower cost directly from distributors.

They are clear that it is not a business. Nothing is purchased from Bountiful Baskets. They simply do the buying from vendors and a network of volunteers facilitates the delivery.

The concept is working well. According to their website, they have grown to 941 sites operating in 20 states. Fifty-seven sites currently operate in North Dakota, mostly in the western half of the state.

The website states that contributors receive an estimated $50 worth of food for half the price. For $15, they get a conventional basket of six different kinds of fruits and six different vegetables. A similar organic basket is available for $25.

To get the Fargo-Moorhead site up and running, Morse needed to provide Bountiful Baskets with the names of 50 people interested in participating as well as a location willing to host the basket drop-off and collection.

She established a Facebook page to gauge interest, and quickly began looking for a host site.

Melissa Rademacher, general manager of the Moorhead Center Mall, said she was looking for new ways to get the mall involved in the community when she heard about Bountiful Baskets.

“Obviously my goal is to drive traffic into the mall, but in addition to retail, I am interested in getting more involved in community events,” Radermacher said. “I just love what it’s all about.”

The word about Bountiful Baskets continues to explode through social media. Participants post pictures of their baskets and often share recipes for its content.

Abby Anderson of Moorhead learned about Bountiful Baskets from a friend’s Facebook page. For more than a year she has been making an effort to feed her family more organic whole foods, so she was excited to learn about the organic basket option. She was also pleased by the price.

“I would definitely say it’s about half the price you would pay locally,” Anderson said. “Especially for the Midwest, this is a fantastic deal if you want to go organic.”

Due to the high demand, Morse and other volunteers are trying to establish additional sites in Fargo and West Fargo. For more information, search “Fargo Basket Co-op” on Facebook.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501