We stayed with Adam, an awesome member of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative last night, staying up late and talking about the state of the world all kinds of things. He explained that the Cooperative (OKC) is an interesting model because they operate as a distributers from farmers to customers releasing one big state-wide CSA share each month. They’ve just moved to a retail location after operating only with online orders for a long time. We saw the building today, its HUGE! The warehouse was at one time an old grocery store and market, and its being revitalized as one again. They share a compound and parking lot with an awesome old antique mall, a building that houses Anderson’s Organics and Urban Agrarian, and an outdoor produce market. The area is being transformed into the “Farmers Market District” and it looks like its on its way toward being Oklahoma City’s local food hub.
The Antique Mall was a hoot. We walked through the old empty building and ran into a one legged man putting together a Christmas tree and woman who runs all her cars on straight vegetable oil (with no conversion). They were excited about the corn fish car, so we pulled him around the building and they proceeded to deck him out in country wester rancher gear complete with a saddle and huge bronco horns. He looked fantastic!
After taking lots of photos we went around the complex visiting the other local foodies. Anderson’s Organics and Urban Agrarian we’re too separate businesses that moved together into an huge old warehouse from the 1920s. They have a store front where they sell goods made exclusively in Oklahoma. In the back of the warehouse, they have an amazing decked out commercial kitchen that is available to local people to rent and run independent business ventures from. Individuals can use it to teach classes, make and sell their own personal products, have a space to cater from, etc. Its an amazing resource for their community. They also have a food truck that they use as a mobile farmers market, to reach areas that don’t have the same access to local food.
Basically this is want I want to do with my life. And the owner, Shelly was so encouraging to me. She said that all it takes is the drive and the desire to bring local food to your community. I’m from rural North Carolina and I’m often called home to make sure that my community has access to healthy food. A replicable model could materialize in a few places around the country, adapting to meet the regional community’s needs. The possibility makes me so excited.
On the way out of town we stopped at the Red Cup, a super groovy vegan and vegetarian cafe where we met a bunch of local Occupy organizers before we even stepped in the door. They recognized the fishy corn car from the Prop 37 campaign online and we all talked for awhile. If you’re ever in OKC, you should eat at this spot.
We traveled on down the road to Tulsa, to Anner’s Pantry. Anner’s is a family-run, member-owned cooperative that operates from Anner’s home. They strive to be an organic connivence store, and have been operating as such since 1998. They offer weekly CSA bags to members that are accompanied with weekly recipes (Anner’s original) that incorporate the ingredients from the corresponding week’s CSA bag. Before the coop, Anner was a cook and she and her husband ran several restaurants. They are now in their 70s and Anner’s son and his wife are slowly taking over the home-run business. We visited with both generations over tea for awhile. Anner’s husband, Ed talked about his improved quality of life through simplification and working through a labor of love, how community has saved his life and provided his living situation, his belief that “unbridled capitalism is a dangerous beast”, his concern about the horrible practices of fracking and mountain top removal and how impressed he was with the Yes Men. These people are awesome. Anner told us that the rest of her family perceived her dedication to healthy, organic food as extreme hippy lunacy. She was introduced at family gatherings as “the crazy cousin”. Needless to say, now that she runs a cooperative with 500 members from her home, her “insanity” seems to have paid off.
We were so grateful to see their thriving, evolving model (with upcoming dreams of a food truck and more), to hear their stories and to experience their kind hospitality.
If you haven’t noticed yet, this adventure isn’t about preaching or protesting. Its been about seeing who the team is, “rallying the troops” so to speak, celebrating local food economies and sharing our info, energy and sillyness with the people doing the real work to create a world alternative to the one that monsanto is preparing. Its a huge blessing to us to meet these awesome pioneers. We also know that down the road, the real work for change will begin, but for now we celebrate, build and connect like souls.7
After we left, we traveled on into the dark toward St. Louis for the city museum and some fun occupy monsanto actions feeling uplifted, inspired and excited about the next things.