Natural, Organic, Local, Sustainable!
This is not been easy in the past. But now, with the new Oklahoma Food Cooperative, it is easier and more convenient than it has been for a long time to buy fresh Oklahoma foods directly from farmers.
There's a growing movement that recognizes that the best tasting, freshest, highest quality foods are locally produced and sustainably grown. Here are eight reasons why this is good for this community and why you should get on this bandwagon.
1. It keeps money in the local community.
A large proportion of the money spent on food each year in Oklahoma leaves the state almost immediately. When you buy from local producers and processors, that money stays in the local community and benefits everyone.
2. You get better tasting, higher quality, and fresher food.
For example, it's not an accident that supermarket tomatoes taste like watery moosh. Agribizness tomatoes are grown from varieties selected, not for taste and nutrition, but rather for their abilities to be picked green and shipped long distances. Your local grower chooses varieties that taste good. What a concept.
3. You know where the food is coming from and how it was produced.
When you buy hamburger in a supermarket, or from a chain fast food restaurant, who knows how many different animals contributed to your serving, or where they came from, or what conditions they were raised under. When you buy from a local farmer and deal with a local custom butcher, you can see everything for yourself. No mixing of the meat of animals from many different states plus foreign countries.
4. If we don't support family farmers, there won't be another generation of family farmers.
The best support we as "urban eaters" can give them is to buy food directly from family farmers. Consolidation in the food production and distribution system is rampant. A supermarket looks competitive, with many different brands, but in fact most of them come from only 5 giant corporationss, and those 5 corporations are in the process of coalescing as two. A similar consolidation is going on in the retail grocery market, as chains like Albertsons and Wal Mart drive out independent grocers. As long as we pay for this process, it will continue. It is critical that people increase their direct purchases of food products from local farmers and processors so that we can preserve economic diversity and family livelihoods in rural America. We will not like it if the production, processing, and retail distribution of food becomes a locked in monopoly of giant transnational corporations.
5. Meats, eggs, dairy, and poultry from family farmers tend to be produced and processed under more humane and natural conditions than products derived from the "Confined Animal Feeding Operation" industry (CAFO).
CAFO animals and birds spend their entire lives in tiny pens; chickens have their beaks burned off, their cages are stacked so poultry waste falls on the birds below. If there was truth in labelling, supermarket chicken would have a label which read: "Contents: one small tortured bird." This is not the way our grandfathers treated their animals. But as long as people reward animal cruelty with their grocery dollars, it will continue. It's better to deal directly with farmers whose free ranging flocks and herds produce better quality meats, dairy, poultry, and eggs.
6. Family farmers need our help.
The last twenty years have been hard on family farmers. The average age of an Oklahoma farmer is 61. Government policies that are supposed to help family farmers turn out to have the perverse consequence of encouraging consolidation and larger operations. Billions of government dollars are funding the displacement of the family farmer. Hidden behind these statistics are the brutal costs economists ignore because they are "off the balance sheet". Ghost towns are dotting the Oklahoma rural landscape. The fact is, you get what you pay for. And this is what our agribizness dollars have wrought on the rural landscape.
7. Eating is a moral act.
Much of our food is imported from foreign countries. In many of those countries, poor farmers have been thrown off their land, with little or no compensation, so that big US companies could come in and open factory farms to supply the North American market. Water is diverted from peasant agriculture to these farms, and the people who have farmed the lands for centuries become urban squatters in the big slums on the outskirts of third world cities. And so it comes to pass that the fresh salad greens you buy in the snows of the North American winter may indeed have been snatched from the hands and mouths of hungry children in poor countries. Agribizness foods grown in this country are harvested and processed by exploited migrant labor. The workers receive below minimum wage, no benefits, and are exposed to high levels of pesticides and other dangerous chemicals. The exploitation of these people is a scandal, and it is funded by the agribizness industry and your supermarket grocery dollar..
8. Actions have consequences.
Food choices we make have practical consequences. By targeting as much of our grocery dollar as possible towards locally grown, sustainably produced food, we are "voting" for more prosperity, security, and a higher quality of life. Our grandparents knew the importance of supporting the local business community, and that includes the farmers. Food is such a critical aspect of life that we would be foolish to turn the food producing and distribution system entirely over to agribizness. The right to choose means little if all the choices are dictated by faceless corporations with offices on five continents. The wave of the future is direct local relationships between rural producers and urban consumers. That's what the Oklahoma Food Cooperative is all about. Y'all bon apetit, you hear?