There was a time not too long ago when it was difficult to find out where your food came from. More specifically, we all know where food comes from, but not in the sense that we have any inkling of the person who picked the potato or carrot on our plates. It is a fairly safe assumption that quite a few people do not know what garlic looks like growing in the ground. A surprising number of Americans do not know the provenance of their food.
When it comes to farming, we Oklahomans are at a distinct advantage; we live in a state with a thriving tradition of agriculture.
Some people only read about farms, imagining pastoral scenes of peaceful cows grazing unattended in a country meadow. They’ve never driven over a cattle guard. In Oklahoma City, you only have to drive just outside the city limits to get your fill of the sights (and smells) of agriculture.
This state has not only a diverse cultural heritage but also fecund land rich with resources.
Oklahoma was once a place where bison roamed the plains and cattle were driven over hundreds or even thousands of miles to California or Texas. The rich red earth of this state is ideal for grain and vegetables alike, especially those that like it hot and humid — our summers can be unforgiving, but as long as there is plenty of water, what this red soil produces can be prolific indeed. From the early greens of spring to the late autumn varieties of squash, edible plants that grow in our state are as varied as the people who populate it.
In anticipation of Earth Day on April 22, we have cultivated a guide to metro-area places where you can get your hands on foodstuff grown and raised in Oklahoma by Oklahomans.
The best guide to local produce is the people who make it. In a time of near panic about food additives and unsafe agricultural practices, there is no better way to know for certain what you are putting in your body. Farmers markets are the alternative to big-box chain supermarkets, impossible-to- pronounce ingredients and the knowledge that factory farming is dangerous to the health of both us and our planet.
Meet your farmer: Patrice
Patrice Whittle is a comely, white-haired lady farmer who runs a 150-acre farm in Asher. She raises two breeds of hogs and a herd of Criollo-cross cattle.
The Whittles raise Large Black and Berkshire hogs, breeds chosen for the quality of their meat as well as because the breed is endangered. Both breeds do not do well in confinement, so Whittle’s Double R Farms is doing its part to conserve the breed.
“They have a lifetime of great days and then one bad one,” she said.
Whittle’s farm is a certified Animal Welfare Approved Program farm, which means the farm meets rigorous criteria that protect the health and quality of life of the animals that live there. The farm is inspected annually to maintain its Animal Welfare certification.
Double R Farms is a member of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and you can find Whittle with her fellow farmers every Saturday morning outside at the intersection of Second Street and Klein Avenue in OKC. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the farm at 333-2769 to talk about custom orders and Whittle’s products.
You can sign up to receive a newsletter so you will know what to expect every week at the market. Whittle sells bacon, sausage and ham steaks and has recently added Bratwurst to her menu.
You can find a complete list of products through the food coop website, oklahomafood.coop, or stop by Whittle’s booth on Saturday.
Meet your farmer: Dustin
Dustin Green went from a quarter-acre lot in central Oklahoma City to 10 acres in Norman. He admitted it was a little culture shock. Green is over that by now and is obviously in love with what he does. His passion shines through in every conversation. His father was a cattle rancher, so he was no stranger to the amount of work he was in for. His motivation for starting a farm was simple.
“I just wanted to feed my kid good food,” he said. “Then it was friends and family. And now I just want to feed the whole state.”
Produce in season now is primarily greens like lettuces: romaine, butter and braising greens.
“I sell whatever produce I have available, and I also sell starter plants for home gardeners,” he said.
Green also has a booming poultry business — chickens, ducks and geese. His farm, 10 Acre Woods, is home to 300 laying hens and, for part of the year, turkeys. You can custom-order them for Thanksgiving, and that process starts in August. They are organic and all-natural, as is everything on Green’s farm.
“We may have 50, we may have 200. It is completely dependent on pre-orders.”
His chickens are free-range, and he supplements their non-genetically modified food with turnips he plants specifically for them and adds barley and rye to their feed. Dustin says he loves that his children are finding out how their food is grown and where it comes from. Eating seasonably comes naturally to them, and they’re no strangers to healthy food.
Dustin is also a member of the Oklahoma Food Coop, and you can order his items through the coop website and find him in the same building as Whittle on Saturday mornings. The farm is online at 10acrewoods.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/10AcreWoods.
Meet your farmer: Susan
Susan Graff nurtured her dreams of having a working farm while she had a career as a hairdresser, before she bought land in Arcadia. Since then, Crestview Farms has continued to grow.
“It really took off when we built a greenhouse,” she said.
That was when she knew it was going to be bigger than she had hoped. The farm includes a high tunnel greenhouse, which is a type of greenhouse that can be opened on one or more sides. The farm also has an orchard with pear, apple, peach and plum trees and blackberry bushes and is home to six dairy goats.
The high tunnel is where Graff grows mostly greens like kale, cabbage and collards, which are currently in season. The special greenhouse helps extend the length of the growing season.
The farm is certified organic through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meaning the agency does an annual inspection, which includes taking soil and water samples, to make sure the farm meets the rigorous guidelines.
“We use all biopesticides made from natural ingredients as well as practice IPM (integrated pest management),” Graff said.
Crestview Farms also participates in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in which customers pay a fee to help cover farming costs and then receive weekly produce. The farm offers CSAs from 12 to 39 weeks.
Graff sells her seasonal produce at the Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Farmers Market every Saturday morning, and you can find Crestview Farms and more information about CSA and the upcoming Herb Fest online at crestvieworganicfarms.net. Produce also is available by emailing Graff at crestview2@ sbcglobal.net.
OSU-OKC Farmers Market
8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday Horticulture Pavilion 400 N. Portland Ave. osuokc.edu/farmersmarket
OKC Farmers Market
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
1205 SW 2nd St.
Edmond Farmers Market
8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday 26 W. First St., Edmond
Norman Farmers Market
8 a.m.-noon Saturday; 4-8 p.m. Tuesday
Cleveland County Fairgrounds 615 E. Robinson St., Norman
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
1235 SW Second St.
Native Roots Market
8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-7p.m. Sunday
131 NE Second St.
Oklahoma Food Cooperative
$51.75 lifetime membership