Every week, 450 locals make their way to the South side of Thirroul to collect supplies. They come together for a variety of reasons, but one thing binds them together. A belief in the importance of quality food.
If you’re into all things healthy and organic, or you’re thinking of giving it a go, then you should probably pop in to the Flame Tree Co-Op.
Now operating out of a small shop between Ryan’s and the Library, the organisation has been running since 2009 and is staffed primarily by volunteers. Over the years they’ve had more than a thousand members on their books, all people who carefully consider what food they eat, and where they choose to spend their money.
It’s a great little set up. Anyone can shop at Flame Tree but if you join the co-op you receive a discount, and if you volunteer by staffing the store for a couple hours, you receive a further discount on your shopping.
Co-op member Paul Spencer says there’s plenty of locally-produced products on the shelves.
“We support local community farms,” he says. “We have fruit and veg from Woonona, Darkes Forest and Warrawong. We also buy a lot of our produce from the Sydney Organic Markets and our raw food treats come from small, boutique suppliers. We really try to support small initiatives.
It’s the support of these small farms that motivates Paul to shop at Flame Tree.
“I come from an environmental rather than a health perspective,”he says. “I believe it’s important to support an organic style of farming, which is more sustainable in the long term. I don’t want to support the use of pesticides and the effect they have on bees and I don’t want to support the use of resources to make the petrochemicals used in pesticides. In the longer term, large scale farming can also lead to soil degradation.
“Research shows an organic farm actually produces more food per hectare,” says Paul, “because farmers usually plant a variety of crops in together.
“I want to use my money to help farmers grow that style of agriculture. I also know the money I am spending on food supports locals who are farming for a living.
But he says not everyone joins the co-op for environmental reasons. “Many of our members choose to be a part of the co-op for their own health and the health of their families,” says Paul. ” It’s a great way to spend your money sustainably and in return, receive high-quality, chemical-free products.”
And Paul says it’s the people-power that makes an organic diet achievable. “It wouldn’t be easy if there was no co-op,” says Paul. “The power of buying in bulk keeps prices down and makes the food accessible.”
Paul says if you’re interested in finding out more about Flame Tree Co-Op, you’re welcome to pop into the shop and have a chat. “It’s a fantastic group of like-minded people and I enjoy the sense of connectedness that comes from this community as a whole,” he says. “We love to welcome new members, and what better way to meet people than to talk about food!”