Tammy Villard and Terri Robinson can’t decide which one of them runs the affordable food operation. The non-profit Bountiful Baskets brings an alternative food co-op to Robinson’s Welding on Yampa Avenue in Craig every other Saturday. With help from volunteers, they divide fruits and vegetables among 40 to 80 personal baskets. Villard calls Robinson boss, but Robinson shrugs it off and says she couldn’t do it without Villard.
The two have been volunteering together for more than a year now, preparing baskets of fresh produce for contributors. They agree that this volunteering experience initiated their friendship.
“They are so much help, and they’re such a joy,” Robinson said.
Villard laughed and said, “Now we’ve fallen in love.”
Bountiful Baskets is a national food co-op that uses volunteer contributions to purchase quality produce in bulk. Since there are no employees, the food is passed on to the consumer for a cheap rate. Contributors can put in $15 and get back two baskets packed with fruits and vegetables.
Villard said she rarely goes to the store for produce since getting involved.
“It’s an alternative to the grocery store,” she said. “It gives people more options. And for me, it’s like Christmas every two weeks because you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
Villard said it even can spark some culinary creativity because each time there's a different assortment of produce.
“It forces you to fix things you wouldn’t otherwise,” she said.
The last basket had eggplant so she made ratatouille but another volunteer made an eggplant lasagna.
“With eggplant instead of the noodles,” Villard said.
With each unique basket, the contributors help each other come up with ideas for upcoming meals for the next couple weeks.
“A lot of times, we swap recipes. We discuss things that work,” she said.
Community, Villard said, is what makes Bountiful Baskets more than just an affordable way to get fresh food.
“You get to see your friends,” said Cathy Pearson, a regular volunteer. “You get to have your own kind of family down here.”
Robinson beamed when she talked about her daughter introducing her to Bountiful Baskets last year. At the time, there had been only one distribution location in Craig, but last April Robinson trained for a few weeks and started her own location.
“We have some real consistent volunteers,” Robinson said. “It’s just fun for us to do this for the community.”
Villard’s whole family usually is down at the warehouse getting baskets ready every distribution weekend. Allison Villard, 11, Villard’s daughter, said she likes the work.
“Mostly I like to push the carts. We have our jobs and the adults have theirs,” she said. “Our jobs are pushing the carts and washing out the baskets.
Allison said she also is keen on the fresh fruits and vegetables.
“I love tomatoes. I eat them like an apple,” she said.
It helps everyone make healthier decisions, Robinson said.
“We changed our way of eating. We’re eating so healthy,” she said. “We plan our meals around this stuff, putting more fruits and vegetables in our diet.”
If contributors forget or neglect to pick up their basket on the distribution day, volunteers donate the remaining produce to the fire station.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-824-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org