Big or Small, Each Venue Has Its Own Distinct Personality
It’s that time of year again, when the seemingly dead trees start to put off little buds, the grass (and weeds) begin to need to be mowed, and a drive through the country shows the hard work farmers are putting into their fields as they ready for growing season.
A growing number of Oklahomans are realizing this is the perfect time to spend a leisurely Saturday morning (or another day) at their local farmers’ market, opposed to stopping by the closest grocery store and picking up the same-ole-same-ole TV dinners, weeks-old veggies and “mystery” fish.
Farmers’ markets have been around for many years, but as we become more aware that what we eat impacts our bodies and the ecosystem at large, some of us are starting to make both big and small changes to our diets. Here in central Oklahoma, we are blessed with an abundance of locally grown produce, and chances are there’s a local farmers’ market near you.
In this story, we explore four area farmers’ markets: their specialties, their dates and hours, and much more. Each market is unique, but each can help us go green and enjoy our food more–and by visiting them, we can show our support for local farmers.
Holly Rains, an administrative assistant at the Norman Farm Market, said fair organizers and vendors are in high gear, readying for the season opening on April 2. Their season runs through the end of October, and is open two days a week, Thursdays evenings and Saturday mornings.
Rains said their focus continues to be “on always having fresh food and educating people on eating healthy, while helping the local farming community.”
The Norman Farm Market is constantly expanding, Rains said, noting they hope soon to place more focus on dairy, eggs, and even poultry and meat. While new vendors are always welcome, several are longtime participants, including Terry’s Farm, which has been a vendor since the market’s opening in 1980.
The Noble Farmers’ Market was launched in 1999; in 2008, they started selling only Oklahoma-grown products. Because of this and the vagaries of Oklahoma weather, the number of vendors can vary drastically from year to year, said Robin Stead, a local attorney who serves as Noble’s market manager. Over the past few years, she noted, the area has faced severe drought, plus some hard freezes and severe storms that brought hail, and worse. So, she said, “educating the consumers about how weather affects our local crops is one of the things we focus on.”
The Noble market is known for its down-home personality. Stead relates going there to “going to Grandma’s house and sitting around the kitchen table. We serve coffee and doughnuts and soda and water. People just come by to say ‘hello.’”
Ken and Lola Howard, longtime vendors, supply the free snacks, week after week. They also offer recipes and ideas on how to use the produce they purchase. Rose and Philip Starr also have been with the market for years. Rose, from the Philippines, grows greens and other produce used to cook traditional Philippine cuisine.
Visitors to the market this season will find even more to enjoy. Plans are in the works to add a monthly event with music, food vendors and other activities.
The Historic Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market, located southwest of downtown Oklahoma City, opened in 1928 as the central food hub for the area, featuring produce stalls, daily farmers’ markets, meat markets, and food distributor warehouses. It was active until the mid 1970s, when distributers began relocating to more modern facilities; it then transitioned into a grocery store. In 2014 the current owners re-established the weekly farmers’ market on the first floor of the market building.
As they grow, neighboring properties are becoming a part of the OKC Farmers Market District. This is fueling an increase in both customer and vendor participation. Over 15,000 square feet of space is available in the main market for vendors, with plenty of room for growth. Hopes are to expand the market outdoors during warm months, and eventually throughout the five-acre property.
The market offers unique local artisanal cheeses, fresh-cut flowers, hand-crafted pottery, wood, arts, and the only Bloody Mary bar at a farmers’ market in Oklahoma.
Robert “Bud” Scott, an attorney and project developer for the Oklahoma City Farmers’ Public Market, says their goal is “to once again serve as a modern food hub, offering all components of the food system, including food production, processing, wholesale distribution, retail sales, and direct-to-consumer sales.
“Our area is located in a low-income, low-food-access census tract, so it is important that we provide an outlet for those folks who may not have access to healthy, locally produced foods!” Scott said.
When the City of Moore conducted a park survey, they discovered the No. 1 thing its residents wanted was a farmers’ market. They made this happen in 2007, and after a few venue changes, they relocated to The Station at Central Park.
Whitney Wathen, City of Moore Parks and Community Center coordinator, hopes having a brand-new area for vendors to sell, new items to offer the citizens and food trucks at the market will make going to the market “an experience” that will have citizens coming back often.
“What better way to promote garden-related products so citizens have a choice when it comes to buying food?” he asks.
Among their longtime vendors is Dale Roath, a local farmer who has been selling at the market from the very beginning. “His produce is always fresh and his prices are low,” Wathen remarked. It is this commitment to quality, taste and health that keeps people coming from all around the community to enjoy food and fellowship week after week.
If you haven’t yet checked out the farm markets in Cleveland County, or it has been a long time since you have, mark your calendar to visit one or more of them in the near future. You’ll be surprised at the wide selection of foods, plants and other goods. As a bonus, many markets now feature various forms of entertainment. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by dealing with local farmers who had only a short distance to travel to market their wares.