Sources of Bulk Dry Foods

Sharon March 10th, 2008

First let’s talk about the word “dry” here – because it is important.  Globally, trucking and shipping are major contributors to climate change and heavy users of fossil fuels.  And yet, the truth is that while some of us will be able to meet most or all of our needs in our local foodshed, others of us will not.  We’re going to have to get some of our staples from far away.  So how do we make good choices in this regard?

 Well, the first and most important way to do this is to restrict your purchasing to dry foods – dry grains, beans, dry fruit, etc… Because when you ship fresh produce around the country, you are mostly shipping water.  In many cases, we end up, as Joan Dye Gussow observes, shipping water from very dry places that grow food with irrigation to wet ones – particularly wasteful  So it is especially important for us to get our fresh foods near us – and while it is both important and useful for regions to start growing some of their staples, it is much more environmentally sound to buy bulk dry foods from far away than it is to buy bananas (not that most of us won’t eat the occasional banana).

Now my first preference would ALWAYS be that you get your staple foods from local farmers near you.  It is really important that we start producing local staple foods.  So if you are seeking something, the first place to look is in your immediate region.  One good source is  Another is your local agricultural extension agent, who may have sources that aren’t online. 

You might be surprised at what is/can be grown around you.  I was surprised when I learned a farmer near me was growing barley (unfortunately not for human consumption, but I’m working on him).  There are a lot of small agricultural producers around, and sometimes they are hiding ;-) .

 But what if you can’t get it locally?  Well, expand your vision of local a bit.  Cross a few borders.  Maybe try a farmer in nearby state.  Check around.

If you are going to have to get grains from far away, the way that will probably cost you the least is to do it through your local coop or bulk store.  We have a coop in Albany that we visit every couple of months, and a bulk store run by a friend about six miles from me.  She can order things in bulk for me, because the trucks already come to her.  The same is true of my local coop.

But what if you don’t have a coop or bulk store?  How about starting one?  Coops are going to be desperately needed as a source of local food. In one of my last posts I suggested everyone start stepping into the informal economy – a coop is a good way to do this.  Alternately, instead of doing it as coop, you could do bulk buying as a for-profit home enterprise – my friend Joy did hers out of her home.  Delivery trucks and wholesalers will work with anyone who can order through them – if you repackage and sell smaller quantities, or get together with others and put together a bulk order, so much the better.

But what if you need it now, and are sort of stuck with internet ordering?  Here are some good sources:

Canadian fair traded cooperative, organic grains:

Some sources for grains: 

The grand old-man of bulk storage foods:

For anyone living in my area, this resource is invaluable:

For those looking for some interesting older grains, including Emmer wheat that can be tolerated by many people who can’t tolerate wheat in general:

Bobs Red Mill sells not only good grains, but may gluten-free choices:

If you want to go beyond navy beans, consider ordering bulk heirloom beans from Seed Savers

These folks have dried fruit that is farmer direct as well as many other products:

For medicinal herbs, spices and teas, I like this place: and this one: Both places emphasize fair trade.

For spices (not organic, but of very high quality: 

If you are less concerned about local and organic and don’t want to package up your own foods for storage, these folks and Waltonfeed will sell them to you already sealed and packaged in buckets:

What about seeds?  Best prices on large quantities of seed come from a few places I’ve found including: and

What if you can’t afford to buy local or organic, much as you’d like to?  What are the cheapest options? 

Well, for rice and spices, Indian and other Asian Grocery stores often sell multiple rices and large quantities of whole spices at rock-bottom prices.  Lord only knows what chemicals they were grown with, but not everyone has the luxury of caring. 

For grains, probably the cheapest option would be, if you live in a grain-growing area, to buy direct at the grian elevators.  Next cheapest would be to ask your grocery store manager to order larger quantities for you.  If you are trying to eat local cheaply, relying on what your region produces abundantly will put you in the best shape – so get used to eating a lot of corn or potatoes or whatever. 

We’ll talk more about putting up your own local fresh produce coming up shortly!


14 Responses to “Sources of Bulk Dry Foods”

  1. Kimon 10 Mar 2008 at 9:51 am


    What is the difference between food grown for human consumption and food for animals?

    This has been a fabulous series by the way.


  2. karenon 10 Mar 2008 at 9:57 am

    Another fantastic post. Everything I am doing would be so much harder without you leading the way. Thank you!

  3. Ailsa Ekon 10 Mar 2008 at 10:45 am

    Indian grocery stores are good for beans and bean flours as well. I’d love to stick to local & organic, but I mainly just want to make sure I have enough food socked away that I know I can feed us. We’re planting corn & buckwheat & sorghum & beans & peas this summer, so we’ll have local & organic come fall.

  4. Sharonon 10 Mar 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Grain used for animal feed is generally (not always, but usually, unless it is organic) fumigated against pests – and you don’t want to eat that stuff.


  5. Kimon 10 Mar 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks! Actually, I’m not sure I want my animals eating that stuff now. I need to go make sure all my animal feed bags say organic.


  6. RedStateGreenon 10 Mar 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I buy my rice at Stansel Rice (in Louisiana):

  7. Wendyon 10 Mar 2008 at 11:42 pm

    For those who live in the Western US, here is a link to a good source of natural and bulk foods: We order from Azure Standard once a month as part of group of people in our community, and the food is delivered a couple of days later by truck, which provides two advantages: we get to hang out together and have fun on delivery day, and with a large order there is no delivery charge. You can find out if there is a group in your area by calling Azure.

  8. Pat Meadowson 11 Mar 2008 at 1:42 pm


    You may want to add these to your list. I use them quite a bit: – they have a lot of organic grains, dried fruits etc. – for wheat, and other grains, etc. They sell wheat already packed in buckets if you want it that way.


  9. Lynneton 11 Mar 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Another of my favorite places is Native Seeds/SEARCH. They carry a wide variety of beans, chiles, and other SW staples. Their primary mission is to preserve the traditional crops of the Southwest.

  10. Joannon 11 Mar 2008 at 4:50 pm

    These guys have better prices and a huge selection then all of the sites listed above (as far as I have found):

  11. Daveon 13 Mar 2008 at 8:06 am

    Here’s is a source, free, of the best publication available on starting a food co-op:
    Starting a business is not simply or easy; this resource covers the bases from meetings to money. There also is an organization dedicated to helping startup co-ops: (note that the suffix is .coop NOT .com).

  12. Lissaon 15 Mar 2008 at 7:20 am

    Thanks for some great links. I wanted to toss you another great herb-and-spice resource — the Apothecary Rose Shed specializes in organic herbs and spices, are based out of local-vendors-warehouse in Albany, and is run by two of the greatest people I’ve met — Richard and Margaret are just terrific. And they’re as generous with their measurements as they suggest their customers should be with spices in their recipes: my $2 half-cup of organic turmeric overflowed my half-pint storage jar. They also run a mail order system for folks looking to make a purchase from a distance.

  13. Kevinon 09 Jul 2008 at 5:40 am

    “These guys have better prices and a huge selection then all of the sites listed above (as far as I have found):

    They have $100 minimum order per “product line” and $250 minimum per order. If you are buying a lot anyway, they are OK.

  14. angelicaon 10 Nov 2008 at 5:04 am

    sharon, can u pls. gave me sources of go,glow and grow foods?

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