By EMILY RAMSEY
COMMUNITY GATHERING: Shoppers explore the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market. The market opens its spring and summer season April 4, with a name change to Tulsa Farmers’ Market.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
The Cherry Street Farmers’ Market begins its 18th season on April 4 with new and returning vendors and a name change.
The market’s new name is Tulsa Farmers’ Market, which allows the market to encompass more than just Cherry Street, says Market Administrator Penni Shelton; this includes on Brookside, where the winter market (open November-March) and the Wednesday summer market (open May-October) operate in the Whole Foods Market parking lot, 1401 E. 41st St.
The Tulsa Farmers’ Market will be open every Saturday 7 – 11 a.m. through October.
The Cherry Street Farmers’ Market started in April 1998 in the parking lot of Jason’s Deli, 1330 E. 15th St., with just a handful of vendors, says Shelton.
This season, the market, which now takes place on 15th Street, has reached its full capacity of 76 vendors, the majority of them being returning vendors, but with a few new faces, including additional craft vendors, certified organic growers and prepared food vendors.
Among the new vendors is the Justin Thompson Restaurant Group. Thompson, a well-known local chef, owns and operates four area restaurants: Juniper, Tavolo Italian Bistro, Prhyme Downtown Steakhouse, and 624 Kitchen and Catering. Thompson’s prepared food tent will offer fresh and frozen food items that are specifically created for the farmers market crowd, says Shelton.
Other newcomers include Mod’s Coffee and Crepes food truck; Brian Thurmon with Grassfed Jerky, selling beef jerky made from Koehn’s Grassfed meats; and a Sapulpa-based microgreens farm.
Some of the returning vendors are Lomah Dairy, Three Springs Farm and a number of Hmong farmers, who, Shelton says, have backgrounds in farming and often follow organic practices although their gardens may not be certified organic.
As in previous years, the market will accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (). It will also continue to offer the Double Up Food Bucks incentive program, which allows users to have the money they spend on produce matched up to $20 per visit, thanks to the help of private funding.
“That’s really diversified our crowd at the market,” Shelton says. “People of all incomes can come, and when they realize they can double their groceries, they are the most loyal, returning shoppers.”
As word has spread and the popularity of farmers markets has increased across the country, the Tulsa Farmers’ Market has seen its own share of increase. Over the past two years, sales have increased $60,000.
Shelton credits the increase in popularity partially to the uptick in national attention toward local products and their health benefits. “Locally-grown produce is more nutritious,” she says. “Most farmers pick produce the morning of the market. The only way it could be fresher is if you grew it yourself.”
The market also provides an opportunity for parents to educate their children on where their food comes from in a “carnival-like atmosphere,” she says.
“The atmosphere of a farmers market is a draw itself, with food trucks, live music, and other entertainment such as magicians and the Tulsa Opera.
“It’s a great draw in our city,” says Shelton, whose husband, a realtor with McGraw Realtors, often sees homes around Cherry Street sell largely due to their proximity to the farmers market.
“I am so proud of the market, and we feel very blessed to have so many great farmers, producers, bakeries,” Shelton says. “It’s the place to be on Saturday mornings.”
Additionally, starting April 23, The Market at Guthrie Green will offer produce and other food vendors every Thursday through Oct. 29, 4-7 p.m.
Vendor applications are still being accepted. Vendors currently on the list include Scissortail Farms, Lomah Dairy and Lucky’s Restaurant.
This market will replace Guthrie Green’s Sunday Market that operated in previous years.
“We saw the need for a downtown grocery store and wanted to provide more opportunity to downtown dwellers for fresh produce,” says Guthrie Green Program Administrator and Market Manager Julia White.
However, there are plans to offer special bazaars on various Saturdays throughout the upcoming season for crafters and other local artists.
Other area farmers markets:
Rose District Farmers’ Market in downtown Broken Arrow, opens April 18, Saturdays 8 a.m.-noon.
Jenks Main Street Farmers Market in the parking lot of Tedford Insurance, 121 E. Main St., opens April 4, Saturdays 8 a.m. – noon.
Owasso Farmers Market at Owasso Family , 8300 N. Owasso Expwy., opening in late April/early May, Wednesdays and Saturdays 8 a.m. – noon.