It’s no small task to provide weekly produce deliveries to 1,200 lovers of farm-fresh food, but Local Farm OK makes it happen, and co-owner Ashley Neal is giddy about her part in the enterprise.
“I couldn’t grow anything if my life depended on it … but I cook,” says Neal, who emails a new weekly recipe to those ordering Local Farm OK’s fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat and dairy products.
“I love to be in the kitchen and share my secrets with people,” she says. “I’m a huge advocate of health. They call me the salad queen.”
Neal and her husband, Ben, operate a 10-acre farm near Glenpool with six greenhouses; they grow 10 varieties of lettuce, along with herbs and tomatoes. People not sold on the idea of a greenhouse haven’t eaten their leafy offerings, Neal says.
“Our lettuce is 1,000 percent better than anything you could grow outside,” she says. “It is grown in air with water continually on its roots. We ruin people for any other lettuce when they have our greens.”
People who like their food not far removed from the soil have options like farmers markets and pick-your-own farms. Customers are also placing coolers on their porches to receive in-season Oklahoma produce each week.
Farm-to-home providers have often made career changes to get closer to nature. The Neals, who deliver across metropolitan Tulsa, turned a gardening hobby into a business about five years ago after selling their manufacturing company.
Kamala Gamble of Oklahoma City left banking to train as a chef. She operates Kam’s Kookery (a catering company) and Guilford Gardens, which has about 120 customers signed up for home or workplace produce delivery. She tends a 2-acre vegetable garden described as community-supported agriculture, whose customers “buy in” quarterly.
The cost averages $23 a week for home delivery or $20 if customers go to a designated drop-off point, says Gamble, adding that she also has greenhouses and hoop houses, so members get a basket every week, except during the holiday season.
“I am very glad I started doing this,” says Gamble, who, like the Neals, has two young children. “I’m much happier cooking and growing. I like the relationships that it builds with people. I am completely dedicated to growing veggies and to having kids eat them.”
Jose Quiroz, owner of Twelve 20 Saltcreek Farms near Minco, touts all his produce, especially his new, 1-acre blueberry patch. People clamor for the fruit, which isn’t easy to grow in Oklahoma. Quiroz says he relies on research and expertise handed down from his family. Since 2014, he’s studied farming techniques on the side while running other businesses, primarily in construction.
Twelve 20 starts home delivery this month. For those who’d rather pick their own produce, the farm is southwest of town. Quiroz expects the blueberries to ripen by June 30.
Local Farm OK offers a six-item farm bag of local produce and an eight-item variety bag with two additions that may come from farther away, such as citrus fruit from Texas. All customers get the same items every week based on what’s in season. The bags are filled every Monday with delivery from Tuesday through Thursday. Customers pay online; if they’re out of town, they can cancel for that week.
Local Farm OK isn’t community-supported agriculture, but customers pay a $10 membership fee every growing season. Local Farm OK has partnerships with more than a dozen farmers who provide the eggs, chicken, pork and beef going in the bags. The meat comes frozen because of health department standards.
Gamble says her customers all get the same baskets, and delivery is usually each Tuesday.
“You get what’s in the garden,” she says.
In early March, for example, baskets included Swiss chard, lettuce, kale, eggs and sweet potatoes. Every basket contains at least seven items.
Gamble has been in the business for 16 years. She says one of her customers, who has a daughter in middle school, has bought vegetables from Gamble since her child was in diapers.
Gamble and Ashley Neal post recipes on their social media sites to help customers make the best use of their produce. Among Neal’s creations are garlic herb hasselback sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash pad thai and Indian-spiced roasted vegetables.
“It makes me so happy when people use my recipes,” Neal says. “It makes it worthwhile when I get emails from people saying thank you for helping me change my life and eat healthier.”
For information on how to order from Gamble, the Neals or Quiroz, go to kamskookery.com, localfarmok.com or twelve20farmstore.com, respectively.