For Jersey City moms Funmilayo Brown and Karla Fuller, finding organic and locally-grown fruits and vegetables from a source they could trust had been high on their priority list. They recently decided to host their own pod for the Purple Dragon Food Co-op as part of community supported agriculture (CSA).
“I looked up [Purple Dragon] when I started making baby food,” said Brown. A six-year resident of Jersey City, Brown is the executive director for a New York non-profit called Choices in Childbirth. She has a toddler.
“My daughter started eating [and] I wanted her to have the skin of whatever it was I was blending or puréeing,” Brown said. She did not trust the organic produce available at the local supermarket, which she also found to be too expensive.
Brown first discovered Purple Dragon after joining a Jersey City moms Meetup group.
“A CSA makes a lot of sense,” she said she thought at the time. A CSA is a group of families or individuals who buy food together directly from farmers and share the labor involved to save money or to get better products.
Farm to table
Purple Dragon was started in 1987 by singer/songwriter Janit London as a way to access high quality organic produce for a small group of young mothers and their families. The Glen Ridge, N.J.-based co-op celebrates its 25th year in 2012 and has grown to include more than eight groups of families across New Jersey, including in Jersey City and Weehawken.
“Living in Seattle opened my eyes to the importance of fresh, local…farm to the table food,” said Fuller. Originally from Oklahoma, she moved to Jersey City in 2010 after living in Seattle. Fuller is a professor of biology and has two children.
“The whole community building aspect was really nice,” said Fuller. “Being able to meet people over food was an interesting concept to me, but most important to me was to have fresh, healthy food for my family.”
“Purple Dragon does everything that my family needs for produce.”– Karla Fuller
Every other week, both women divide a seasonal assortment of fresh, organically, or ecologically grown fruits and vegetables into 20 to 30 pound baskets for their pod members. The items in each share vary according to what is in season and available, and can include kale, potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, and other vegetables and fruits. Shares cost $49 - $53 per delivery.
“Janit does a good job of mixing greens and starchy vegetables and we always have bananas,” said Brown about what founder London gets for the co-op. “We also get this giant list of extras.”
Members have the option of choosing additional local items to order and add to their share such as honey, eggs, unpasteurized milk, cheeses, syrup, artisan breads, and peanut butter. Members can also order meats such as turkey, pheasant, etc., but those have to be picked up directly from London.
“Purple Dragon does everything that my family needs for produce,” said Fuller.
Plenty to share in the share
“It takes three or four shares to learn how to manage the food properly,” said Fuller. Fuller and Brown split a share. Fuller mentioned that at times a strange vegetable such as celeriac may show up in the bunch. Some pods gather for recipe parties while others e-mail tips on how to cook the sometimes unfamiliar items that appear in the share.
London also provides recipes in a newsletter that goes out every other week.
“We have a really eclectic group of people in our pod and I don’t think we have ever come across something that somebody doesn’t have a great recipe for,” said Fuller. Fuller said that she’ll ask members for ideas when they pick up their shares, such as how they might cook their black radishes.
Appealing to all different types
Fuller and Brown both said that the co-op appeals to all different types of individuals that share common values. A steady stream of families, couples, and individuals with their dogs rotate through Brown’s kitchen every other Wednesday night and stop in her backyard to pick up their basket.
“People bring their children,” said Fuller. “There is a sandbox for kids to play in.”
Fuller said that the members include lawyers, financial types, journalists, writers, and doctors, among others.
“It doesn’t fit just one type of person,” said Brown. “We just got on a whole crew of dancers.”
“It is a unique quality to downtown Purple Dragon,” said Fuller about the diversity of the membership.
Robert Salsbury, a member since the downtown Jersey City pod began in 2010, is a documentary editor. He shared his own thoughts on the co-op as he picked up his share one night.
“I like the variety of stuff,” he said. “I like being surprised.”
Purple Dragon neighborhood groups exist in Jersey City and Weehawken, but there is increasing demand for pod hosts in Hoboken and additional hosts in Jersey City. For more information, visit: http://www.purpledragon.com To comment on this story online visit www.hudsonreporter.com. Adriana Rambay Fernández can be reached at email@example.com