24 Sep Food and People
By Rick Miller, Kitchen Manager at Kitchen 66
We all have our favorite things to eat, whether it’s from favorite dishes that our family made while growing up that spark pleasant memories of simpler times, or special-event-type restaurants we would go to over the years. But how many of us stop to think about where the food originated from, or the hard working people that passionately raise, process or actually cook our food?
Because I grew up in a rural area around ranchers and farmers and saw their work first-hand, it always amazes me to consider the volume of food that one or two small farms can raise.
I have been involved with the Tulsa Farmers Market over the past 15 years in various ways from being a shopper, to a vendor, to a board member, and getting to know all these producers and processors over the years has been quite an experience. When you get to know the person that actually raised the food you are buying, it makes you value how you are providing not only for your family in buying the food, but providing for the producers’ families too in supporting them with your dollars.
In the past eight or ten years, there are many new chef/owner restaurants opening up in Tulsa area that source what they can from local producers, which really makes a difference to the success of our local agriculture community. Many of us don’t realize how many long hours these producers put into bringing us quality, sustainable and tasty food. Ranchers work late during cold and stormy nights making sure baby animals are safe and out of the harsh elements, providing them with water and food during cold winter times.
Farmers have fed this country and helped it grow over the past few centuries. I don’t think anything would test our faith and passion for our trade more than farming. You learn what you can about the crops you are raising and care for your plants — but it all comes down to Mother Nature in the end. Mother Nature can produce a hail storm on a corn or wheat crop at harvest time, a super hot or dry summer, floods like we had this past spring, tornadoes or bad storms in a pecan grove or a late frost on fruit trees and vines. Not many careers out there have livelihood that is so dependent on items we have zero control over like the careers of farmers.
These products sourced locally cost a little more, but this is the “real” cost of having our food produced in a healthy and sustainable way, as opposed to factory farming and ranching using less-sustainable methods. I gladly pay a little more for some items (mainly meats) for the quality of grassfed beef or pork, pastured eggs and chickens, and all kinds of seasonal produce to help keep our agriculture community alive and thriving.
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation has helped many of these types of farmers, food processors and future restaurant owners bring their products to customers through founding and operating programs like Mother Road Market and Kitchen 66.
I am happy to be a vital part of Kitchen 66, continuing to help teach and give these food producers an affordable access to commercial kitchen space in a community environment, as well as coaching in the parts of food business most people don’t consider like permits, licensing, procedures, regulations, labeling, bookkeeping and payroll for employees. This extra help navigating the behind the scenes nuts-and-bolts of food entrepreneurship makes success in their first year of business much more likely for many of our start-up food companies.
A mainstream supermarket won’t really feel the impact of us not buying a few things from a local farmer, but buying directly from food producers makes a huge difference to the local family farmers. Please do your part in supporting local agriculture!