By SEAN ROWLEY
When wandering through the Tahlequah Farmers’ Market, a visitor may be surprised by the multitude of produce and products available.
Kathryn Alexander, operator of Wheatstalks Bakery in Tahlequah, wants patrons to know that breads are also available, and that she offers some unusual styles.
“I produce European-style hearth breads,” she said. “I bake baguettes, Pain au Levain, Pain Pugliese, and a traditional wheatberry bread. What is common to the bread styles I bake is a slow fermentation process.”
A retired clinical social worker, Alexander has been a vendor with the Tahlequah Farmers’ Market since it opened. She began making hearth breads after moving to Cherokee County in the late 1990s.
“I got my bakery built and started baking bread in 1998,” she said. “At first, I just marketed to my friends in the area. But the Farmers’ Market has become a real thrill for me, because now I can sell to more people. I now only bake for the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. It is my only point of sale.”
Alexander, a native of Okmulgee, moved to Tahlequah from Austin, Texas. She entered culinary school after she realized Tahlequah shoppers might enjoy a greater selection of breads.
“I enrolled at [Oklahoma State University]-Okmulgee,” she said. “They had some really fine chefs over there, and all were extensively trained in baking.”
After her culinary schooling, Alexander then began a search for articles and appliances to prepare the uncommon breads she wished to create.
“Once I got a feel for the equipment, I just went shopping for bakery implements,” she said. “Used equipment was actually pretty easy to come by. There are several places that restore and resell restaurant equipment.”
Alexander stressed that Wheatstalks Bakery complies with all state regulations to marketing breads commercially.
“The Farmers’ Market has a commitment to quality, and the bakery is fully licensed,” she said. “We are inspected every year by the Department of Health for procedure and sanitation. The bakery is a separate structure apart from my home.”
When the Tahlequah Farmers’ Market was first getting under way, Alexander attended one of the meetings, met the vendors and “took a chance.”
“The people of rural Oklahoma are down to earth, and I like that,” she said. “I liked the autonomy and the idea of doing something creative and being around other people who are invested in what they are doing.”
Another appeal for Alexander was that market vendors care about the quality of the food they market.
“Everyone tries to bring good food to the diet,” she said. “I care about the food I eat. When I visit a restaurant, I want to go someplace where the chef is obviously concerned about what he puts on your table.”
The Tahlequah Farmers’ Market meets Saturdaysfrom 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Norris Park.