Friday, December 31, 2010

My Bon Appetitin' Happy New Year Bobaganda

Bonus: A month of healthy quick breakfasts from local foods. . . Not To Mention . . . New Years Resolutions. . . Census of Oklahoma Agriculture. . . On Eating What's Available. . . Bread and Beer: the basis of civilizations. . . Soap and Body Care Items. . . RECIPES and COOKING PLANS. . .

We are at the beginning of a new year, and one of the customary traditions – besides of course the importance of eating black-eyed peas and greens on New Years Day – is the making of resolutions. I hope that all of us will be making a resolution to “Eat More Local Food” this coming year – taste, nutrition, and food security are three good reasons to do this.

A lot has changed regarding local foods in Oklahoma over the last few years. Every five years, the government does a census of agriculture, the more recent was in 2007. In the five years 2002-2007. . . direct sales from farmers to individuals rose from $3,735,000 to $11,534,000, an increase of 209%! In 2002, 1,920 farms sold something direct to the public; in 2007, the number had risen to 3,194, an increase of 66%. Sales of organic grown in the state totaled $3,543,000 in 2007. Oklahoma has 22,888 certified organic acres used for food production, with another 16,538 in transition to organic production. 12,823 of the organic acres are pasture lands. This is tremendous progress in a short time, but as is obvious, much more needs to be done.  Read more at --,_Chapter_1_State_Level/Oklahoma/st40_1_002_002.pdf

Over the years I have written frequently about the basic principles of local food systems, and this month, going into the new year of 2011, I want to revisit the concept – “Eat what's available.” The Oklahoma Food Coop is not able to pick up the phone and contact a food broker and order in an infinite variety of mystery groceries from the four corners of the earth. Seven years into our adventure, the local food systems of Oklahoma are still not all that they need to be. But that doesn't mean that anybody needs to go hungry. So this month I want to focus on four products – ground meat, grains, prepared foods, and soap and our non-food lines in general.

In terms of distinct ecological regions, Oklahoma is one of the most diverse states. We are a land of transition, the mountains and forests of the east give way to the savannahs and scattered groves of cedar, oak, and elm of the “Cross Timbers Transition” in the central area. Continuing west, we arrive at the Central Great Plains. Places where ecological regions meet and transition are typically highly productive. I've often mused about the wisdom of our pioneer ancestors in selecting the particular site for Oklahoma City, right at the edge, in the transition zone between the east and its savannahs and woodlands and the west of the plains, along the banks of a river. In the past, prairie grasses covered much of this land, grazed by magnificent herds of bison. Today, we are known for our abundant harvests of grain and the high quality of our livestock, the prairie grasses and livestock of our era and ecology. Did you know there are more cattle in the state than there are people? By the standards of pastoral indigenous peoples, who counted cattle as wealth, we have wealth beyond measure in our herds of mother cows and their associated bulls, who primarily live on forages all of their lives in the pastures and grasslands of the state.

So if we are going to eat what's available from local farmers, meat ought to be high on the list (except of course for vegans and vegetarians). And of all the meats, ground meats are in best supply, price, and variety. Pork (sausages and ground pork), beef, bison, lamb, all are available in great quantity. Many folks say that they can't afford to buy all their food from local farmers, and that's fine, but most of us could afford to buy some ground meat. Keep reading for an answer to the question – “What can I do with 30 pounds of ground meat?” More answers perhaps than you thought possible.

As already noted, a large part of Oklahoma was grasslands, and the cultivated equivalent of the native grasses is wheat, a/k/a the staff of life, source of bread and beer, which (as some say) were the basis of the first civilizations. The historical evidence is that wheat was the first source ingredient for beer; the popularity of barley is a fairly recent innovation, only a few hundred years old. To make your own wheat beer, you'll need to malt the wheat, which is a process of sprouting and drying the wheat, which is then ground to a powder. Here's a short article on the process of malting wheat – . See also , and . Many more brewing links at .

I've sent links many times on baking bread – for folks new to the coop, check out the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes method as described at , , and my own bread page at .

Soap is like ground meat in the coop; we have lots of it for sale, from a variety of producers, each with a little different take on the subject of artisan soaps and body care products. Yes, the price is higher than supermarket soaps, but artisan soap is one of the “more startling” products in terms of the difference in quality. Even though they are slightly higher than supermarket soaps, they last so much longer, that in the short and the long runs, they are the best value for your soap and body care dollars.

The same quality and care goes into the many other non-food products available in plenty through the coop. So before you go to a big box store, browse the departments and shelves of the non-food sections of the Oklahoma Food Coop. Your body – especially your hair and your skin – will be very grateful for your choice of locally made, artisan body care products.

And now for the Question of the Hour. . .

So we have a problem – people are busy, families are over-scheduled, and incorporating local foods into your household's diet means cooking meals from basic ingredients. There's no way to get around that. Sometimes people think it is just easier to go out to eat, even though the price is high and getting higher all the time. Think about the cost of a quarter pound, four ounces, of ground meat when bought as a fast food burger – it will run you $12/pound, double the price of the most expensive ground meat in the coop. And the fast food burger no doubt includes some of the infamous ammonia-laced “pink slime” product about which I have written previously at (scroll down about half-way into the blog entry).

“But Bob, you just don't understand how busy I am.” Actually, I do understand, because my own life is full of busy-ness and I am all the time finding a new iron to put into my fire. So, here's my public confession. I don't cook a meal from basic locally-sourced ingredients every night, not to mention breakfast and lunch. Sometimes I take just take something out of the freezer and put it in the microwave or the oven. But it's not a conventional product from the supermarket. It's something I've made myself and frozen for eating later. When I cook greens, I cook a lot, and freeze most of it for later in meal-sized portions. When I cook beans, I cook a lot, and freeze most of it for eating later in meal-sized portions. When I make stock, I make a lot, and freeze most of it for eating later in meal-sized portions. If I am warming up the oven or crockpot to make a roast, I will always make more than I need for that meal so I have leftovers for eating later in the week. Every so often, I make a large batch of something – such as roux for gravy, or cooked ground meat, so I have some ingredients that are usually time-consuming in their preparation already made and in the freezer, waiting to be combined with other ingredients for a quick but tasty meal.

I've written a lot before about once-a-month cooking, where people take a full day and cook a month's worth of meals, putting them in the freezer for eating later. A sub-specialty in that genre is bulk cooking, where you cook a large amount of one major ingredient (like chicken, or ground meat) and freeze it for cooking with later.

This kind of cooking takes some time to plan, but it is time well-invested since you save so much time down the road. I think the easiest way to get into this is to think about something like cooking 20 or 30 pounds of ground meat and freezing it in meal-sized portions for later meal prep. So think about giving this a try in the New Year. When the order comes around, order 20 or 30 pounds of ground meats – get a variety, pork, beef, bison, lamb – and go ahead and prep it for using later in the month as you make meals for your family. Obviously, you can adjust these amounts for the size of your household, when writing about 20 or 30 pounds of ground meat, I am thinking of a household of three or four.

The first step is to make a list of all of the ground meat recipes that your family likes to eat. Once you have your list, then you can take a calendar and plan a month's worth of menus, or if your household is smaller, maybe two or three months of meals involving ground meats. It's likely that you won't plan to eat ground meat every night, you may want an occasional roast, a ham, or a fried chicken, but for many of us, ground meats will be the basis of our menus. Don't expect people to get bored, however, because first of all, the taste of locally produced ground meats from pastured herds is superior to store-bought mystery meat. And second, there are about a gazillion different ways to prepare ground meat.

My list for 30 pounds of ground meat, for my household of five (3 adults, 1 teenager, 1 child age 4), would look something like this:
meat/tomato sauce – 4 lbs
taco/burrito – 3 lbs
patties – 8 lbs
fried ground meat – 12 lbs
meatballs – 1 lbs
meatloaf – 2 lbs

This would be enough ground meat (beef, bison, lamb, and pork) to make the following meals:

2 Meat tomato sauce for spaghetti
2 Meat tomato sauce for lasagna
2 Shepherds pies
3 taco/burrito meat
2 meatloaf
2 salisbury steaks
3 hamburgers
3 patty melts
1 burger noodle
1 Swedish meatballs
1 sloppy joes
1 Cabbage casserole
1 Cornbread meatloaf
1 cheeseburger pie
2 pocket pies
3 burger gravy

Most of these recipes are online at . Looking at my recipes, I need to make:

1 lb of meatballs
2 lbs of meatloaf
8 lbs of hamburger patties
19 lbs of fried ground meat – 3 lbs of which is seasoned “south of the border”, 6 lbs seasoned Italian, and the rest is “plain”.

If I was going to do all of this at one time. . . this would be my plan. Not listed, but very important, is constant attention to food safety with the handling of this large amount of ground raw meats. Keep a sink full of hot sudsy water handy, wash implements and pots as you go (nobody wants to end an adventure like this faced with a pile of dirty pots and cooking utensils). Have a sanitizing solution handy to wipe down counters frequently. Wash your hands after every time that you handle the raw meat. Never touch anything else after you have handled raw meat until you have washed your hands (plunge them into the hot soapy water in your sink, then rinse.)
  1. Cook the plain ground meat in a crockpot. Instructions are here: Cooking ground beef in a crockpot – – she prepared 9 pounds in a 6 qt crock. Or you can fry it in skillets. . . or you can boil it.
  2. Cook the “south of the border” and the Italian seasoned ground beef in skillets on the top of the stove.
  3. Make and fry the hamburger patties.
  4. Make the ground meat mixture for the meatballs and meatloafs (same mixture for both recipes).
  5. Make and cook the meatballs.
  6. Make the meatloafs (but freeze them uncooked).
While you're at it, you could figure out how many sliced and sauteed onions you will need for these recipes (if you're like me and put onions into a lot of recipes), and saute them while you are at it – freeze in recipe-appropriate portions and date and label.

Package the cooked meats in meal sized portions. You'll want to collect a variety of freezer containers. The trick to avoiding freezer burn is – (1) Don't buy or use an automatic defrost freezer, as the constant thawing and refreezing lowers the quality of the food, and (2) Package carefully in airtight containers designed and made for use in the freezer and LABEL AND DATE each container. When foods freeze, they look different than they do when just cooked. Don't worry your memory with keeping track of what's in your freezer in your brain. Label and date each container and keep a written inventory in the kitchen so you know what you have on hand. If you do have an automatic defrost freezer, try to use everything within a month.

For my household, I always figure 1 pound of ground meat per meal. One pound of raw ground hamburger makes about 1-1/2 cups of cooked ground beef, although your mileage may vary slightly. So what I do usually is just keep track of how much I am cooking at any given time and divide it accordingly when I am packaging for the freezer. If I am frying 3 pounds of Italian-seasoned burger, I will simply divide it three ways by site before I put it in the freezer. For the burger patties, I make 8 per pound and just count them out. The number of meatballs per pound varies based on how big or small you make them, I tend to make more smaller ones instead of a few large ones.

One thing all of the following have in common is that they can be prepared with many local food ingredients. All the breakfast meats are in good supply through the coop, as is wheat and flour for making the pancakes, biscuits, breads, etc. Eggs are always in short supply, but the inventory is gradually increasing.  Anyway, you can make them ahead and freeze them for convenient and fast breakfasts later.

Sausage Biscuits . . . and sausage-stuffed cheese biscuits Or, just make your favorite recipe for biscuits, fry the sausage patties, slice the biscuits, insert the sausage, flash freeze (directions below), package in air tight container. If you are making a LOT of sausage patties, they cook very well in the oven at 325 degrees. Length depends on the size and thickness of the patties. This was the method I used for an Oklahoma Food breakfast we prepared in our first year of existence for a breakfast we present for a civic group.

Bacon Hash Brown Roll-ups

Breakfast burritos

Make your favorite recipe for pancakes, cool and flash freeze as described below, package securely for freezing, put a piece of wax paper between pancakes to separate them. Heat in microwave or toaster.

Breakfast casserole
Make your favorite egg/milk or cream/cheese/breakfast meat casserole, freeze, thaw overnight and rewarm in the morning.

Make your favorite recipe for waffles, flash freeze, package as described in pancakes above.

Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast Quiche

A great recipe for freezer biscuits.

How to freeze prepared foods. 
At the top are a myriad of recipes that freeze well, towards the bottom are many links about how to freeze foods.

Feed the Freezer Cooking Guide

Flash freezing – best method for items like burritos, pancakes, etc that are not packaged as a whole entree or casserole.

BONUS BONUS: More links on Once and Month and Bulk Cooking -- site with online planner that allows you to select and enter meals into a
planning program for a cooking session; it then automatically produces a shopping list and a procedure list for preparing the food in one or two sessions. you have to buy 2 books to get the recipes, but both are reasonably priced and worth the money. Or you can buy only one of the books and use only its recipes, which would be about half of the total recipes available, but it includes all the important ones like meatloaf and other common ground meat recipes.

Frugal mom's guide to OAMC (recipes for meal planner)

Bulk cooking differs from Once A Month Cooking in that instead of using several different main ingredients, it concentrates on one., so a series of bulk cooking days would give you a variety of meals in the freezer.
Ham, Cheese, Potato Pockets, from

2 frozen bread loaves, thawed (or, two recipes of your own home-made bread dough, or you can buy frozen bread dough from a coop producer)
1 pound sliced ham
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese
1 medium onion, sliced
20 ounces sliced cooked potatoes (or frozen diced/sliced hashbrowns)
1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups Ranch dressing
1 egg

If using frozen hash brown potatoes, place in microwaveable safe bowl and defrost for approximately 6 minutes. Skip if using refrigerated sliced potatoes. In a large skillet, cook onions and hash brown potatoes in butter until warmed and slightly browned. Add garlic powder. Roll out thawed bread dough onto a floured surface (see pictures below). Cut into fourths using a pizza cutter. You should have 8 squares total using 2 bread loaves. On each square, layer the following: 2-3 slices ham, 1 T Ranch Dressing, Potatoes/Onion Mix, 1T Ranch, Swiss cheese. Fold over dough and seal with a fork. In a small bowl, beat egg and brush a bit of egg mixture over each pocket. Place in 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.

Freezing Directions: Let cool and then flash freeze (or in sandwich bags) and place in a gallon size freezer bag. Freeze. To serve: Place in microwave for 2-4 minutes OR in oven for 10-15 minutes until heated through.

Adapted to coop ingredients by yours truly, my suggestions in (parenthesis).

For the bread:
* 1 2/3 cups warm water (70 to 80 degrees F)
* 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder (2 tablespoons of cream)
* 2 tablespoons sugar (2 tablespoons honey)
* 2 tablespoons shortening (2 tablespoons butter or lard)
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (whole wheat flour, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the liquid ingredients)
* 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or use your own favorite recipe for bread dough).

For the filling:
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (shitaakes from the coop would be great)
* 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
* 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/3 cup pizza sauce
* 1/2 cup diced pepperoni (Arkansas bacon, or Italian sausage would substitute nicely here)
* 1 cup shredded pizza cheese blend (shredded local cheese)
* 1/4 cup chopped ripe olives
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

- Mix the first six ingredients on dough setting in the bread maker. Once it was kneaded, I let it rise until doubled. You could also use frozen bread dough - thaw and rise.

- Saute the peppers, onions, mushrooms in the oil until tender. Cool.

- Divide dough into two balls. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Let rest 5 mins. Roll into a 10x16 in. rectangle.

-Top with sauce, veggies, pepperoni, and cheese. Add any extra topping you like.

-From the long side of the rectangle, roll up. (Like cinnamon rolls.) Pinch seam. Cut each roll into 12 pieces. Place 12 rolls in each 9x13 pan. (An easy way to cut these nicely is to use thread, loop the thread around the dough, cross over the top, and pull each strand of thread, voila, cleanly cut dough and filling).

-Sprinkle with Parmesan, cover and let rise until doubled. Bake 18-22 mins. at 375.
-Serve with extra pizza sauce for dipping.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I got a call this afternoon from April Harrington.  I'm always glad to hear from her, but I was a little worried since she has had such bad news with the move by ODOT to take her property for its road-widening project.  Well, this was a good news call.  She said she had just agreed to a settlement with ODOT that gives her pretty much everything she wants, so she will be able to pay off her existing mortgage AND have money left over to re-start her business at another location, a business which is an essential aspect of the local food scene here in central Oklahoma.

So thanks to everyone who contacted their politicians about this, thanks to her lawyer Justin Hershey for doing such a good job on her behalf, and don't forget to order a calzone from her this month to celebrate this great victory!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brainstorming ideas for the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

Over the last few weeks, I have been encouraging a brainstorming process among the Board and the membership in three major issues: Improving Customer Satisfaction, Spending Money, Making Money. I chose to divide the issue these ways, because it seemed to me that these were the areas that needed attention.

For a long time, we have substituted volunteer labor for money. That has been, and will remain, an important aspect of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative experience, but our history also suggests that there is a hidden cost to that in the form of over-burdening key people who all to often have ended up “burning out”. There is an increasing feeling among the leaders of the coop that it is not acceptable for the coop to go on “sacrificing” people in this way, so the issue of “spending money” is definitely on the table.

To spend money, however, we must make money. So we also need to think about ways to increase the cooperative’s revenues.

And customer satisfaction has a very direct relationship to whether or not people decide to shop the coop for all or part of their households’ groceries.

This document summarizes the results of the brain storming suggestions, from both the Board and the membership. The outline below was not pre-determined, but was formed after looking at all of the suggestions and sorting them. Some of them could easily be in more than one location, but this is a good place to start.

In this summary, I have combined similar suggestions and listed their proposers and tried to organize them by topic. I did some rewording to take them from the form of casual conversation to ideas for discussion. If I distorted anyone's idea, or if your idea got lost in the conversation, let me know.

By posting this discussion – to the members of the Board, to the coop’s general discussion group, and to my website, I hope to generate even more discussion and conversation and ideas about re-organizing the way we do things. I will continue to act as “secretary” for the discussions and add new ideas as they are developed to this outlined, which will be posted from time to time to the various discussion listservs and at  .

I would caution everyone that this has been a brainstorming process, it is not a document indicating management decisions that have already been made. While discussion about the merits or demerits of each of these proposals is perfectly fine, I would like to remind all that this discussion should be civil and devoid of angry outbursts of rage if you see something you don’t like. Everyone participating in this process is deeply committed to the coop and its success and so the good intentions of everyone can and should be appreciated.

NB:  Due to the limitations of the software, much of the formatting has disappeared from this document, in particular, the indents.  A pdf of the original, with all the formating, can be downloaded from the files section of the Coop's general discussion group, .

1.0 Improving Customer Satisfaction
1.1 Website Changes (7 topics)
1.2 Member Issues (3 topics)
1.3 Producer/product Issues (9 topics)
1.4 Marketing/promotion (2 topics)
1.5 Customer Education (1 topics)
1.6 Big Picture Items (1 topics)
1.7 Delivery Day Sorting (4 topics)
1.8 Pickup Sites (5 topics)

2.0 Making Money

2.1 Sales (8 topics)
2.2 Marketing/promotion (5 topics)
2.3 Member Issues (3 topics)
2.4 Miscellaneous Revenue Sources (6 topics)
2.5 Miscellaneous Issues (1 topic)

3.0 Spending Money

3.1 Promotions/marketing (1 topic)
3.2 Employees (11 topics).



1.1.1 A button to click on the home page: First Time to the Website. This would explain the basics in two or three paragraphs: cost to join, order cycle and pick-up, a few of our vip standards in brief. (Ann Boulton)

1.1.2 Improve the website more so it functions more like a normal e-commerce website. (Chelsey Simpson)

(a) Make products easier to sort. (Chelsey Simpson, Shauna Struby)

(b) Offer more product sorting options for the list like other websites have (sort by most popular, recently added, most and least expensive, organic, all natural...) Chelsey Simpson, Karen Cline, Shelley Smith, Shauna Struby,

(c) Make the lists more visually appealing/ not as long to scroll through. (Chelsey Simpson)

(d) Auto-generate an email the day the order closes so that everyone with items in their cart receives a reminder to check it for accuracy and add more items if they want. (Chelsey Simpson)

1.1.3 Automate product display, so that if a product has zero inventory, it does not display. If members take items out of their shopping carts so the inventory is restored, the item would automatically re-appear without producer or coop admin action. Bob Waldrop, Kathy Tibbits. Shelley Smith

(a) Enable a user option to “hide items without inventory”. Karen Cline.

1.1.4 Product search. Laura (member).

1.1.5 If the coop runs on Linux, switch to htdig. Julia Christensen

1.1.6 Eliminate duplicate product categories/departments/shelves. Karen Cline, Shelley Smith

1.1.7 Use an icon to identify at a glance that a product is either organic, naturally grown/raised without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or conventionally grown.


1.2.1 Customer Complaints

(a) Improve our response time to customer complaints/questions. (Ann Boulton)

(b) Organize communications so that six people don't think they need to respond. (Ann Boulton)

(c) Eliminate/resolve non-functioning customer service issues like the delays in returning messages left on the answering machine at the op center. Four possible solutions:

(i) Change the message to say call Ann Boulton, here's the number.

(ii) Ask people to leave an email address.

(iii) Hire an answering service.

(iv) Use a flow chart that shows where customer complaint emails go. Ann Boulton

1.2.2 Besides subscribing all members to , also subscribe them to to encourage feedback and discussion. Dev Valencourt.

1.2.3 Host a bulletin board that allows anonymous posting at the website. Dev Valencourt


1.3.1 Eliminate random weight items. (Chelsey Simpson)

1.3.2 Develop a producer help desk/volunteer that would work with producers who do not have computer access to list their products, print their product lists and labels, etc. Charge something for this service. Kathy Tibbits, Kathy Moore, Lauren Brandeberry, Bob Waldrop Waldrop, Shauna Struby, Dev Valencourt, Karen Cline,

1.3.3 Eliminate missing item fee if due to pests, freeze, etc. Kathy Moore

1.3.4 Enforce the requirement that producers declare their use of conventional pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers. Shelley Smith

1.3.5 Standardize the way that produce is listed. Patty Loofbourrow

1.3.6 Include allergen requirements as part of producer orientation. Patty Loofbourrow

1.3.7 Develop a method/structure for members to request products and for this info to make it to producers. Dev Valencourt. Linda Zoldoske

1.3.8 Combine the store idea with a certified kitchen available for rent; put April Harrington in charge of it. Kathy Tibbits, John Herndon, Dev Valencourt,

1.3.9 Implement an E-bay-type feedback system for producers. Bob Waldrop


1.4.1 Promote the coop in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at the U of Ark. (Ann Boulton)

1.4.2 Address the issue that the coop is only for upscale urban people. Patty Loofborow


1.5.1 Offer more cooking classes. (Chelsey Simpson)

(a) Develop recipes using only coop ingredients (except maybe salt and pepper) maybe make it a competition, possibly cause it to pop up when someone orders one ingredient. (Ann Boulton)


1.6.1 Regionalize the coop for an additional monthly delivery.

(a) 3 regions – OKC, Tulsa, Muskogee Tahlequah.

(b) One monthly order would be like our present statewide delivery.

(c) A second monthly order would be regionalized. Members in the Tulsa area would order from Tulsa producers; members in the Tahlequah-Muskogee area would order from Tahlequah producers; members in the OKC area would order from OKC area producers.

(d) Producers could have the option of participating in more than one regional order, as long as they could get their products to that region’s delivery day.

(e) Submitted by Bob Waldrop.


1.7.1 Sort frozen and refrigerated items to individual customers like we do dry goods. (Bob Waldrop)

1.7.2 Improve the presentation of frozen and refrigerated item by packing them in boxes for individual customers. (Bob Waldrop)

1.7.3 Number the coolers in sequence for pickup sites. (Ann Boulton, reporting suggestion of member)

1.7.4 “Head of Security” for the op site. Kathy Tibbits


1.8.1 Train our pick-up site volunteers to act like real customer service people. (Chelsey Simpson)

1.8.2 Write cooler numbers on invoices so that customers don't have to consult the sheets. (Chelsey Simpson)

1.8.3 Improve training, support for, and compensation for route/pickup site managers. Candace Lockett

(a) Have a route/pickup site managers appreciation day, or an nual bonus or gift for them.

(b) Suggest to producers that they send free samples to route managers, who have direct interaction with customers and can act as salespeople.

(c) Ensure that every route/pick-up site manager has a number to call on delivery day, well into the evening, and the next day, that will be answered by a live person capable to answering questions, resolving problems, or finding the person who can handle a particular situation.

(d) Candace’s ideas for support for route/pick-up site managers were “seconded” by Karen Cline, Pam Ferry, Shauna Struby, Bob Waldrop, all of whom have been route or pick-up site managers.

1.8.4 Dedicated coop transportation for routes, either by purchase or lease, together with training for the drivers. Julie Gahn

1.8.5 Offer free samples of food at pickup sites. (Ann Boulton)



2.1.1 Go to twice a month orders. (Ann Boulton)

2.1.2 Start a Coop farmers market. Order online, pickup at a coop farmers market. Greg Parker.

2.1.3 Encourage out of town customers to network in order to pick up orders for them at a coop farmers market. . Walter Kelley

2.1.4 Bob Waldrop’s Variation on the Coop farmers market: Develop a Coop Mobile Market (CMM) that would wander about on a schedule in areas with a strong cooperative membership base.

(a) People could order online for delivery at the Coop Mobile Market

(b) CMM would also have stock from producers offered on consignment. This preserves one of the advantages of the coop for the producers in that they wouldn't have to be personally present for the event.

(c) CMM could be a different place every day for 3 weeks of the month (perhaps repeating in some locations), operating on Saturday in areas where there aren't a farmer's market.

(d) Start with one CMM in the OKC area to test the concept, and then if viable add one for the Tulsa area.

(e) Producers could drop off consignment product on delivery day when they are bringing their other stuff, they wouldn't get paid until we sold the items, but when sold they would get paid promptly (weekly check).

(f) Finesse any software issues in the short term by installing our software on multiple domains, e.g.,, and , so that people could order online for 3 weekly deliveries at a coop mobile market stop, while keeping for the regular monthly order.

(g) The mobile market would be a trailer pulled by a pickup, carrying food and tables and etc and setting up at a location like we do at present for a pick-up site.

(h) Kathy Tibbit’s variation of Bob’s variation on the coop farmers market suggestion: Put the coop mobile market on a bus.

2.1.5 Open a store. Dawn Mahiya, Shauna Struby. Kathy Tibbits.

(a) Locate the store next door to the Red Cup location in the 73106 zip code, OKC. (Dawn Mahiya)

2.1.6 Coop-operated CSA: Instead of ordering exact items, customers would choose from one of a couple CSA boxes that would contain items from different producers. Sell the boxes outside of the regular monthly delivery as a testing ground for a second monthly delivery. Farmers' markets could be distribution points for the CSA-type system (Chelsey Simpson)

2.1.7 Make coop meal packs – everything (or most things) necessary to make a particular meal for a certain number of people. (Kathy Tibbits)

2.1.8 Additional pick-up possibilities not on the third Thursday, such as picking up on the Saturday after delivery day to accommodate members that can’t meet our current pickup. Jennifer David.


2.2.1 Have a farm tour and charge money like they do for house and garden tours. Do it annually and select a different region of the state each year (close to metro areas if possible). Ann Boulton

2.2.2 Promote the coop in North Texas. Ann Boulton

(a) And also other border areas.

2.2.3 Promote the coop to more medical people; Ann Boulton

2.2.4 Have a specialized “Sale” web-flyer each month. Justine Foster.

2.2.5 Highlight sales in existing producer notes. (?)


2.3.1 Make new members accounts active immediately so that they can order right away. Ann Boulton

2.3.2 Charge an annual fee of $20 that can be waived by donating an hour of your time or attending a board meeting. (Chelsey Simpson)

2.3.3 Increase the coop producer and customer charges.(Bob Waldrop)


2.4.1 Invest some of the coop's working capital in items that are not and never will be produced by Oklahoma producers, which the coop would buy at wholesale and sell at retail to our customers, such as Texas citrus, Arkansas and Texas rice, paper goods (something like 7th generation toilet paper etc). (Bob Waldrop)

2.4.2 Implement the program to sell classified ads at the website to members only, that has already been approved by the Board. (Bob Waldrop)

2.4.3 Sell display ads on the website. (Bob Waldrop)

2.4.4 Sell booths at the annual meeting. (Bob Waldrop)

2.4.5 Operate a catering truck offering Oklahoma foods at fairs/events. Bob Waldrop

2.4.6 Have more Oklahoma food dinners but charge enough so we actually make a profit. ?


2.5.1 Study other retail coops for ideas for us. Shauna Struby



3.1.1 Spend some money on advertising. Walter Kelley


3.2.1 Hire a finance manager. Walter Kelley, Kara McKee, Bob Waldrop, Greg Parker, April Harrington

3.2.2 Hire a PR/outreach manager. Ann Boulton, Chelsey Simpson, Bob Waldrop

3.2.3 Make changes to the GOM job duties so that the position is an actual GM. Chelsey Simpson

3.2.4 Institute a pay raise/work credit increase across the board for "middle managers" or other people who do not have a full time or even part-time work load but who we depend on greatly and who hold responsibility. Chelsey Simpson

3.2.5 Hire a routes manager. Kara McKee

3.2.6 Hire a software assistant to do routine website tasks and handle the routine software/customer web-related questions. Kara McKee

3.2.7 Raise for GOM. Bob Waldrop

3.2.8 Hire a producer manager. (Bob Waldrop)

3.2.9 Spend more money on hiring employees to do work presently done by over-worked volunteers, target critical functions, especially communication functions. Justine Foster.

3.2.10 We should fill other management holes with employees, such as producer communications and maybe even route coordination. Chelsey Simpson

3.2.11 General increase in the work credit program for volunteers. Bob Waldrop

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Feastin' Season Begins! November Bobagandistic Thoughts for the Oklahoma Food Cooperative

OK this is not only the feastin' season, it also opens up the singin' season.  So here is the "official" Oklahoma Food Coop holiday song (well, one of them anyway, next month we have the 12 Days of the Coop's Christmas. . . which includes a Very Pesky Pastured Chicken in a Stratford Peach Tree!)
Tune: Deck the halls with boughs of holly

(1) Tis the season for the feastin',
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
Taste nutrition can't be beaten,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
Nurturing the land and people,
Farm and city joining hands.
Tis the season for the feastin',
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!

(2) Care for people and creation,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
Hope throughout the bio-region,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
From our farms onto our tables,
we will bless the way we eat!
Care for people and creation,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!

(3) Healing nature with earth's beauty,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
Wisdom, joy fulfilling duty,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
Eating with the changing seasons,
Chasing the CAFOs from our land!
Healing nature with earth's beauty,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!

(4) Social justice, sustainability,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
Economic viability,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!
These our values, govern always,
They will take us forward far!
Three in number the core values,
Oklahoma Foods are good to eat!

This is what we are about, good food for good people.  Social justice, environmental sustainability, economic viability -- good food that does good, or as we shall say in December, "Peace on Earth, Good meals for all!"
It gets very busy around here.  We don't always achieve our goals.  But seven years into this crazy experiment, we are still here, making a difference on farm and in the city.
This is one of the important principles of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  So this is the month for the cool season greens and squash and pumpkins.  Looking at the order inventories, I still see a lot of greens available.  Greens are so tasty and nutritious.  Folks should buy lots, cook 'em and eat 'em now, and freeze some for eating later.  Cooked greens freeze very well, I do it all the time. 
I also see lots of pumpkins, and if you're making your pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving out of canned pumpkin, well, you are missing one of the great taste treats.  At our very first activity -- the Oklahoma Food dinner of November 2003 -- we served pumpkin pie made from real pumpkins.  None of us had actually ever done that before, but we looked up the recipe on the internet (Google is the friend of local food), and it was certainly the best pumpkin pie I've ever et.  Combine that with some whipped cream from pastured cows, and you have very fine food for your feastin' table.
Turkeys sold out really quick -- memo to producers, WE NEED MORE TURKEYS NEXT YEAR. That's been true every year of the coop's existence.  But that doesn't mean that we lack for fine centerpiece meats for your holiday tables.  I see wonderful tenderloins of beef and pork and buffalo. Whole prime ribs of buffalo. Legs of lamb.  Roasts.  Pastured chickens.  Very nice foods for your feastin' season.
And details?  We have pecans for your pecan pie or pecan tarts, or to scatter across your baked sweet potatoes.  Lard and suet for pie crusts.  Peanuts and roastin' and eatin'. Wonderful whole wheat flour for rolls, breads, and cakes, and yes, whole wheat flour makes a very fine cake.  Use buttermilk or yogurt instead of milk and it will be a light and tasty cake, so much so that people will hardly believe it was made with whole wheat flour.  Jams and jellies for your rolls.  Bread and hot roll dough if you're too busy to make your own.  Nice prepared casseroles for potlucks and when you are just too busy to cook.
Now is also a good time for your holiday gift shopping, and you name it, our fine coop artisan producers have them for sale.  I hadn't realized how easy the food coop would make my Christmas shopping.  Friends and family receive jellies and jams and artisan soaps and pecans and crafts from me instead of mass-produced junk made by wage slaves and sold in big box stores.

There are many ways to cook greens. The most traditional, southern way is to simmer them slowly with ham hocks or bacon. Arkansas bacon is particularly good for this I think, or a meaty bone from a ham. As the cooking proceeds, a rich vitamin-filled broth results, this is what is called “pot liquor” or “pot likker”. Serve with freshly baked corn bread. Other additions include onions, garlic, hot peppers (or hot pepper sauce), liquid smoke.

1 cup cooked turnip greens contains: 20 calories, 1.2 g protein, 4.4 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g dietary fiber, 93% water, 550 RE vitamin A, 27 mg vitamin C, 118 mcg folate, 203 mg potassium and 137 mg calcium.

Traditional method: Use about 1/4 lb of bacon or ham hocks per five pounds or so of greens. Fry bacon until crisp. Bring water to boil, add salt and crushed red pepper. Crumble bacon over greens and add to the liquid. Simmer until done (at least 1 hour, if using ham hocks, simmer until the ham hocks are completely done and falling apart, which would be 3-4 hours. Many people add sliced or diced turnips to the greens for cooking. Turnip greens in particular need to be cooked longer than some of the more tender greens like spinach or mustard.

Cooked greens freeze just fine. While they are available, buy lots, cook and freeze for eating later!

Cream of Greens Soup
1 lb ham slice, with bone
8 cups water
1 large bunch of greens, washed and finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped green onions
1/4 and 1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
5 cups milk

Place the water and ham in a pot, cover, and simmer for 3 hours. Remove ham, add the chopped greens, simmer for 1 hour. (If you are making this with turnip greens, add them at the beginning of the cooking. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a skillet, and the chopped onion, celery, and green onions, cook until tender. Put the cooked onion mixture in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth, mix with the greens. Melt 1/3 cup butter in a cooking pot, gradually add the flour and stir to make a roux. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Then add the greens and onion mixture, a dash of salt and hot sauce. Add the ham cut into chunks. Cook until thoroughly heated, do not boil. Makes about 10 cups.

Coop Cooking Note: We have ham, greens, flour, butter, and cream for sale this month. Instead of five cups of milk, try a mixture of cream and water or stock. Use whole wheat flour to make a roux (I generally sift whole wheat flour before I use it to make a roux). When I make this, I will certainly some jalapenos and maybe half a habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper to the onion mixture.

Cook the pumpkin, mash it, whip it with whipped cream or yogurt and honey. Chill & serve with a cookie from your favorite coop baker or other local bakery. Also good with cinnamon, nutmeg,
shaved chocolate sprinkled on top. (From Shauna Struby).

To turn a pumpkin into pumpkin pie. . . first you get your pumpkin, wash it, scoop out the seeds (save them, wash them, toast them in the oven, eat them!), and then slice the pumpkin into strips. Place these strips on a cookie sheet or other flat pan, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until they are soft. The skin may caramelize, but that�s fine, it just adds to the robust flavors. When they are soft, peel off the rind (it should come off very easy, with a butter knife), and mash the pulp with a potato masher or a big fork or a food processor, and voila, pumpkin puree which is then used just like canned pumpkin in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe. 

If you feel like you need more instructions, visit which has pictures of 3 different ways to cook the pumpkin. There's a lot more pumpkin recipes at the site, including a recipe for a pumpkin pie with a pecan topping that I am trying this year, for sure, also a pumpkin pie made with NO sugar. Note that their recipe for pumpkin pie uses evaporated milk, which is an industrial food way of getting something sort of like cream.  I use real cream in my pumpkin pies.  If the recipe calls for 1 cup sugar, you can substitute 3/4 cup honey.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by friends and family and good food, good cheer, good times.  We all live busy lives, but we can enhance our holidays with "slow and local" food, providing "good meals for all".  If you have any questions about recipes or anything about your holiday meals, post them to  and you'll get answers!

Y'all bon appetit, you hear!
Bob Waldrop, bobagandist in chief

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Down to the wire for April Harrington.

We are down to the wire to help April Harrington survive the vicious attack by the ODOT bureaucracy on her business.  In a typical misallocation of resources, as we are heading into the peak oil era, ODOT is widening a road and will destroy her market-bakery building, one of the "greenest" buildings in the state.  This impacts her business -- which in turn impacts her employees and the other local producers who rent her bakery to make their products in a health-dept-certified kitchen.  Times are bad all over, and what is ODOT doing? Destroying jobs in rural Oklahoma. 

Anyway, she is trying to raise $25,000 to put a smaller, cheaper building on part of her property that will not be taken by ODOT.  These are not good times for local food entrepreneurs to be going to banks, and thus April embarked on a non-traditional fundraising campaign using the "Kickstart" program, which invites people to fund ventures like April's that also have broad social and environmental impacts with gifts of capital that can make a difference between success and failure.

This is a time-limited campaign, and we are down to the wire.  As of 10 AM on Thursday, November 4th, we have 32 hours left for people to commit to help April.  We are only about one-third of the way towards the goal, so there is a lot to be done.
April has worked hard and does not deserve what the State of Oklahoma is doing to her in our name.  Let's vote against the craziness of ODOT and help April in this time of grave need.  Make a pledge today!  Tomorrow will be too late.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A special bobaganda just for producers!

In this bobaganda:
Eggs. . . Loofas. . . Dried beans. . . Corn Meal. . . Chicken feed. . . Fish. . . The 10 most popular vegetables. . . Some vegetables that have never graced our pages. . . Vegetables available in such small quantities as to be practically unavailable on our pages. . . Not a vegetable but still not available. . . What about pork rinds? . . . What customers want to see. . . Getting more sustainable and resilient . . . Now is the time to break our fossil fuel addiction before it kills us. . . Rainwater harvesting . . . Keeping your shelves neat and tidy. . . Business is up!. . . But we shouldn't take anything for granted. . . We should all be thinking about . . .

I used to occasionally send a bobaganda to the producers' listserv, and thought it was about time I did something similar on my blog.

The summer and fall production season is beginning to wind down, and most producers will begin a process of deciding what to grow and plant for next year.  I have a few suggestions for your consideration, and intend to start a discussion at about what customers would like to buy that isn't presently available through the coop.  If you don't subscribe to, participating in that on-going conversation is a way to raise your visibility to customer members.   The subscriber base of that listserv is around 350, so it obviously doesn't include all of our members, but it does include many of our more active members, including those customers who buy a lot of groceries and non-food items from the coop every month.

I have long recommended that a diverse set of products is the best goal for anyone selling food direct to the public.  So in that spirit, here are some ideas for 2011.

High on the list of demand items in the coop is eggs.  When I was receiving the complaint emails, one of the more common requests was for "more eggs".  Eggs make a great addition to any producer's product line.  They are also a great project for young people.  One of our larger egg producers is a teenager in high school, Calvin Parker, son of Jerri and Greg Parker (GJ All Natural Beef).  Besides earning money (and what teenager doesn't need more money?), he is learning invaluable lessons incorporating responsibility, the value and productivity of work, and how to make a profit in business. 

As with all the other product lines in the coop, I have always felt that a variety of producers is the best way to ensure product availability and sustainability, so one thing I'd like to see in the coming year is more of our existing producers deciding to add eggs to their product line-up. 

The loofa sponge is a natural sponge that grows on a vine and is perfectly suitable for cultivation in Oklahoma.  Grow them along fence rows, on a trellis, or let them sprawl on the ground if you got the room.  They produce gorgeous yellow flowers. Customers like them because they substitute for an industrial product made with petro-chemicals -- that is to say,  the store-bought sponge.  Let them dry on the vine, pick them, and sell them "as is", or invest a little more labor in them and pick the dried skin off and empty the seeds out and charge more.  We've had a few luffas for sale in the past, and they've all sold well, but I didn't notice any this year.  When you order them off the internet, they can be quite pricey.  This is a product without a lot of labor requirements (unless you decide to sell them without their skin), that is cheap to produce, that can add value to your bottom line.

The Kerr Center has done variety trials for raising dried beans and peas in Oklahoma, and you can get all the info you need from them.  This is a product that would do well for someone who could devote maybe 5 or more acres.  As far as I know, no one is growing and selling dried beans in quantity (one producer has had a few dried black-eyed peas this year) in Oklahoma, which opens up a lot of possibilities for sales to restaurants, other farmers markets, and the growing number of specialty stores with locally grown products.  Let them dry on the vine, combine them, clean them, package and sell them in 5 to 25 lb bags.  You'd need access to a combine and cleaning equipment, look around and see what's available in your area.

This is another product that customers like but hasn't been available for a long time.  We had it for the first year of our existence, but then the producer went on to other things.  It was a great product, there was nothing else like it for sale in any regular grocery store.  Besides corn meal, I think there would be a brisk business selling 25 and 50 lb bags of dried corn to our many members who have back-yard flocks. 

Speaking of those backyard flocks, I've heard of members driving all the way into Texas to buy organic or all-natural chicken feed for their flocks.  If you have access to a mill, this could be another money-maker, as well as contributing greatly to our developing local food system.

Another product we haven't seen since the first year of the coop is fish.  Fish can be raised on the farm in tanks and barrels.  If you need to learn how, just contact the Bruce Edwards at the Urban Harvest program of the Regional Food Bank in Oklahoma City.  He has an integrated greenhouse aquaculture system that also raises salad greens using the water the fish swim in.  You can sell frozen whole fish without any particular trouble from the ODA or the local health department.  If you filet them or remove the heads etc, that work must be done in a certified kitchen, but you can harvest them and freeze them and sell them without further regulatory interference.  And besides the fish, you get seriously nutrient laden water, which can be used to irrigate gardens or to grow greens in (aquaponics) as they are doing at the Regional Food Bank.

. . . according to USDA consumption data, are Potatoes, Iceberg Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions, Carrots, Celery, Corn, Broccoli, Green Cabbage and Cucumbers

Cauliflower, parsnips, cabbage, iceberg lettuce.

Sweet corn, potatoes, onions, carrots.  Note that carrots store well.  When I spoke at the opening banquet of the Nebraska Food Coop (February 2004, I think), we had a great dish of carrots which were harvested the previous October and stored in a root cellar.  So they are an exception to the typically fragile-must-sell-quickly-after-harvest problem with vegetables and the Oklahoma Food Coop.  Small scale equipment is available that takes a lot of the hand labor if you are growing at the acre level, and someone should.  Someone also should grow potatoes at the multi-acre level, or someone should recruit one of their neighbors who is already growing potatoes at the multi-acre level to sell some through us.  Onions are another keeper, as are most winter squashes.

Fish, sunflower seeds, vegetable oils, peanut oil, corn meal, any flour other than wheat (barley, rye, oats etc), edible soybeans. 

Edible soybeans, both fresh (known as "edamame") and dried in 5 to 25 lb bags would be hugely popular.  We have a lot of vegetarians in the coop and many of them make their own soymilk and soy cheeses and they are definitely interested in a local supply of edible soybeans.  I think this is a different variety than that grown for animal feed, but I am not sure on that.  If you grow enough of them, the local tofu makers in Oklahoma City's Asian district might be interested.  Again, this is something that should be grown at the multi-acre level.

What happens with the skin of all these pigs that our producers are converting to tasty pork products like sausage, ham, and pork loin?  Well, the skin is every bit as edible as anything else on that pig.  My grandmother Dovie Bagwell Waldrop said, as I have told you often before, that when they butchered a pig, they used every bit of it except the squeal.  That should be your goal.  In the meantime, I am paying $1.66 for a bag of about 3 ounces of pork rinds, and I would much rather buy pork skin from producers and fry my own at home.  No, I don't know how to do that yet, but lack-of-knowledge has never stopped me from any culinary adventury.  Google is my friend.  But before I can make my own pork rinds, I need some pork skin.

And then there's chicken feet.  A cancer-curing broth can be made from the feet, and even if it doesn't cure cancer, it reputedly is the finest tasting chicken broth you can get.  Buy For Less in Okie City at NW 23 and Penn occasionally has "mega-packs" of chicken feet.

One thing that our customers want to see is evidence of the producer's care of Creation, his or her commitment to a more sustainable way of farming and a more humane approach to lifestock management.  So the more you integrate "green" practices into your production, the more the customers will like your products -- as long as you tell them what you are doing.  I know you've heard me talk about "telling your story" so often you're probably bored with it, but we don't just sell food, we sell food with a story.  Your food, without your story, will not stand out and be as attractive as your food will be WITH your story.  I get a couple of newsletters from producers, but not as many as I would like to receive.  A couple of producers always put some kind of note in with their products, thanking me for my business, but not many.  I get a few emails from a few of the people I buy from, occasionally recipes, but not very many.  I tend to think that many of us need to work on our story telling.  Your narrative is an essential aspect of your bread and butter in the Oklahoma Food Coop, so do as good a job on that as you do your products and you will do better.

And then there's the myriad of possibilities opened up by video.  Video cameras are cheap these days, you probably know someone who has one, yet I think only one producer has actually put up videos of his production, Wes Downing, who gets kudos from me for that. Take your video around your farm and put it on the internet, and a link to it on your producer info page at our website.  If you need help doing that, why not suggest to the VP of Producers, Paulette Rink, that we have a workshop at the upcoming annual meeting in January 2011 on how to use video to sell your products?

I can even imagine WEBCAMS, showing your happy frolicking chickens or your plants growing in greenhouses or fields -- YES, it's TRUE, some of us LIKE TO WATCH plants grow.  I do it all the time in my own garden, I just sit there and watch things grow.  It's a wonderfully peaceful antidote to the busy-ness of modern urban life. 

So catch rainwater and use it for irrigation.  Work on growing and producing your own feeds, either on your own or in conjunction with neighbors.  (The need for feed is one of the biggest holes in our local food system and that subject needs attention.)  Try bio-diesel -- Matt Burch, the Urban Agrarian, can tell you everything you need to know about bio-diesel and he is also a potential market for your products.  He runs all over the place buying locally produced foods and selling them at farmers markets and to restaurants and stores.  Contact him at .

Now is the time to break our fossil fuel addiction before it kills us.
Biodiesel (or farm-made alcohol) is not just a quirky thing that sustainability advocates are interested in.  It is an important step towards energy independence for our country.  If you are dependent upon gasoline or diesel for your production activities, then your livelihood is dependent upon the good will of fanatics and terrorists. Good luck with that, you'll need it.

The fact that Oklahoma is an energy producing state often blinds us to the reality of oil in the modern world.  The world oil pool is one big tank.  If there is an interruption in Middle Eastern oil, or if a hurricane shuts down the Gulf oil production, or if any one of a thousand other things that could cut the flow of oil happens, the folks in Chicago and New York have more money than we do, and Oklahoma's oil will be sucked right out of the state and "No Gas" signs will be everywhere, and we'll be paying the world price for gasoline and diesel and it won't be cheap.  What would six dollar/gallon gasoline and diesel do to your farming operation? 

Well, the time to break free of fossil fuel addiction is BEFORE the terrorists blow the oil pipelines of the Middle East to smithereens. 

And then there's methane. . . and wood gas (also known as producer gas). . . and etc.  Check out the energy sections of my Compendium of Useful Information at for all the info you need.

And then there's the risk of peak oil, which many of your customers are intensely concerned about.  They are worried about future energy supplies, and as a producer, you should be too.   Oil is presently hovering around $80/barrel, there's a general expectation of $100/barrel early next year, and then if it goes much higher, we are a big risk for another round of financial crises.  It shouldn't escape anyone's notice that it was only a couple of months after oil reached its higher price in history (July 2008) that the nation's financial system crept right to the edge of the abyss of financial collapse.

So becoming less dependent on the international energy system is important for the on-going sustainability and resilience of your own production systems.  And it really is true.  The time to develop an alternative energy system is BEFORE the really serious energy crisis hits.

Do you ever wonder how many crises the Powers That Be can manage at any one time?  It looks to me like they are starting to have management problems.  Despite the happy talk in the mainstream media, there is plenty of economic turmoil going on.  Another run-up in energy prices, plus another financial crisis, plus a foreign policy crisis, plus a little domestic turmoil here at home, and well, it wouldn't be happy days are here again. 

The more dependent we are on these big international systems, the more danger we are in.  That's one of the big reasons I started working on local foods back in 2001-2002.  The time to grow a local food system is before the famines start.  As you know better than anyone, agriculture does not turn on a dime.  If we wait for a food crisis to get a local food system, it's too late.  An unsustainable system cannot continue on indefinitely.  It will either become more sustainable or it will collapse.  Our present system is unsustainable in every way that can be counted, and if we want to protect ourselves and those we love from what is coming at us, now is the time to be very busy.

And on a more positive note. . . trust me, your customers would love to read about your adventures with biodiesel, ethanol, wood gas, methane, or even animal traction.  Producers who decide to add alternative energy to their suite of production practices will be rewarded with the business of customers who really want to support that kind of commitment to sustainability and local resilience in the face of what may become overwhelming challenges.

Rainwater Harvesting.
The same schtick is true for rainwater harvesting.  The techniques for capturing and using rainwater are endless, ranging from terracing and swales and irrigation ponds to gutters and ferrocement tanks.  As my own urban system matures, I will have a rainwater harvesting system that feeds into fish tanks, whose water then grows greens in my greenhouse and irrigates my outdoor gardens and container plants.  I have a total of 2298 sq ft of buildings on my property (1548 in the main house and 750 in the storage house that is becoming the greenhouse).  In the driest year for the last 100 years in central Oklahoma, where the rainfall was 16 inches, 23,000 gallons of water fell on those roofs.  In a more typical year, with 36 inches of rain, the potential rain harvest from my roofs is about 52,000 gallons.  So you could pay for electricity to pump that water, or buy it from the water district or town/city, or you could put a system together yourself with cheap parts from the local Home Despot or hardware/building supply store or garage sale, and use that free water.

To calculate your potential water harvest -- add the square feet of your buildings, multiply times your typical annual rainfall in FEET (not inches), that gives you the cubic feet of water falling on your roofs in a year.  Multiply that figure times 7.48 and that tells you how many gallons fall on your roofs in a year (because there are 7.48 gallons in a cubic foot of water).  Size your storage based on the monthly rainfall patterns and your monthly needs for water.

And finally, a little note on housekeeping with your online presence at .  If you are out of a particular product, and won't have any for sale this month, toggle the "do not display" button so it doesn't clutter up the shelves of our online store.  As any retailer can tell you, empty shelves are dispiriting to customers, they won't even walk in the store, they'll stay away.  Month after month, I see products displayed for sale with zero inventory, I know they won't have any this month, the products haven't been available for months, but still there they sit, cluttering up our shelves, turning off customers who log in and find zero inventory everywhere they go.

This isn't a minor matter.  Anything that turns off our customers is bad for our business.  We shouldn't do things that are bad for our business, we should do things that are good for our business.  Not keeping your product shelves "clean and tidy" sends a message that you aren't a very effective producer.  You don't care about the fact that you are wasting the customer's time and the coop's bandwidth by cluttering up our online store pages with products that are not for sale this month, and will never be for sale this month. 

OK, that's harsh, I don't really believe that any of our producers have this intention.  But the consequences of not keeping your product shelves clean and tidy are exactly as I have described here --
  • you waste the customer's time,
  • you consume bandwidth (especially if you have product pictures) and that slows down the loading of pages,
  • you create the online equivalent of a dirty, cluttered, poorly stocked retail establishment
-- and all that can turn off our customers and may have something to do with our problems with member participation. 

We have more than 3500 members, yet typically only 800 or so order in any given month (although I will say the last time I ran the data, it looked to me like half of our customers order at least once each quarter, but that is year-old data).  Everyone needs to look at what they are doing to make sure they are not doing anything that is turning off customers, and one small part of that is having pride in your public product display and only displaying those items which you actually have for sale each month. 

It looks to me like business is up quite a bit this year over last year.  Our product sales increased last year by their smallest amount to date, about 8% IIRC.  This year it looks more like we are up 20% or so.  One area which seems to be struggling is prepared foods, and I'm betting that that's a consequence of the on-going economic troubles, since every prepared food I've bought through the coop has been an incredible adventure of taste and nutrition.  One suggestion I have for prepared food producers is to think about convenience items that customers can use to create their own meals at home. 

Now is not the time to rest on any laurels.  Retail can be quite pitiless, satisfying customer needs often means dealing with fickle, changing moods and fashions.  It always pays to be a bit ahead of the curve, and we are positioned to make major advances going forward.  But meeting these on-coming challenges means paying attention to issues of sustainability and resilience and inventory that I have been talking about in this bobaganda.  We aren't like Wal-Mart, where a store manager can just use his computer to order in whatever he or she needs.  We don't have anyone to call up producers and say "OK, you need to grow X number of bushels of corn this next year."  So we have a situation that is kind of anarchistic/spontaneous order, and we hope that going forward the variety and supply of all of our Oklahoma foods increases.

And finally (I know, I've already said this once), we all need to be thinking about alternative economic arrangements for financing.  I'm thinking that eventually we need some kind of a local food credit union, where depositors could pool their funds for loan to local food enterprises.  Or some kind of an investment fund that provides capital for local food production.  I don't have anything more than that right now, but its something we should think about and talk about and see what happens over the next year.

Keep on providing more supplies for our bon appetitin' Oklahoma foods feastin seasons!

Bob Waldrop, one of the founders of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This is disappointing.

With only 15 days left, the campaign to Save the Market Bakery is only 20% towards fulfillment, and has hardly moved for a week.  Thousands of people interested in local food in Oklahoma, but we are having a hard time coming up with $25K to ensure the survival of an important spoke in the local food wheel.  No one needs to bet the farm, one thousand $20 contributions would do it.  And if that's too much, how about a dollar or two or five?  Would that be so impossible?

Often we think that somebody else will step forward, and that I won't have to do anything.  Many many people have that attitude.  It's an attitude that will stop our progressing local food system, cold in its tracks. We can remain in our lethargy if that makes us comfortable, but the price of that is losing something important to our growing local food system.

I encourage everyone to make a pledge to help save the Market Bakery.  Just click on the link in the sidebar to this post.

AND -- please tell your friends.  Twitter, Facebook, groups, email listservs.  Spread the word and Save the Market Bakery!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October Bobagandistic Thoughts

In this bobagandistic episode. . . The Get Ready for Winter Song. . . The Goose and the Cow. . . 10-10-10 . . . Eggs. . . Save the Market Bakery. . . Reminders. . .

Fall foods:  cheese sauce for vegetables. . . Scalloped Turnips with Caramelized Onions. . . Bacon Beef Roll. . . Tomato Mushroom Cheeseburger Skillet

The Get Ready for Winter Song

My goodness, if the weather was like this all the time, everyone would want to live in Oklahoma.  Fortunately we have August so that's not likely to become a problem going forward.  And winter is certainly on its way.  So let's all sing the Get Ready for Winter Song, to start this month's bobaganda episode.

The Get Ready for Winter Song

Tune: "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". . .

OH! We better not wait, it's time to make plans,
Compost, mulch, put away the fans,
Winter time is coming to town!
Squash and turnips and carrot plants,
Season extension for the cabbage transplants,
Winter time is coming to town!

Let's insulate the attic!
Insulate the floors!
Insulate the walls so deep,
and don't forget the doors!

So! Make your list, and check it twice,
Solarize, weatherize, don't roll the dice,
Winter time is coming to town!

The Goose and the Cow.
And now for a joke. MCDONALDS FOOD!  No, that's not the joke, although I guess it is a joke. . .  It seems that there was a convent, whose elderly Mother Superior, who had served the convent for decades, was on her deathbed.  All of the nuns gathered in a vigil, hoping for some final words of wisdom.  Concerned about her, one sister went to get some milk.  On a sudden inspiration, she mixed some Irish whiskey with the milk, and took it to the weak Mother Superior, who took a sip, and immediately sat up and said, "That was tasty."  One of the sisters asked her, "Give us some wisdom before your journey."  The Mother Superior was silent for a time, and then she said, "don't kill the cow."

Yes indeed.  That joke in its own way is a re-telling of the "Goose who laid the golden egg" fable.  This fable, attributed to Aesop, who perhaps lived in the 5th century BC, in one form or another is found across the globe, including several Asian cultures, where instead of a goose laying golden eggs it is typically a swan shedding golden feathers.  The fable literary form itself goes even further back in history, to the beginnings of the city states of Mesopotamia in the 22nd-24th centuries BC.

Don't kill the cow.  Don't kill the goose the lays the golden egg.  Someone should have reminded the USDA about this traditional wisdom when they first got the bright idea -- "Get big or get out" -- and thus began the process of killing the cow with the tasty milk, and destroying the goose that laid the golden eggs.  So it comes ot pass fifty years after that fateful utterance by a federal bureaucrat, we have our present, just-in-time, homogenized, dumbed-down food system, drenched in listeria and salmonella, and served with a side of transgenic mechanically-separated pink ooze infused with a whiff of ammonia.  Yum.  Makes you want to go on a forty day fast, right? 

This system is not an accident. It is the forseeable result of deliberate actions by governments and corporations.

The Oklahoma Food Cooperative, on the other hand, is about saving the goose and keeping the cow that gives the tasty milk.  We have no great political power, but we have an idea -- and a system to implement that idea -- and the best tasting food in the state of Oklahoma.  We have sons and daughters elsewhere, doing the same thing.  We've just received word of a new local food cooperative on the other side of the world, Down Under in the great land of Australia.  I had a report this week from the Northwest Cooperative Development Council in Washington (state), which has been studying Idaho's Bounty, one of our daughter coops, and reports that they are growing.  The plan to replicate our common success throughout their four state region (Washington, Portland, Alaska, Hawaii).

Our success is founded, one bite at a time, one food decision at a time. 

I am writing and publishing this on October 10, 2010 a/k/a "10-10-10".  I have been working overtime to try to find some interesting symbolism in that which could be related to local food (thus illustrating the depths a writer will occasionally descend to), and finally had an inspiration this morning.  10 times 10 times 10 equals 1000, and that is an illusive goal we have hovered just below for some time in terms of monthly orders.  This morning we had 719 baskets opened, 615 of which actually had products in them. 

Isn't it about time we had a thousand orders in one month?  So I'd like to encourage everyone who hasn't opened a basket this month to do, and to buy something.   Maybe five pounds of hamburger (or ground pork, or ground bison, or ground lamb) and 2 bars of soap?  Those are two of our products that are in super quantity, with a wide variety of choices.  I made some spaghetti sauce this week with Italian sausage made with ground lamb and it was mighty tasty.

The power of the cooperative can be found in the multiplying impact of small choices.  Someone told me that they usually didn't buy from the coop because they couldn't afford to buy all of their food from the coop.  I asked, "Well, could you afford to spend $40/month for local food?  They said "yes".  So I encouraged them to go ahead and buy $40/month in local food.  Every dollar spent with a local producer is a dollar vote for the future of local agriculture and the security of the food systems of our community.  The world is a risky place these days, it is not prudent for us to put all our eggs in the just-in-time corporate food system basket.  Let's all buy some good food for our families, and support our local farmers.

Many people tell me, "I would buy more eggs from the coop if they were available."  I checked at the opening of the October order (8 AM, October 1), and there were 280 dozen eggs available.  They were gone within an hour.  Vegetable listings were also a bit thin. Now, that isn't necessarily the end of the October egg and vegetable story.  Often, producers wait to list their eggs and vegetables until closer to the end of the order, as they become more certain of what they will have available on delivery day.  So it pays to "shop often" and check the egg and vegetable departments for late-listing products.

And for producers, this is a Market Signal -- produce more eggs?  Yes, hens don't like the change in seasons, and every time the season changes, production will go down.  but even allowing for seasonal variation, it's clear that we don't have enough eggs available.

SAVE THE MARKET BAKERY!  And the calzones. And the brownies.  And the cookies.
We're making decent progress towards saving the Market Bakery.  Nearly $5,000 has been pledged by 34 individuals, but we have only 26 days left to get pledges to cover the remaining $20K to build a new Market Bakery and save this important cog in the local food system wheel from the clutches of a corrupt and unresponsive and uncaring Oklahoma Department of Transportation.  Please make a generous pledge today at .

  • How's your food storage going?  We're headed for ice storm weather.  Anything could happen.  Can you feed your family through a prolonged winter storm?  What if there are problems with the food system?  The time to stock your pantry is before the food crisis hits.
  • The current financial reports for the coop are online at .
  • I hope to see many of you at the coop's birthday party at the Operations Center in Oklahoma City, coming up on Saturday afternoon and evening, November 6th!
The annual great cycle of the seasons continues to turn.  Now we are in the golden daze of fall.  Here are some great recipes to titillate your fall appetites.

Cheese sauce for vegetables.
This is a very easy cheese sauce for any veggie that likes cheese.

4 tablespoons cream
4 tablespoons yogurt cheese (or cream cheese)
4 oz shredded cheddar or other yellow cheese

Mix all together, and zap in the microwave (or heat over low heat) until the yellow cheese is melted. Combine with your already-cooked and hot vegetables.  If you use cream cheese instead of sour cream, briefly zap in the microwave before adding the other ingredients in order to soften it.

Scalloped Turnips with Caramelized Onions
This recipe is, as they say, "to die for". 
  • 4 large turnips; peeled and cleaned, sliced into thin slices and boiled for 6 minutes in water with 3T cream added; drain well
  • 2-3 slices bacon
  • 1T butter
  • 1 large onion sliced into paper thin rings
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup shredded white cheese  (I used mozzarella)
  • Additional 1/2 cup cheese for top(optional)
  • 3T butter
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp pepper
  • 1/8tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350. Use a 2 quart casserole, grease well with butter or oil.  Dice bacon and fry until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving drippings in pan. Add 1 T. butter, nutmeg and onions. Saute onions over low heat until nicely browned. Add the bacon back in. Set aside.

Melt the 3 T. butter and then add cream and cheese. Stir to melt, heating in the microwave for 20 second intervals as needed.  Place 1/2 the turnips in the bottom of the casserole dish; then salt and pepper the turnips, followed by 1/2 the onion mix and 1/2 the cheese sauce. Repeat layers then top with additional cheese if using. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15-20 minutes or until top browns and it's all bubbly and tender.

NB:  The first time I made this, I didn't boil the turnips long enough and they weren't quite done at the end of the cooking time, so I had to cook the casserole longer.  So boil the turnips until they are "done" in the water/cream.
Bacon Beef Roll

2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds ground beef
12 strips bacon

Combine everything except the bacon in a large bowl. Mix well then shape in two 6-inch long log shapes. On a large sheet of wax paper, lay 6 slices of the bacon side by side. Set one of the beef rolls crosswise at one end of the row of bacon strips; roll up, wrapping the meat with the bacon. Very carefully place the first roll in a 9x13" baking pan, lined with heavy foil, with the ends of the bacon under the meat roll. Lift it with a wide spatula so that it doesn't break. Repeat with the remaining bacon and meat roll. Bake at 375º 45-50 minutes or until the center of each roll reaches 160º. If the bacon doesn't look browned enough on top, put the beef rolls under the broiler for a minute or two. Serves 8.

Tomato Mushroom Cheeseburger Skillet
2 pounds ground beef

1 small onion, chopped, 2 1/2 ounces
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 pound fresh shitaake mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
8 ounce can tomato sauce
16 ounces cabbage, finely shredded, about 1/2 a medium cabbage
8 ounces cheddar cheese, diced small

In a very large skillet or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef with the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper; drain the fat. Add the tomato sauce and cabbage; toss to coat the cabbage with the sauce. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until the cabbage is tender, stirring occasionally. Add the cheese and stir in; heat on low until melted then stir in well. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Feeds six to eight.