Thursday, March 11, 2010

Everyone’s heard the old moniker “Adapt or die”. Its necessity created a mainstream in which many big fish swim comfortably, and all smaller fish stayed out of the way or inevitably succumbed to the circle of life. In the way of groceries, organic produce is standing the test of mainstream life. Teetering between the ease of convenience and the ethics of sustainability, many Oklahomans work to find ways to make their products more accessible to a superstore world.

Kathy Downing and her husband own a sustainable ranch near Tulsa, and said that selling food cheaply is difficult because they are a small, family run business. “We just can’t afford to charge the same prices as the industrial farms,” she said, “but at the same time, we don’t want to take the ethical shortcuts they do to be able to offer that price.” Downing said that she feels the extra price is worth it, to save yourself from all of the toxins you’d put in your body if you ate industrial meats.

“It’s really hard for a kid in college with no money to buy 7 dollar loafs of bread every week,’ says Roger Sawkins, a senior at OU. The price seems to have been a main deterrent for many who wish to purchase sustainable foods. Sara Kaplan, co-owner of Native Roots Market, says that she thinks that for some, it will always come down to price. “But if they truly care about their health, it will save them money in the long run,” she adds.

Doug Rader, an employee of Native Roots since it’s opening, said he definitely notices a difference between the regulars and the ones who only come in sporadically. “Those that buy food unprocessed and unpackaged, they’re the ones that have the best skin, they’re the ones that have the most energy, they’re the ones who aren’t as sick as often,” he said. When asked about his own eating habits, he confessed to still enjoying resteraunts and fast food every once in a while. “Late at night we don’t have any options except for Taco Bell, McDonalds, and I-HOP, so it’s difficult to work organics into that,” he said.

The sustainability committee at the University of Oklahoma noticed this problem as well, and decided to be the ones who ignite change. Along with many other green efforts across the campus, they began buying the eggs and meats from local farmers, such as the Downing family. Downing said, “It’s been great working with a major client like OU, but of course we’re so excited that we get to be apart of improving the quality of the food those kids eat every day.”

Kaplan said they are taking steps to improve the convenience of organic foods as well. "We've just begun selling frozen organic pizzas made by a friend of mine," she said. Rader said he thinks this is a good way to ease people into the organic mindset. "It hopefully helps them say 'Hey, organic pizza really isn't that hard to make', and then hopefully they'll make it a part of their everyday lives."

Rader also said he thinks that for organic foods to become mainstream, shoppers will need to change the way they view food selection. "People are so used to going to megamarts and getting everything in one store and having it look fresh," he said, "but they need to remember that, in nature, fruits and nuts and berries and buffalo are never found in the same pasture." Hopefully, he said, we can reclaim our roots to nature and become better, healthier, happier people.

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