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Mike Appel and Emily Oakley work in the fields on a spring morning at Three Springs Farm with help from their daugher Lisette and their friend Karen Harris.


Certified Organic Organic farming focuses on building soil


fertility, using practices like crop rota- tion, composting, green manure and cov- er crops. Certified organic farms avoid synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, chemical pesticides and use organically grown seeds whenever possible. In 2002, the USDA approved a set of


standards for agricultural operations to be certified as organic. The National Organic Standard requires farms to sub- mit a plan to the USDA to show how they will comply with its organic standards, to keep records that show they are following the plan, and to undergo an annual com- pliance inspection. Three Springs Farm has been certified organic since 2007. In early 2016, the U.S. Secretary of


Agriculture appointed Oakley to serve as one of 15 members on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board. Oakley says the number of certified or-


ganic farms in Oklahoma is small, but growing. “We’re surprised how few of us there


still are in Oklahoma. We’d love to see more small farmers serving their commu- nities,” she says.


weeds and diseases.


“Last year we had tropical levels of rain. Before that we were in a drought for a couple years. It happens in other parts of the country, but it tends to be more severe here,” Oakley says.


Community Supported Agriculture To help mitigate some of the risks that can significantly impact the small-scale


grower, New England farmers pioneered a business model in the 1980s called com- munity supported agriculture, or CSA. Before the growing season begins, consumers can buy a membership in a local farm. In return, they receive a share of the weekly harvest. “CSA makes small-scale farming more viable. Through their membership, custom- ers share in the immense risk, for better or for worse,” Oakley says. Many small-scale farms put together a basket of produce for CSA members each week. But, Three Springs Farm CSA members are able to make their own produce selections at the farmers’ market each week. Their purchases are deducted from an account balance that they are able to spend as they wish throughout the market season. Thirteen seasons into farming in Oklahoma, Oakley and Appel have cultivated a faithful customer base of approximately 100 CSA members. “One third of our income comes from our CSA members. This helps provide working capital during the winter months,” Oakley says. “It also helps to know that when we go to market, a third of our product has already been purchased.” Benefits of a Three Springs Farm CSA membership include a 10 percent discount on purchases and a weekly electronic newsletter with recipes, photos and stories from the farm. To celebrate the end of the season, members are invited to visit the farm for a tour and a potluck dinner.


Karen Harris is a friend of Oakley and Appel and who gives of her time to help the


Three Springs Farm team prepare for the weekly market. “They have a lot of repeat customers because they have excellent produce,” says Harris, who also sells at the farmers’ market. “I have learned so much by helping them.”


On a two-person farm, Harris’ help is invaluable. They harvest a day or two before market to ensure the vegetables are as fresh as possible. “If we don’t get the produce picked, no one else is going to do it for us,” Oakley


says.


At the end of a long day of harvesting spinach, Appel and Oakley return to the farmhouse with dirty hands and tired muscles—but they wouldn’t have it any other way.


“It’s a viable career, even though it’s a simpler life. We don’t get a new car every year or spend money on new clothes every month,” Oakley says. “But we get to be home, raising our child together. We have true quality of life. That’s priceless.” To learn more about Three Springs Farm visit www.threespringsfarm.com or www. facebook.com/3springsfarm. Stop by their stand at the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market, Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., April through Labor Day. To try some fresh-from- the-farm recipes, go to Page 30.


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