Apr. 9—Cassie Herringshaw said 2020 was a down year for the Muskogee Farmers Market, which opens for business Saturday morning.
Herringshaw, who operates Peace of Prairie Organic Farm and is co-manager of the market along with Doug Walton, said COVID-19 kept some vendors home as well as some customers, which hurt sales.
"Last year we had a decrease in the number of vendors from the year before," she said. "A few older vendors not coming and a few who didn't want to put in all the investment of getting things started and not knowing how it was going to go."
When the powers that be started to plan for 2021 in January, Herringshaw said that there were questions that couldn't be answered.
"This year was probably unknown at the beginning," she said. "We start planning in January, and this year in January, COVID cases were still high. But it was obvious that cases were dropping off with people getting their vaccines, so it's really unclear all throughout the planning window just how things were going to be.
"In some sense it's been easier because the Civic Center usually has events that keep us from getting to start. This year, all those events are still kind of being canceled, so we now have an opening to start."
Herringshaw, who has been selling for eight years, said there will be new vendors at the market this season. One of them is Ourway Farm in Council Hill.
Carl McDonald operates the farm and is selling his wares for the first time at a market.
"We had been gardening a little bit, selling to neighbors," he said. "The final straw was going to the big box stores, buying a cantaloupe that you couldn't even taste. It's one of those decisions you've got to be big enough to have some produce to sell or just stay gardening for yourself.
"That's what tipped the scales really — the poor produce available to the consumer."
McDonald said while he's been farming since he was a teenager helping his mom garden, selling it this way has him excited and nervous.
"Obviously, I'm going to have to have a learning curve on having enough produce to sell," he said. "Right now, I'll have tomatoes, onions, lettuce, garlic, bell peppers, jalapeños, turnips, kohlrabi, carrots — basically all your vegetables with the exception of sweet corn.
"I just planted them, so they won't be ready, but in two years I'll have blackberries."
Herringshaw also said there will be new items available for customers.
"We have a new honey vendor who also makes soaps," she said. "And then we have a vendor who's going to bring meat chicken, a couple of new egg vendors — one who is bringing quail eggs. Starting out this spring we have a vendor who's bringing out berry plants."
Herringshaw said in addition to cash, credit/debit cards, seniors farmers market cards and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the market has one additional program.
"This isn't new but I think it's worth mentioning every chance we get, we have what's called the 'Double Up Oklahoma' program," she said. "If you're a SNAP recipient, you bring your SNAP card to market and when you swipe it, you can swipe it for $20 and we'll actually give you $40 in Farmers Market tokens.
If you go
WHAT: Muskogee Farmers Market.
WHEN: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays beginning May 5.
WHERE: Muskogee Civic Center pavilion parking lot.