Four years ago last month, Cassie Adams invited 15 of her neighbors to save money by buying fruits and vegetables in bulk. It did not take long for word to spread and soon Cypress Creek Co-Op was born. At most recent count, the group had more than 22,000 members with pick-up locations and delivery throughout Southeastern Hillsborough County.
Members, who join by paying a one-time fee of $5, have the opportunity to order bins of produce for pick-up weekly and can earn free food by volunteering to help with distribution at the pick-up locations.
“It started as a way to get to know my neighbors,” said Adams, who sorted the produce on her living room floor when the group was still small. “And although we have grown so much it still feels like a community venture.”
Each week, Adams, who previously worked with wholesale produce companies, goes to local fruit and vegetable buyers and farms to price out items to be included in the bins for the week. “I try to buy local first, based on what is in season,” she said.
Bins come in medium and large sizes and contain approximately six different types of vegetables and five fruits. A medium bin costs $20 and is developed to feed a family of four and a large bin, costing $30, should feed a family with five to seven members.
Adams posts the items that will be in the bins the weekend before on Facebook. Both bin sizes have the same kind of items but not the same amounts. There is no requirement to sign up for a bin every week and many add on items are available.
The co-op has multiple pick-up locations throughout the area, including Waterset in Apollo Beach, Summerfield in Riverview, Ruskin, FishHawk Ranch, Valrico and Winthrop on different days of the week and at Tampa General Hospital once a month. Delivery is also available in certain areas.
Adams is proud of the group’s involvement in the community from donations to schools and neighborhood events to helping people help others.
“This is so much more than produce,” she said. “Our members feel like part of a community, get to know neighbors they wouldn’t normally have met, help others and eat well because of it.”
To learn more about Cypress Creek Co-Op, find the group on Facebook or visit www.cypresscreekproducecoop.com.