I'm interested in developing businesses in Elgin that support sustainable agriculture as an integral component of economic development. In other words, businesses that (1) produce, process and sell local sustainable foods (2) that employ local folks, and (3) that keep most of the money in our local community. This summer I hope to visit other towns where these businesses are springing up and today we visited Oklahoma City. (Click read more below to see what we learned.)
Today Jules and I visited with Bob Waldrup, one of the founders of the Oklahoma Food Coop. The coop delivers food to its 4,000 members once a month at pick up sites in Oklahoma City and surrounding towns. They have 125 producer members. Jules and I had breakfast with Bob and he kindly shared his experiences and insights about the coop business model and the local food system. Then Bob took us to a market that sells only local products and there we met April whose business is the commercial kitchen in the building she shares with the market. April's kitchen is her own business and she shares the building with the market. Her 1200 square foot kitchen supports six other businesses by leasing space for food production and storage. Her client businesses include a pasta maker, granola makers, canners, cookie makers and others.
April is a farmer herself and her interest matches ours perfectly - be sure farmers can make a decent living. A key service that April provides is food packaging. When a farmer has excess product that might otherwise go to waste or compost, they can bring it to April and pay her to can it or freeze it for them. The farmer gets their own label and can then sell their product later avoiding the waste and making a few bucks too. This is the kind of business that seems worth exploring starting in Elgin.
Many of April's clients sell to the Oklahoma Food Coop, bringing locally grwon and produced foods directly to people at affordable prices.
We didn't have time to talk much with the folks who run the store in the front of the building. Their model appears to be similar to the Bastrop Producers Market over in Cedar Creek on Hwy 71. We intend to stay in touch with these remarkable entrepreneurs! Oh and we bought some incredible smoked cheddar cheese and peaches!