With the COVID-19 pandemic looming, Chesterhill Produce Auction needed to make quick adjustments last spring to ensure a successful auction season, and one of those adjustments was an increased emphasis on its Buying Club.

“Back in March, we knew this auction season would look a lot different, so our team began brainstorming how to best move forward during the pandemic,” says Rachel McDonald, a COMCorps AmeriCorps member serving with Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture Program as the Food Access Coordinator. “One of those adjustments was the expansion of the Buying Club, which became a key component of the auction’s success this year.

“With support from Buying Club members, the auction was able to persist in 2020, which was beneficial not only to regional farmers, but also to our regional food system at large, and food access in the region,” Rachel says. “For example, with the help of our partners at Community Food Initiatives, thousands of pounds of produce sourced from the CPA was distributed to food pantries each week during auction season. This would not have been possible without community support of the CPA — aka our Buying Club members! The CPA farmers and team thank you all for this season!”

In an email to Buying Club members, Rachel provided the following season highlights:

  • About 150 members received food each week for 22 weeks.
  • Pick-ups were offered at six different locations, in four different towns and two counties
  • Around $40,000 was spent on local produce and local food products this season with $33,600 going directly to more than 25 local producers
  • 16 members received produce shares at a discounted cost
  • About 100 pounds of produce was donated to various people and organizations each week (i.e. Community Food Initiatives Donation Station, Serenity Grove, Good Works Community Meals.)

For more information about the Buying Club, please contact Rachel at rachel@ruralaction.org.