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Emily Oakley of Three Springs Farm takes time to talk to customers at Cherry Street Farmers’ Market.


By Laura Araujo


herry Street is bustling with activity as freshly picked sweet corn, red ripe to- matoes and juicy peaches change hands on the warm summer morning. As many as 80 booths line both sides of the block, and some 2,000 patrons stroll up and down the street, taking in the sights and sounds of the farmers’ market. In the midst of a busy market morning, Emily Oakley and Mike Appel of Three Springs Farm, take time to greet customers with a smile, often by name, and answer questions about the vegetables they’re selling.


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A scene similar to the one at the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market in Tulsa, Okla., can be witnessed on main streets in towns throughout the state. According to Justin Whitmore, marketing devel- opment coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Oklahoma Electric Cooperative member, there are 68 farmers’ markets that take place in Oklahoma communities; 61 of them are des- ignated as “Oklahoma Grown” markets. As the name suggests, all of the meat and fresh produce sold at an Oklahoma Grown Farmers’ Market must be grown in Oklahoma; dairy items, pies, jams, and handcrafts must be produced in state.


22 OKLAHOMA LIVING


Not only is the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market an Oklahoma Grown market, but it’s also 100 percent producer grown, meaning that if something is on a farmer’s table, it was grown by that farmer. To ensure this standard, the market board does annual farm inspections.


“The great thing about that is it’s crystal clear and authentic for the customer,” Oakley said. “Our regu- lar customers know us, but fi rst-time visitors will us ask us, ‘Did you grow this?’ It increases the integrity of the farmers’ market for us to be able to say, ‘Yes, we grew everything on our table.’”


By The Sweat of Their Brow For Oakley and Appel, market day is the culmina- tion of a week of hard work, farming 20 acres of land on Lake Region Electric Cooperative lines in Oaks, Okla. What’s unique about the Three Springs Farm- duo is that they are full-time, organic vegetable farm- ers. In a day when fewer and fewer people call farming their livelihood, Oakley and Appel are doing it—but differently.


As small-scale farmers, the connection they have with the people at the farmers’ market—those who eat the food they grow—is invaluable. “There’s no way we could make it selling wholesale. Selling directly to our customers is what allows us to make a living,” Oakley said. “That’s why farmers’ markets and CSAs are so essential.”


CSA, or community-supported agriculture, is a system that helps Three Springs Farm subsist through the months when the markets are closed. Customers buy a membership, which they pay for in the winter; then, in the summer, they come to the farmers’ market, select whatever they want, and it’s deducted from their account balance. In exchange for their support, CSA members receive a 10-percent discount on produce from Three Springs Farms and a weekly newsletter to keep them updated on farm happenings.


Now in its ninth season, there are a few things that bring market-goers back to the Three Springs Farm booth, year after year. One is the farming methods Oakley and Appel use to grow their vegetables. Hav- ing been “certifi ed organic” by the Oklahoma De- partment of Agriculture, and in turn registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they follow na- tional organic program guidelines, just one of which prevents the use of synthetic chemicals on their farm. “Full-time, organic vegetable farmers are rare in this state. There are a few of us, but not a whole lot doing it as the sole source of their income,” Oakley said. “We’d love it if there were more.” Three Springs Farm also offers a diverse variety of produce. From fresh greens, strawberries, carrots, and beets in the spring to basil, peppers, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, melon, potatoes and okra in the warmer months, the farm produces


Oklahoma Grown Putting a Face on Food


Photos by Laura Araujo


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