So after posting up on Facebook about the Kickstarter happening for Rawfully Organic’s Juice project, I had a friend leave the following comment:

I’d be interested to hear more about this. Does she do anything for the community that’s volunteer based? There are already a lot of options for cold pressed juices. I just had some delicious ones at Green Seed Vegan today. I was thinking about the co-op and then I found out the prices, and read some negative yelp reviews. I know you’re awesome, so if you’re supporting this maybe I just got a negative first impression, which was: fad health stuff for rich people. Tell me more!

I started to respond on my phone while lying in bed this morning but when my thumbs started cramping up I realized this may be better suited to a full blown blog post. :)

First of all, KUDOS to this awesome gal that is keeping an open mind even after reading the “all-powerful” Yelp reviews. And yes, there are a few bad ones. There are currently 9 reviews, 6 of which are “bad” (3, 2, or 1) and 3 of which are 5 stars.

I address this online Review issue from a professional marketing standpoint in another blog post HERE. (This post just got way too long.

Now: about the juice project:

There are already a lot of options for cold pressed juices.

The only juice options of which I know in town are Green Seed and Juice Girl now that Roots is closed. I have not yet had the pleasure of Juice Girl because of the times/location issue so I don’t know what they are juicing or what it’s like, (I hope it is awesome!) however as someone that juices at least once a week, I can say that Green Seed juices, while tasty and delicious (it is my favorite restaurant at the moment!) seem to be either watered down a bit or using a higher percentage of cucumber in their green juices over a denser kale component. (Notice the separation in the juices that have settled in their coolers–there is far too little dense dark green stuff for my purposes. Plus they taste much milder.) This isn’t bad per se, but for me it is like green juice designed to be palatable for the average person who doesn’t typically do serious green juicing for health and cleansing and snack/meal replacement. The Rawfully Organic juices are far more robust (this may be a simple matter of equipment–they have the best available) and intense and have stronger flavors and a denser mouth feel (not pulp just more juice less water). And knowing what I know about Kristina and her passion for this stuff, there is no way she would cut corners or make anything less than the same juice she gives herself.

That said, even if the juices are awesome and perfect at Green Seed, this city has 7 Million people and only 2.5 cold pressed juice bars? (I count the JG juice van as a half) That’s not what I call “plenty” and I see a big jump in juicing interests coming in the next couple years thanks to shows like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and others. We are behind the times in this respect–you see a lot more in Cali and it is FINALLY trickling over. I think Houston can support another juicing operation.
I was thinking about the co-op and then I found out the prices, and read some negative yelp reviews.
I already addressed the Yelp reviews. I will have to go add my positive review because the co-op is awesome.
About the prices: when I first moved back here (about a year ago) I bought a half share and wrote down everything that was in it with pics. I then took that list and the pics to HEB and compared what it would cost to buy all the same organic stuff at the store. The co-op saved me about $10 that week. I only did it the one week but there it is. $10 every week adds up. And my guess is that some weeks it is a little higher and some a little lower depending on the store and the selection and the sales etc. You can also get a bag of organic grapes off the co-op market table (available to shop from after you buy a share) for $5.50-6 (depending on cost) which is about half what you pay in the store (and I only ever buy organic grapes).
So if you are already buying organic only produce, then the co-op saves you money. Of course, like any co-op or CSA, you take what you get. I can imagine that the entitled, instant gratification masses tend to not care for this. There is a way to swap out stuff if there is something you just hate, but that takes some patience while we take care of the people that are just picking up their shares and going.
Most people, myself included, simply learn to get creative with what comes in the shares. And in the long run, this has saved me tons because if I have something sitting on my counter that needs to be eaten, I’m not going to let my “cravings” dictate that I go spend more money. This is also a dramatic improvement in healthy eating habits–because if it is there, it gets eaten instead of the stuff in the pantry that wont go bad (like crackers, etc) Of course, if you do not cook at home or hate veggies or can’t go with the seasonal flow then yeah, the co-op is not for you.
Also, Kristina is very serious about making sure only the best and freshest produce goes into the shares. I’ve watched her chunk an entire head of kale in the compost pile and replace it in the share it came out of because there was one yellow wilted leaf. Same for a single bruise on a pear. You won’t get that kind of quality control at the grocery.
And yes, if you have a large family or a specific recipe for which you need six tomatoes or a dozen potatoes, then you will need to supplement your box–at least the half share. You can do this through the co-op or through the grocery store. I do both.
I have put some thought into this as I was loading the boxes myself, thinking about  how I would like to have more tomatoes or less zucchini. Heres the deal: the boxes are about variety, and trying to please the largest percentage of people possible. And while one person would like a dozen cucumbers and one zucchini (me) another would prefer eight tomatoes and six ears of corn.(btw corn is not a veggie it is a grain and should be eaten sparingly!)  If you need more of something specific, it is available, both at the co-op and at the store. The question is, would you have forced yourself to make so many green organic veggie dishes without the box? For most people, the answer is no, and that is the crux of this operation. Making incremental increases in the quality of the daily food people consume. Most people do not eat enough veggies period. They eat their two or three go to vegetables and that is where it stops. This box encourages expansion.
Now the pick ups are run by 85-90% volunteers (usually its only Kristina and 3 other employees that are not volunteers–two of which are just muscle and might even be of the troubled youth variety–I haven’t asked because it seems rude) and a lot of times the volunteers are just doing their best to get the job done. This means a few things:
  1. You do have to stand in line to check off your share (or pay if you didn’t pay online) if there are a bunch of other people there. –usually only two lines are available for “check out”
  2. Kristina is a warm friendly person that will chat briefly with people and give hugs and if you are in a hurry that might annoy you.
  3. There are precious few people around to answer questions adequately (most of the volunteers come for the 3 hour set up, then take their share and leave and don’t stick around to answer questions or help the other members. Che sera.)
  4. Some volunteers are not so gentle with the produce which means a chance of bruising. Kristina tries her best to get folks to be careful but for example last week one of our volunteers was one of those angry frustrated women that just comes across brusque and rude to everyone, and rolled her eyes and made rude noises and comments–it was gross and were I in Kristina’s shoes I probably would have given her a juice and asked her to take the day off–or get lost altogether–or bloodied her nose.  But I’m not always the most tolerant of this kind of behavior. :) She was tossing the oranges and nectarines in the boxes with a vengeance. Kristina finally took her aside and asked her if she was stressed about something with the kind of finesse I only have about half of the time. (I’m working on it!) The woman chilled out with her antics but at least two dozen boxes got nectarines that may have had a bruise and a little angry energy. (I tried to kind of go behind her and check (and put some loving happiness in there!) but I may have missed a few.)
This is what it means to be a volunteer-dependent operation. You can’t fire someone like that. You can’t really even ask her to take a hike. You just have to take it all in stride and deal.
Now when I first started picking up my share in Rice Village I never had any problem getting my questions answered but I’m patient, I’m not shy, and I understand about volunteer operations. I can imagine there have been plenty of people who felt miffed by the experience, but some people are just going to be unhappy about shit no matter what. I’m not concerned about them and neither should the Co-op be, because you really cannot please everyone. I can tell you it kills Kristina to find out that a single person was unhappy. She takes it personally and does everything she can to fix it. But it won’t be enough for some people. And that’s OK too.
Does she do anything for the community that’s volunteer based?
I do not know what you mean by “doing something for the community that is volunteer based” and I can’t answer that fully, as I have no idea what all she does personally or with her organization that is community volunteer centered.
First and foremost, the co-op is a business. It buys bulk produce so that the members who buy a share enjoy the bulk savings. I hope very much that Kristina is making serious good bank from this business because the amount of work and organization and equipment involved is astronomical. And I believe if you provide a valuable service or item, you should be compensated well for it. WELL. There is this weird thinking that money is evil and if you are getting rich from your business you must be doing something morally or ethically wrong. Which is the real root of a serious problem in our world but that is altogether another topic.  I do know that there was a time when she did not make money from the co-op at all (it was in an early video I watched like 3 years ago). I hope that has changed.
She also holds classes and teaches about raw foods and the health benefits of raw vegan lifestyles, and is available for speaking and presenting engagements and raw food demos for what I consider to be highly under priced. (The prices are on her Fully Raw website) I know that any and all presentations given for children are free.
…maybe I just got a negative first impression, which was: fad health stuff for rich people.
Raw foods are Kristina’s passion because she healed herself from diabetes using a raw foods diet. Spend 20 minutes reading through the comments on her Facebook, on her You Tube videos and see how many people she has helped and inspired with her energy, her passion, and her knowledge. She gives the knowledge away for free. That is “volunteering for the community” in a much bigger and more impactful way than most businesses manage.
As far as “fad health stuff for rich people” is concerned, I won’t go into my philosophy on wealth and the general attitude towards “rich people” that tends to get mixed up in things like healthy eating. But yes, one can make the argument that the raw foods lifestyle is a “fad.” Having known MANY raw foodists I can say that it is a fad I can get behind (and do in many respects!) especially in the case of healing major illnesses from diabetes to cancer.
But the co-op, while run by a raw foodist that teaches and shares her knowledge and passion of the raw foods lifestyle with thousands of people worldwide, is not just for raw foodists. In fact, the only raw foodists that are members of the co-op have to order multiple shares and separate cases of things like juicing oranges, cucumbers, and kale because these shares are really designed to be the weekly vegetable and fruit intake of an average American family that tries to eat well and eats mostly at home.
To give you an idea, here is what was in our $47 half share this past week: (hopefully I am not forgetting anything but I might be–it really is a lot of food)
  • 2 kale
  • 1 romaine
  • 1 green leaf
  • 2 giant zucchini
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 ears corn
  • 1 GIANT beet (enough for a full side dish of, say, Harvard beets)
  • 2 lg hot house tomatoes
  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 4 juicing oranges
  • 4 nectarines
  • 4 peaches
  • 4-6 apples (can’t recall we eat a TON of apples in our house)
  • 2 pears
  • 1 bunch bananas
  • and with my 3 points I got
  • 1 head celery
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch parsley
By my estimations I only saved about $5 this week. Because it is summer and HEB organic prices are pretty reasonable right now, but I want these kinds of prices in the winter so I buy to support the co-op now, with the idea that I am supporting its future.
One last thing: The co-op sources locally when it can. But it is not always the most affordable and it is not always the best option. The majority of people want variety. They do not want to deal with the over-abundance of winter greens or summer squash that typically comes with all locally sourced produce. Trust me, I watch it with my parents’ CSA all. the. time. Therefore much of the produce is sourced from the exact same sources that HEB uses or Whole Foods (which is also HEB, for the record, but manages to get away with charging a premium while sitting literally across the street from each other. Blows my mind!) which means California and Mexico.
That is a bummer but it is a reality of our food system as it currently stands. We do not have enough farmers producing enough crops with government subsidies to help them stay in business to eat exclusively locally in an affordable way, unless you are growing your own food in your backyard (which every one should do, btw.) I intend to talk about this in another blog post but understand that this is not an attempt by the co-op to cheat anyone or fool anyone. The web site clearly states where the food comes from, as do the stickers on the food. 
I have a wonderful time volunteering. I love the energy and passion that this organization and the people behind it embody. I feel like I have begun to make some life long friends there and hope to offer some of my marketing and PR experience to them in the near future to help with this very issue–these reviews and the remaining inefficiencies that come from a small group booming in a major way over a short time. Until then, this is a group I wholeheartedly support, the juicing is an endeavor I have given money to myself and hope to see others do the same. And the co-op will continue to be my primary source of produce as long as I live in Houston.
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