Knowing Your Food with Chelsey Simpson from Urban Agrarian

I am celebrating fall today! So many things we associate with fall, like the fall harvest, and fall food, focus around the idea of community, which in this time of the pandemic, has taken on a whole new meaning.

The source of food has become a hot topic lately, and people are trying new ways to meet their food requirements. I, for one, in my efforts to avoid the discomfort of going into grocery stores, have learned the joys of curbside pickups, supporting the smaller stores in our area, and going to farmer’s markets to enjoy the bounty from our local farmers. That inspired me to pull this podcast with Chelsey Simpson from Urban Agrarian out of the archives and put it out into the world again! I know you are going to love it!

Chelsey is a local business owner in the Oklahoma City area. She is the co-owner of Urban Agrarian, a delightful non-traditional grocery store that primarily stocks locally-sourced products.

Chelsey tells us all about the stores she co-owns, she explains what it takes to find the very best locally-produced products, and we discuss the importance of buying local.

About Urban Agrarian

Chelsey explains that her grocery store is not a traditional one because almost everything they sell in it is sourced locally, from Oklahoma. They have recently expanded their line a little, however, to include some more nationally-sourced products because of the pandemic and due to customer demand.

Locally sourced

For most of the twelve years that the Urban Agrarian has existed, all their products have been almost 100% locally sourced, which is unusual.

Small grocery stores

Both of the Urban Agrarian stores are small. They are each only about a thousand square feet, so the size of the stores puts them in a slightly different situation from most other grocery stores. They are still traditional grocery stores, however, and a lot gets packed into them. You can go there to buy your milk, eggs, steaks, tortilla chips, snacks, and a whole lot more.

Source-verified

Chelsey does her best to curate. Beyond thinking about the store as being local, she also likes to talk and think about the store as being source-verified. That means that she knows virtually all of the people who make the products that they sell by their first names!

Creating a different experience

It takes a lot more work to do all the individual sourcing of the products, but Chelsey feels that it is worth it because it creates a very different experience for her customers.

Food hub

Urban Agrarian is not only a grocery store. It is a food hub. The term food hub describes that they are doing the curating, aggregating, and sourcing of their products in such a way that their customers can have healthy choices without having to have a vast range of products from which to choose.

Grass-fed beef from BF Farms

One of the products sold by the Urban Agrarian is grass-fed beef, supplied by Jane, Doug, and their daughter, from BF Farms in Oklahoma. Their whole family speaks very proudly about the excellent quality of the meat that they supply and the hundred-year heritage that the family has on their farm.

High mineral content

The land that Jane and Doug own in north-central Oklahoma has very high mineral content. And that has promoted excellent grass growth, which adds even more nutritional value to the beef and lamb that they sell.

A close partnership with BF Farms

Chelsey and her business partner were very closely connected with BF Farms when the Urban Agrarian stores were getting built. A dropped ceiling got put into one of the stores. It was made from some wood from an old barn on the farm.

The effect of the pandemic

For safety reasons during the pandemic, the Urban Agrarian stores were closed to walk-in customers because the stores are so small. To assist their customers, however, they made their products available through call-in orders.

Working in local food systems 

Chelsey grew up on a farm, and she has been working in local food systems for about the last fifteen years. After seeing her family and their multi-generational farm struggling, she found herself drawn to that kind of work, even though she did not plan to go into it.

A great way to connect

For Chelsey, Urban Agrarian is a way to connect with how people are keeping their homes and their lives healthy and focused.

Buying local is important

There are many good reasons to buy local. Although local is not synonymous with organic, you are more likely to find chemical and pesticide-free organically grown produce if you buy local. Organically grown food is not only good for your health but also the health of the soil and the health of the people working on the land.

Urban Agrarian is not exclusively organic

Urban Agrarian does not exclusively sell organic groceries. They primarily sell source-verified, local groceries, and they are very pro supporting local farmers and farmer’s markets.

Complex answers

A lot of the answers about how things are grown and how animals get raised are quite complex. So consumers need to decide for themselves what their priorities are and what matters the most to them. Urban Agrarian makes that very easy!

Referrals/links:

Urban Agrarian

Know Where Your Food Comes From 

Find a Farmers Market Near You, from PBS

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