When bread co-op volunteers Anabelle Doliner ’20 and Lyra Walsh Fuchs ’19 waited outside of Usdan for their first delivery of the semester, they expected it to come in a truck.
“We were waiting on the loading dock and saw a very small, five-person car, and we were like, ‘There’s no way there’s all of the bread in that very small car,” Doliner said. “And Lyra said, ‘I think it is,’ and sure enough, as we got closer we realized the car was packed to the brim with loaves of bread.”
When the baker, Kathleen Duffy of Sweet Sage Bakery, got out of the car, she was covered head to toe in flour. She had fit all of her co-op orders in the seats and trunk, organized by variety into boxes. Her breads Rustica and Garlic Asiago are two of the most popular breads in Wesleyan’s co-op, but students might be surprised to learn that the famed breads are made in Duffy’s home with her own non-commercial yeast starter.
“She converted her home kitchen into an industrial-sized kitchen to keep up with demand,” Doliner said.
This is Doliner’s first semester working bread co-op, filling in the position for Ava Thornton ’20, who is abroad this fall. She still remembers the shock and whimsy of Sweet Sage Bakery’s first drop-off. Bread co-op also offers options from Hometown Bakery, a local bakery that sells at Weshop. If you’ve seen the Cardamom Bread or Cinnamon Swirl, you know Hometown.
“We get our information from the people that did it before us. I got my info from Emma Fuller-Monk [’18], and she gave me their contacts,” Doliner said.
Since bread co-op amasses all of their orders on a spreadsheet, Doliner gains valuable insight into the bread needs of campus.
“Rustica is by far the most popular bread on campus,” she said. “I’m not math minded, so in the beginning it took me a little time to get used to the spreadsheets and data aspects.”
Bread co-op receives 202 bread orders every week, which puts a lot of pressure on Doliner and Walsh Fuchs to keep everything straight. Toby Meyer ’19 works produce co-op and plays a more active role in choosing what fruits and vegetables get on to campus.
“I talk directly with Matt Couzens, who does all of the organizing with the actual farmers and figures out what’s in season and what’s the best produce we can get that week for a reasonable price,” Meyer said. “We talk weekly, and there’s a standing order of apples we get every week from Horseless Orchards, where Matt works.”
Horseless Orchards is the same farm that provides the apples and peaches Bon Appétit offers in Usdan. Oftentimes, Meyer is the one to speak up and determine what produce students can realistically use.
“If there’s a bunch of cabbage or cauliflower, I’ll say that’s hard to split between 200 groups,” Meyer said. “That’s really where we come in, to say what the Wesleyan community is going to use and not waste.”
Maggie O’Donnell ’19 and Antonia Kaz ’19 both work in produce with Meyer. Although Sara Cerami ’19 and Jordan White ’19 coordinate co-op as a whole, including managing budgets and Swipe Night, all of the co-ops work fairly autonomously within their respective food groups. Doliner noted that the nature of co-op made the structure more relaxed and less hierarchical than other obligations.
“It’s all very chill, and it’s not a huge time commitment,” Doliner said.
Produce faces its own specific challenges because they aren’t aware of the size and scope of the orders until they get loaded on Wednesday evenings. It’s then the job of Meyer and others to divide up the produce evenly for over 200 groups.
“The day of, we get the amount of everything,” Meyer said. “At 4:30 we try to figure out what everyone gets per share. If there are 10 boxes of apples, we have to do the math to find out what everyone gets. If there are a few bushels of kale, we have to divide that up.”
The unpredictability that comes with produce co-op, along with the organic and local sourcing, can sometimes put students in closer contact with nature than anticipated.
“I found a few caterpillars in my kale, which is fine, but I had to wonder if someone was trying to put a hit on me,” Will Jacobson ’20 said.
Any leftover produce gets donated, since amounts are in flux and not every group picks up for co-op every week. Meyer is quick to point out how easy it is to get involved with co-op.
“It’s so easy to come to a meeting or contact me or Sara [Cerami] and Jordan [White] and join,” Meyer said. “It’s very much open to anyone interested.”
Brooke Kushwaha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @brookekushwaha.