Collingwood, you could be forgiven for not knowing a goldmine of good health was within your midst. The Friends of the Earth Food Co-op has lived at 312 Smith Street for more than 20 years, but the shop is rather concealed from passers by behind the health food café at the front.
All edible produce is organic or biodynamic, and foods that have become recently fashionable, such as goji berries, have always been available here.
When coming to Friends of the Earth, you’re advised to bring your own bags, Tupperware and jars (although you can use theirs), because in the style of an old-fashioned grocer, you weigh out what you need – whether you want to buy in bulk or just have a dribble of something or other for dinner. Seeing items like organic teas available by the bucketload is a bit of a pleasant shock when you’re used to shelling out $15 for a small pre-boxed branded tea. In fact, most items in here, if you could find them in a supermarket, would be on the out-of-your-league shelf.
You’ll also find a large section of the shop devoted to beauty products: detergents, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, body lotions and more, and a noticeboard advertising rallies and spiritual speed dating. It’s not hard to believe that the clientele – be they lecturers, architects, students, parents – come from all over Melbourne.
Also worth mentioning, the staff are always on hand to advise you on what best to buy if you’re vegan or have food allergies, and if you join Friends of the Earth you’ll receive five percent off all your shopping.