You purchase a handful of vegetables or fruits from a grocery store, but within a day or two, they’ve gotten soft, discolored and downright inedible?
There’s got to be an easier way! There is: farmers’ markets. While they’ve been a staple of many communities in the metro for years, they’re garnering more popularity as consumers question the freshness, quality and taste of produce.
When Matt Burch started Urban Agrarian, 1235 S.W. Second, he only had one goal in mind: to increase the availability of local food.
“Farmers’ markets keep the growers growing, and the Urban Agrarian gives them more than one day a week to get their products sold,” he said. “It’s important to have food production within the state. It wasn’t so long ago that a lot of farmers wanted to grow but didn’t have much infrastructure to get rid of what they were growing.”
With farmers’ markets, local farmers can increase sales and decrease waste. This bodes well not only for Urban Agrarian’s current customer demand of cool-season crops — such as spinach, kale and chard — but also for their most popular summer treat: peaches.
“In this state, we grow really excellent peaches,” Burch said. “We bring down all of our peaches from
Porter, Oklahoma, from Livesay Orchards. Just delicious peaches, all summer long.”
Evelyn Bollenbach, senior director of marketing and communication for the city’s other popular farmers’ market at Oklahoma State University-OKC in the Horticulture Pavilion, 400 N. Portland, agrees that people are drawn to farmers’ markets for their sense of community and local pride.
“Farmers’ markets, overall, provide access for local producers to sell their product. More important than that, the OSU-OKC farmers’ market is Oklahoma-only, so you won’t see produce or products shipped in from other states,” she said. “From the consumer’s side of it, you can get organic, you can get fresh, you can actually talk to the person who’s actually producing it.”
OSU-OKC’s biggest sellers currently are herbs and spring lettuces, as well as organic eggs and local cheeses. But none of those compare to the mad dash for its biggest summer hit: tomatoes.
“It’s really kind of a phenomenon that they have such a following that people are willing to stand in line to get them,” Bollenbach said.
Fresh tomatoes aside, she said, many people like to come to farmers’ markets for the atmosphere.
“It’s entertaining, fun, clean and it’s wholesome to bring your family out to the farmers’ market on a Saturday,” Bollenbach said. “It’s a new experience each time.”
It is the longest-running farmers market in Oklahoma — 34 years and counting — and Norman Farmers’ Market, 615 E. Robinson, would sure like it if you could pass the word along.
“Farmers’ markets are more important than ever ... you can visit with the vendors and ask if they’ve used any chemicals. Some of the produce is so fresh it was picked the night before,” said Wanda Danley, administrative secretary for the Cleveland County Fair Board.
Despite a hard growing season that has left some vendors with less-than-spectacular results, Danley is not only excited about the current crop of asparagus and green onion, but also for her favorite summer staple: okra.
“Okra is always a hot summer item,” she said. “Okra is just a good ol’ Southern staple.”
Her enthusiasm for okra is shared by organizers farther north at the Edmond Farmers Market, 26 W. First.
But Diane Self, the City of Edmond’s recreation programs manager, said some of the locally manufactured foods offered also deserve a bit more attention.
“We have people that have homemade jams and jellies; we have people that make salsa and spices,” she said. “We have fresh pasta, some with different flavors. We also have baked goods, and we do have local honey, which is very important for people who have allergies.”
Be it homemade salsa or the vegetables it takes to make it, the one thing you can count on from the area farmers’ markets, in Edmond and beyond, is that they are all proud to be local.