Farmers’ markets, along with allowing patrons to support local makers, are a great alternative to chain grocery stores. Popular items include everything from seasonal produce and dairy products to meat and flowers. Many vendors sell prepared food like breads and jams, along with household/garden plants and homemade crafts.
In addition to the more traditional products, each of Oklahoma’s farmers’ markets boasts a bevy of unique vendors, offering not just products but some services, too – including Edmond’s knife sharpeners and Tulsa’s ceramics creators.
April to October is prime farmers’ market season in Oklahoma, although some markets held indoors are open all year long.
Emily Young, Edmond’s farmers’ market manager, encourages visitors to ask questions and get to know the vendors and their stories.
“Understand what they’re doing,” she says. “It helps to build more confidence and trust.”
Young elaborates that it’s that positive relationship between a vendor and a customer that farmers’ markets strive to cultivate. Those relationships are powerful, ultimately separating a visitor’s experience from that at a chain grocery store.
“When you shop at a farmers’ market, you are meeting the people who have dealt with your food,” she says.
Farmers’ markets benefit the local economy and community. When visitors spend money on domestic goods, it keeps the demand high and money local. Markets’ dairy, meat, produce and baked goods are fresh and have little to zero preservatives, promoting healthy eating habits as well.
Young says guests should visit as often as they like, and stay as long as possible.
“Every purchase you make, every post on social media and every shared experience promotes and advocates for small businesses,” she says.
Oklahoma government program Shape Your Future – shapeyourfutureok.com – has devoted an entire page to helping visitors plan their first or next visit to a local farmers’ market. One of the most valuable tools is a link to an online directory of all the farmers’ markets in the state, answering frequently asked questions and making it easier for people to find their closest market.
Programs of Note
If you’re interested in delving further into Oklahoma-created food, check out OK Grown, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in conjunction with Double Up OK (DUO), and the Seniors Nutrition Farmers Market Program (SNFMP).
According to Oklahoma’s official government website, markets that qualify as “OK Grown” must sell “100% Oklahoma grown products,” or “in counties adjacent to a bordering state, the farmers market is allowed to have 20% of their products be grown in that bordering state.” Most Oklahoma farmers’ markets are designated as OK Grown.
SNAP is a program designed to help low-income families purchase nutritious foods, promoting healthy eating. SNAP partnered with DUO so that SNAP benefits can be used at farmers’ markets. According to doubleupoklahoma.org, people just need to “go to the information booth at a participating market, use your EBT card to purchase SNAP-eligible items or SNAP tokens, and receive $1 in Double Up OK tokens for every $1 spent in SNAP.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services, the main goal for the Seniors Nutrition Farmers Market Program (SNFMP) is to “provide low-income seniors with access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey and herbs.” Arriving early to get a prime selection of produce, bringing recycled grocery bags, totes and cash, and trying new and healthy foods to promote better eating are just some of the tips on the website; it also includes recipes and a free, family-friendly farmers’ market scavenger hunt.