Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On supporting your local producer community during really hard times.

The hardest times we've experienced since the beginning of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative are certainly upon us now.  The triple threats of peak energy, economic irrationality, and climate instability are sending three strikes on farm country.  Feed prices are climbing through the roof, the drought and heat is destroying crops, and meanwhile, the see-saw economic craziness that is beyond our control continues to run riot over the globalized markets.

And its not just in farm country.  Many of us in the cities are having to cut back on our expenses because of situations that are beyond our control.

What to do?  Well, here is Bobby Max Waldrop's  4 point program for helping our growing local producer community to get through these hard times that will also help you increase the quality of life of your own household. 

Part the First:  Eat What's Available.
In the past, I have often said "Eat what's available."  That remains good advice. I'm the first to notice the shortage of vegetables this summer, even though we have more vegetable producers than ever before. The climate is against us this year, my home garden is doing no better.  I am barely keeping some container tomatoes and hot peppers alive, and getting only a couple handfuls of small tomatoes each week off of 6 plants. So I buy what I can, and get the rest at the store. But I continue to buy my meats from the coop, since they remain in good supply. If you can't afford to buy all your meats from the coop, then buy your ground meat, or some ground meat from the coop.  Ground meat from the big box supermarkets is true mystery meat. Each pound may have meat from dozens of different animals from six different states.   Isn't it worth $30/month to help these farmers get through these hard times?

Part the Second: Cut Your Local Food Budget Last.
If you have to cut your budget, cut your local food purchases last. Some years ago, as the coop develop, I got a little behind in my personal economy, looked critically at my budget, and dumped my monthly cell phone contract in favor of a cheap pay as you go phone that I use as little as possible.  We shop a LOT in the after market -- thrift stores, flea markets, etc.

Part the Third: Buy Non-Food Items From Local Producers
What about your non-food purchases?  Are you still buying bath and laundry soap at the grocery store?  What about other body care products? The artisanal body care products offered by our coop's producers are true values. They may be priced a bit more than the supermarket, but they last longer -- "more wash per bar" should be the motto of all of our soap producers. Our producers' body care products are not tested on animals. Their production does not pollute the environment. The money spent for them does not go to giant soulless corporations but instead stays right here in our Oklahoma economy and supports our producers and their families.  If you want to feel good physically -- and emotionally -- after you bathe, then use soap from our coop's producers.

Here's one anecdote about using non-food products.  Early on, I bought some laundry detergent from Rowdy Stickhorse. It came with a tiny little scoop and said One Scoop Per Load.  I looked at that and thought, "This can't be right" and kept on using my usual quarter cup scoop.  When I told Paulette about that, she laughed and said she was fine with selling me all the soap I would be, but it really did only require one of those tiny little scoops per load.  So I tried it, and she was right.  I've used Rowdy Stickhorse and I've used Crosstimbers laundry soaps (the powders) and I like all of them and consider all of them to be great values. If you have never tried laundry detergent from the Oklahoma Food Coop, your clothes will thank you if you try it this month.

Part the Fourth: Keep the Faith.
Finally, the third point is simple -- keep the faith.  Everything that we have said about local food for the last eight years remains true and important.
  • Our cities will only prosper as our rural areas prosper. 
  • When farm country is hurting, everyone is hurting. 
  • Developing local food systems is an important adaptation to the threats of peak energy, economy irrationality, and climate instability which are upon us in all of their crazed fury. 
  • Local food is the best tasting food.  
  • Local food is best for the environment. 
  • Local food is best for you and your family and especially for your children.
In healing our environment and creating a more stable local economy, we can rank our decisions as good, better, and best.  "Best" of course would be to buy most of your food and non-food items from local farmers and producers.  But if you can't do that best choice, make a better choice, and buy a significant proportion of your household's needs from local producers. And if that isn't possible, make a good decision and buy something every month, say $30 to $40 worth, to keep faith with our local producers and help them get through these hard climate and economic times into a better future.

Each of us holds the future of our local food systems in our own hands. I hope you will join me this month, and each month to come, in supporting our local producers by purchasing something from them that your family can use. sign in and order today -- or if you aren't a member, sign up now!  If you are one of those members who joined and has never ordered, while we appreciate the support of your membership share, it is equally important that our local producer community be supported on a regular basis with some of your grocery dollars.  So take a chance, spend $30 or $40 and see what good food and non-food items we have.

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