By TEDDYE SNELL
Since its inception in 2008, the Tahlequah Farmers’ Market has moved to a new location and gained dozens of new vendors.
This year, TFM participated in American Farmland Trust’s “I Love My Farmers Market Celebration,” placing first in the state and 14th in the nation.
“I am on Cloud Nine this week,” said TFM President Marla Saeger. “We had some amazing support for the pledge drive, and it shows in the outcome. Not only were we No. 1 in Oklahoma, we ended as No. 14 in the nation. It shows a lot about our support.”
AFT’s pledge drive celebration was instituted to raise national awareness about local farmers markets and putting money directly in the pockets of family farmers.
Throughout the celebration, local market enthusiasts pledged to spend at their market of choice and registered that choice at the AFT’s website. A pledge of $10 could be cast once a day from May 28 through Sept. 9.
At the end of the contest, Oklahoma residents pledged $3,660 to be spent at markets in the state. Tahlequah Farmers’ Market pledges accounted for $3,280 of that total.
Saeger said market attendance has grown rapidly over the organization’s five-year history.
“The first year, we started and ended the year with attendance at maybe 300,” said Saeger. “We’ve had up to 1,200 in attendance this year. Our market has grown exponentially. We have 35 active vendors, with an average of 18 to 20 showing up every week.”
The top pledge-earning group was Snellville Farmers Market in Snellville, Ga., coming in at $27,460. The top five pledge-earning states were Georgia, with $43,590; California, $32,990; Ohio, $21,750; Texas, $20,650; and Louisiana, $12,950.
This year, a number of food and health demonstrations have been added to the local market.
“As president of market, I have been attending other community groups, including the Northeast Area Community Campus Coalition, which is health-related,” said Saeger. “That is who we’ve been partnering with to have some of these demonstrations.”
Another demonstration featured a local cooking business owner, who showed market-goers how to prepare a couple of dishes from items available at the market.
Printed recipes and other valuable growing information is also available to market attendees.
This year, the market has added a second selling day, and is open Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market will be open two days per week, Tuesdays and Saturdays, through the end of October.
“We’re looking for a strong finish to the year,” said Saeger. “We have a month and a half left. The Tuesday markets have been well-received for having just started them. Attendance has been about 100-200 on a weekday, which is a good start.”