We spoke with Liz Reitzig of Grassfed on the Hill about how her buying club works, why she started it, and why buying clubs might just be the key to healing our communities and our environment.
Farmers and consumers alike face many issues when seeking out local food. For farmers, they often have trouble accessing potential customers. For consumers, they don’t have time to visit multiple farms to get what they need. Enter: buying clubs! In the most basic sense, a buying club is a community of people engaging in a buying relationship with one or more small farms.
Liz Reitzig founded her DC-based buying club, Grassfed on the Hill, twelve years ago, and has been running it ever since. With a one-time membership fee, members have access to products from a variety of farms and producers, including 5 primary ones, and can order as much or as little as they want each week. The popularity of the buying club is evident, with membership ranging from 300-500 people at any given time.
Beyond running Grassfed on the Hill, Liz’s passion for high quality and sustainable food is evident. Whether she’s advocating for changes in food policy, or working with permaculture and sustainable gardening, good food is a huge part of Liz’s life, so it’s not surprising that she got into buying clubs mainly as a means to access quality food for her children.
We talked to Liz about all this and more, including why you might want to consider starting a buying club in your area. If you’re in the greater D.C. area, be sure to check out Grassfed on the Hill and consider becoming a member.
Can you explain briefly how Grassfed on the Hill works?
It’s a buying club, so I source local food from area farmers and offer deliveries to specific drop sites in different neighborhoods, where club members can pick up their orders. The purpose of the club is to make locally produced, high quality food easily available at locations that are convenient to customers.
What would you tell someone that’s new to the concept of buying clubs?
are a multi-faceted approach to healing our communities through food and community involvement. Once someone makes the commitment to be a part of a buying club, they’re opting for a different system than the monoculture processing and production that we have currently with big ag. Everyone who participates in a buying club - either through organizing, producing or buying - helps to decentralize our food distribution and strengthen our community networks. For what’s going on in the world right now with food, creating a sense of community is imperative to begin the healing process that we most desperately need.
Do you have advice for someone looking to start a buying club?
Do it — take the leap! It is so much fun. It is a great use of time and energy and it is deeply rewarding. You get to be a part of people’s healing transformations and you get to know your food producers intimately.
When you’re not running Grassfed on the Hill, what do you do?
My 5 children are the highlight of my life. They take a lot of my time—especially preparing meals for them! It is because of them that I got involved in food systems and food policy. I work on food policy and politics on the federal and state levels. Pretty much all the time I’m working in the food system in one way or another — working on making changes so that people have direct access to the food of their choice from the producers of their choice.
What do you think is the largest problem facing our food system?
Just one?! There are so many and they all overlap and are synergistic. The centralization of our food production and processing is huge, and to decentralize is imperative to everything else. We’re in a vicious cycle — the more we centralize our food production and distribution, the more chemicals we need, the faster we degrade our topsoil. And we’re not going to have food production if we don’t have topsoil. So I can’t pinpoint one thing. I would say the biggest problem we face is that we are in a vicious cycle of centralized food production and processing where the consumer is disconnected and apathetic.
Anything else you want people to know?
Our ability to access local food from the producers of our choice is vital to strengthening our communities and bringing our environment back into balance.
Lastly, what do you eat for breakfast?
Breakfast is an important meal in our home. We enjoy variety. Some days it is oatmeal with butter. Or pancakes. Sometimes bacon and eggs or even yogurt and fruit. We change what we have depending on the season—but it is always from farms we know and love.
Learn more about how 1000EcoFarms makes starting and operating food buying clubs easy, and get in touch if you want to start one in your neighborhood!