Building the Movement: The Man in the Middle
Edible Tulsa exists to showcase the amazing diversity of local food we have in our area. The ingredients get a lot of attention, but let’s not forget where they come from. Kale doesn’t just grow itself, you know.
Our meat, dairy, eggs, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables are all produced within a community of growers ranging from the backyard garden to the 10,000-acre ranch, and everything in between.
Right now, in June, the vegetable growers are getting ready for the potato and onion harvest. They are picking the last of the spring greens and hoping for that first field-ripe tomato. Our dairymen and dairywomen are milking twice a day and keeping up with all the new calves and kids. Our strawberry growers are hoping that it doesn’t get too hot too fast. Farmers and ranchers are strong people. They find beauty in growth and change.
As a farmer myself, I’ve had to grow and change every year. This year was the big push, though. The Tulsa Farmers’ Market has created a business model that I believe is so perfect for Tulsa that I decided to sell my farm to a friend and work for the farmers’ market.
Now I am the wholesale coordinator for the whole market. I get to be the connector between farmers and chefs. I am passionate about farming, and meat, and produce, but now I get to be Tulsa’s ingredient concierge. When chefs ask me, “Where and when can I get ground cherries?” and “Can you please find somebody that will grow ramps for me?” I get to track down the answers.
We have discovered that there is an immense potential in the wholesale business. Chefs are very willing to work with a centralized distributor. It cuts down on their time spent ordering, they only have one price list to look at and one invoice to pay, which is a lot easier than keeping up with multiple vendors throughout the year. Farmers benefit for the same reason. They can bring all their products to one location, instead of driving all around town to distribute a few bags of baby greens here, and some sweet potatoes there.
As much as I don’t care for all the driving, keeping track of all the accounts and paperwork, it is worth it. It is worth it because I know my three hours of driving is saving my farmers 10 hours of driving. It is worth it because I know my time spent on accounts receivable is more time our farmers can be planting, irrigating or sitting with a chilled lamb. I love that they are able to spend more time on their farms, doing what they love, while I make sure their product gets to where it’s supposed to be.