Oklahoma Food Coop

We’ve finally found one thing that fundamentalist Baptists can come together with Pagans to agree about,” says Bob Waldrop, founder and president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, “and that’s local food. This coming together was a miracle.’

 

Oklahoma Food Cooperative Logo

The Oklahoma food Coop operates on a simple and inexpensive model that links regional producers directly with consumers through an easy to navigate website. Producers use the cooperative website to showcase their products and farms in a ‘virtual farmers market’ which consumers than peruse to buy products. The current model charges producers and consumers alike 10% per sale.

On a monthly delivery day producers bring all the items bought online to a central distribution point, where their products are than packed into trucks by co-op volunteers and delivered to pick-up sites across the state. Generally the co-op distributes to within a 160 mile radius of Oklahoma City. And we’re not just talking fresh fruit and vegetables, but local food in all its forms including meat, grains and local value-add goods such as bread, casseroles and other baked goods.

One of the reasons we think this is such an interesting model is the shoe-string budget approach of the co-op, in that relying on volunteer staff and a low cost online platform, minimal start-up capital was required to get things up and running. This fits with Bob’s philosophy that is hardline on self sufficiency: ‘The danger with grants as free money is that you develop overhead before you need it’.

Photos of the volunteer packing magic in action from a recent trip by an AFHN member who visited the Oklahoma Co-op.

Photos of the volunteer packing extravaganza in action from a recent trip by AFHN members who visited the Oklahoma Co-op.

It’s an interesting mix to consider in the Australian setting in an environment where there is little significant government support or other sources of start up capital to be accessed. The other great aspect of it are the community connections and ownership that have developed through the packing and distribution processes that draw everyone together….which gets one thinking about possible adapted models for local governments/corporations/businesses that need to fulfill CSR/volunteer commitments, and ways to integrate this into community needs.

The Wallace Foundation case study linked to above provides further detailed information on the impact and financial operations of the Co-op. It’s a model worth tracking to test the validity of their lean start up, volunteer dependent approach now it’s past the first couple of ‘establishment’ years.