Oklahoma Products On Oklahomans Tables

Wednesday, September 26th 2007, 8:43 pm
By: News On 6

Could the old way of setting our tables become the new way of feeding our families? Will knowing where our food comes from make for a healthier, happier Oklahoma over the next 100 years? News On 6 anchor Scott Thompson reports one group of Oklahomans thinks it will.

If you're a beefeater, Bill Rucker just might be calling your next sirloin. The Rucker family rears grass-fed beef at their spread in Stone Bluff Beef in Wagoner County. They'll custom-cut the beef for you, sell you whatever part of the steer you want. The whole operation began as a sideline business, then they got hooked-up with the Oklahoma Food Co-op, and the Rucker's haven't looked back.

“We expected to get maybe a sale here or there, but it's turned into 50% of our sales approximately,” said Bill Rucker, owner of Stone Bluff Beef.

The Oklahoma Food Co-op was born of the Internet. Anyone can join for $50, from that point, you order from among the 2,200 products offered for sale each month. Everything comes from an Oklahoma producer, most of it all-natural or organic.

“People say I don't want all that junk in my food if I can get it elsewhere, and it's a comparable price and I feel good about it, then it's an easy choice for them,” said Wendy Rucker, Stone Bluff Beef.

The Co-op got started because Bob Waldrop wanted to set his table with local food, only to find he couldn't.

“Well, it was difficult, it was a matter of going 60 miles one way and 30 miles another way,” Oklahoma Food Co-op founder Bob Waldrop said.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here, back to the website. At the beginning of every month, Co-op members place their orders with families like the Rucker's. And in Tulsa, for instance, on the third Thursday of the month, all the local producers drop off their orders at the Natural Farms store, located at 420 South Utica.

“People like to know this stuff is coming from just down the road, and I can actually go see the animals or the garden and see where it's grown at,” Jeff Emerson of Natural Farms said.

Pam Ferry's got her herbal lotions and potions, and there’s more beef from Elizabeth Lewis' Goose Island Farm.

“If you read product labels and if you can't pronounce half of them, I think that's a cause for concern right there,” Elizabeth Lewis of Goose Island Farm said.

“It's kind of like organized chaos, it ends up working out and it works out well,” Oklahoma Co-op volunteer Karen Cline said.

Karen Cline and friends load all of the products in a trailer, and then the whole kit and caboodle is driven to Oklahoma City, where the real work begins.

It’s in Oklahoma City that all the products from all across Oklahoma arrive in one morning. All the eggs, milk, cheese, vegetables, soap, grains, meat, cookies, pies, pizza crusts, crackers and the occasional bag of worm poop for someone's garden. All of this bounty because Bob Waldrop decided there had to be a better way to eat.

“All the food we sell comes with a story, and we invite people to find out that story by meeting the producers who grow their food,” said Waldrop.

Like Mark Parman of Webbers Falls.

“People who I wouldn't know otherwise, like you said, out in Guymon, can buy our chickens, they can actually see it on the Internet, there's a picture of our chickens and say 'I want that one’ and it'll be on your table,” said Mike Parman of Redbird Ranch Fare.

“In an age where we deal with a lot of mystery food and big commodity corporations, people are hungry, literally, for a personal relationship with the people that grow their food,” Bob Waldrop said.

All the co-op orders are unpacked, stacked on long tables, bound for other parts of the state, there are 32 distribution routes right now. Eventually, volunteers repack it all back into the coolers it all came in on. The Tulsa bunch reload the trailer and the pickup bed and it's back on the road again. By 5 o'clock, they're set up on a church parking lot back in town to hand it out. And the circle of this new way of shopping is complete for co-op member Jill Gillen, who joined after her twins were born.

“I spend more for sure but the money's going directly to them and to help the farmers, and it’s better food for my kids,” co-op customer Jill Gillen said.

Should the big guys be worried more of us will discover this new way of feeding our families? Well, the man who started all this four years ago just wanted to know where his food came from.

“One meal, one farm, one household at a time, we in fact are changing the way Oklahoma eats,” said Waldrop.

The Co-op's doing $50,000 in sales each month right now. If your interested in the Oklahoma Food Co-op visit their website, www.oklahomafood.coop. For more information on Stone Bluff Beef, click here.

Watch the video: Local Farmers Feeding Oklahomans