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Okie local

Jason Reese August 10th, 2011

Conservatives, especially those of a traditional bent like me, are often rightfully criticized for being downers. We gripe and moan about how things were better in the old days and that we don’t know where we are headed, but it sure looks like we are in a handbasket.

One benefit of being a youngish righty is to see many fields where things, in my lifetime at least, have gotten quite a bit better. Divorce and crime rates have been dropping for some time now, and there are other areas related to quality of life that have improved markedly from the recent past.

I am especially pleased by the renaissance in home cooking and the do-it-yourself mentality that helps get adults off the couch (when it is not 112 degrees outside) to create something. Conservatives should be eager to embrace trends that hold on and restore the traditional and old, rather than the cheap and disposable. Related to all of this is the highly salutary nature of the “eat local” movement spreading across Oklahoma City.

Not only do I embrace this movement, but I want to encourage all of my fellow conservatives to join me and live it, because it is a truly conservative development.

First of all, conservatism is inseparable from a belief in private property.

Properly understood, private property is not the shares of stock in your bank account that your grandmother gave you, but something for which you are responsible and learn to maintain. The more we eat local, the more the restaurateur, coffee shop owner, and even farmer, can hold on against the placeless conglomerate. A population of owners is more conducive to a free society than a society of managers who answer to a faraway power.

Next, eating locally keeps us in touch with origins, and there is nothing more conservative than that.

Whether it is seeing the restaurant’s herb garden, or being able to visit the farm where our meat was once alive, it is healthy in an urbanized society to be reminded that food does not originate in cardboard or freezers.

Finally, I want to invoke the godfather of American conservatives, Russell Kirk. Kirk famously held that conservatism is not properly understood as an ideology, but an inclination, a temperament. Given that, he knew in order to make conservatism understood, he attempted to explain it in six “canons.” My favorite is as follows: “Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.”

That is the real root of my embrace of the “eat local” movement.

When I am in Oklahoma City, I want to know it. I do not want to go to the same restaurant (or pub, coffee shop, etc.) that I can anywhere else. I do not want to eat the same food, drink the same beer and be surrounded by the same art and architecture that I can everywhere else. I want something distinctly Oklahoman. So pull up a chair, pass me an onion burger and put some Red Dirt on the radio. I will call the owner over, and he will tell us some stories.

Reese is a lawyer in downtown Oklahoma City.

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08.10.2011 at 12:47 Reply

I’ve got to admit, it’s rather refreshing to see a self described Conservative think this way.  While he doesn’t go so far as to indicate eating organic, the idea of eating local is more-or-less in the same vein, and a bit of a liberal ideal.


Perhaps the difference between ideals lies in the motivations behind wanting to live this way.  Jason describes an almost old country feel, where he has/wants some communication with the originator of his food.  That’s a very noble thing.  Liberals do like that aspect, but there’s more to it than that. 


We don’t like the idea of our food being trucked hundreds if not thousands of miles just to reach our plate.  The eco footprint becomes larger the further the food travels.  You’re not just talking about fuel for transport, but the fuel required to maintain proper temperatures for that food.  If the food isn’t grown organically, it has also been dosed with pesticides at some point in its growth, and most pesticides have a petroleum base.  Some foods might even be sprayed in a kind of wax to make the food seem more visually alluring to the consumer. 


When we talk about animal products, local is absolutely the best way to go.  If anyone has ever been near a factory farm and seen the deplorable conditions, it becomes hard to imagine we would ever want to eat these animals.  Unlike free range farms, factory farms have a restrictive area for these animals, it’s not done to be cruel (at least I hope not), it’s done because the animals will put on weight faster if their movement is limited.  Those animals are given antibiotics and steroids to accelerate their development so they can be more quickly lead to slaughter.  They are also corn fed, which if a cow eats that for too long it results in death.  The entire factory farming process is devoid of the respect that farmers actually had in Mr. Reese’s idyllic past.  These days there is no dignity for these creatures that suffer and die so that we may live. 


I would implore Mr. Reese and Conservatives who feel the same way he does to partake in any number of food related documentaries.  Might I suggest; Food Inc., King Corn, The Future of Food, and Earthlings.


08.12.2011 at 12:23 Reply

Your article comes from a thoughtful place. But in this age of polarization do we have to politicize the locavore movement? I identify with the perception that conservatives are traditional, and often times, are major downers. However, these things like property ownership and keeping true to your local origins are ideals most people possess. So if we all stand behind those ideals, what does it matter if we're conservative or liberal? Why not promote eating local by saying: "doing this bolsters our local economy", or "creates jobs", or "a great way to support organic farmers"? These are examples that EVERYONE can support. If you simply state the benefits of supporting local food , you won't need to use a political slant to motivate people to explore the 'Okie local' movement. I guess I had no idea that conservatives were opposed to eating at Iguana Lounge or buying produce from Urban Agrarian.