A Rainbow of Produce 8

Oklahoma Food Cooperative is Helping Farmers and Artisans Distribute their Products

Once a month, and now once a week, loads of produce, meat and other farm products roll in the Oklahoma Food Cooperative in bushels of deep greens, reds, yellows and more.

Locally grown or locally raised and produced food fills the warehouse space at 311 S. Klein in Oklahoma City before being moved to various distribution points throughout the state—all destined for family dinner tables throughout Oklahoma.

At the distribution points, families pick up their order of fresh food. With more than 2,500 Oklahoma-grown or produced items, shoppers have a cornucopia to choose from.

Every item ordered and purchased comes from an Oklahoman who made it.

“It’s the way it used to be when we relied on family farms for our food,” Adam Price, general manager of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, says. “We offer anything you can find in any supermarket, but ours are made, raised or grown in Oklahoma by local farms.”

In January, the co-op unveiled a new weekly ordering system in which members can order items starting at noon on Mondays until noon on Tuesdays with pickup on Saturdays.

“We still operate as a grassroots organization, but what this means is that you can get the freshest items while supporting local businesses and the local economy,” Adam says.

A SEED OF AN IDEA

The Oklahoma Food Co-op began out of necessity in 2003. Local farmers and farming advocates needed a better distribution system to get their homegrown items to the public.

“Distribution was one of the things not being addressed,” Adam says. “Farmers who sold food locally had either little farmers markets or a hard time getting their produce out there. Bob Waldrup, a local advocate, decided he wanted to source all of his food from local farmers, and he’s the one who brought all the farmers and ranchers together to develop this.”

Farmers and artisans list their products for sale. Members who pay a one-time fee of $51.75 can log in, shop and place orders any time during the ordering period.

“You can order herbs, dairy, meat, specialty meats, produce, baked goods, grains, bath and body products, jewelry … anything that is made by local farmers and producers is available,” Adam says. “We have 15 beef producers, some pork producers, pasture chickens, local tilapia … you name it.”

SUSTAINABILITY AND SUPPORT

is among the small farmers involved in the co-op, growing everything from herbs to houseplants. He also sells eggs from his small flock of chickens. To him, the co-op is about community.

“I actually learned about Oklahoma Food Co-op through an older producer,” he says. “I lived in the city and had some backyard chickens and grew vegetables. I have a child who would not eat a fresh tomato out of the garden because he thought it was rotten. He was used to all those cardboard tomatoes at the store. So, I put my house on the market and bought a farm in 2011.”

Dustin can sell his products year-round through the organization.

“I like being part of a larger group because you have selling power,” he says. “Also, we can get our food all over the state. Think about the food deserts we have here. We are able to reach those places with fresh, locally produced items.”

Today, the co-op has thousands of members, but 300 to 400 who order on a regular basis.

For Adam, the movement is a true antithesis of big industrial agriculture that cuts out the small family farm.

“The family farmer is a dying breed,” he says. “When you purchase your food from a local farmer, you know exactly who you’re buying from and how it was produced. They also create a better-quality product that is healthier for you and just tastes better.”

For more information or to become a member, visit OklahomaFood.Coop or email customer@oklahomafood.coop.