August 6, 2008
Reap What Others Sow at the Farmers Market
By Jeff Massie, The Sun, Midwest City, Okla.
Aug. 6--Farmers markets are sprouting up faster than a stalk of organic corn.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) information released by www.okgrown.com, the number of U.S. farmers markets has reached the 4,500 mark. Oklahoma has risen from 28 local stores to 49 in recent years.
Aug. 3-9 has been proclaimed "National Farmers Market Week" by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer.
With the growing encroachment of urban sprawl on the country side, and an increased interest in organic produce, many consumers are looking for a preservative-free alternative to what's offered on most grocery store shelves.
Residents of Eastern Oklahoma County need only to travel to Choctaw to fulfill their whole grain fix. Visitors come from across this half of the county, all the way from Shawnee, Choctaw Finance Director Bernie Nauheimer said. Nauheimer previously worked as the public works director for the city where he was involved with the local market.
"Lots of people today look for fresh produce. I prefer homegrown tomatoes," Nauheimer said. "Participation is pretty good by the public. This is what people are looking for, is fresh grown produce."
The benefit of food going straight from the farm to the consumer extends beyond the taste buds.
Small farm operators, those with less than $250,000 in annual receipts, harvest the advantage of having direct access to markets, which helps supplement farm income, according to the USDA.
Those who work on the field are not the only ones reaping the benefits. The consumer gains easy access to locally grown and farm fresh produce while getting to personally interact with the grower, the department states.
The community also wins with access to fresh foods, according to the USDA.
"Farmers markets also help to promote nutrition education, wholesome eating habits, and better food preparation, as well as boosting the community's economy."
Nauheimer said that vendors fluctuate depending on time of year and what's in season, but the permanent spots are usually pretty well booked up. In addition to produce, berries, eggs, honey, bison meat and homemade soaps are often for sale as well.
For those worried about the market's food quality, the health department checks everything every time the bazaar opens up, Nauheimer said.
The Eastern Oklahoma County Farmer's Market is located at 2001 N. Harper Road. It's open every Saturday from June to October. For vendor information, contact the city of Choctaw. The season charge is $25 and community booths are $5.
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Copyright (c) 2008, The Sun, Midwest City, Okla.
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