The Tahlequah Farmers' Market has been expanding it's scope in an attempt to make fresh and healthy food more accessible.

Residents of small towns sometimes have limited local choices when purchasing food, but the Tahlequah Farmers' Market has been bringing goods to Hulbert twice a month to give folks a few more options. For those living a busy life, convenience can sometimes take precedence over nutritional value. With fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, herbs and other items available in their backyard, eating healthy is now a bit easier for Hulbert residents.

Thanks to a grant through the Farm to School program, Hulbert has been hosting the Tahlequah Farmers' Market on the first and third Thursday of each month from 4-7 p.m. The program will run through August and Marla Saeger, market president, said they wanted to bring the market to Hulbert to help give residents a wider selection of food.

"They don't have anything fresh here and people need some fresh food," Saeger said. "Our prices are very comparable to [large stores]. It's

local so they know where it comes from and it's better for you."

With temperatures rising, many popular items are in season and fully-stocked. Okra and peppers are ready for purchase with items like corn and melons coming into season in the next few weeks.

While giving people access to fresher and healthier food, the Tahlequah Farmers' Market is participating in the "Double Up Oklahoma" program to further encourage good eating habits.

For every dollar in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits spent, customers get a dollar free in Oklahoma-grown produce. Saeger said people may take advantage of the program as they wish, but suggested people spend $20 on items like meat and eggs and reserve the extra $20 for the produce.

"We've gone in with eight other markets in Oklahoma for the funding and it's for at least a couple of years," Saeger said. "It's just a good way for them to double up on their benefits."

Linda Johnson, owner of Single Loop Ranch, was in Hulbert on Thursday selling homemade salsa, dog treats and even a few unique items. Selling eggs produced by her chickens, Johnson also sells duck eggs from another local farm. Johnson said they are a little more rich than regular eggs, but taste mostly the same to her.

"They have twice the nutritional value and they are better for baking too," Johnson said. "The shells are a little thicker, but some people like them and I sell them by the half dozen for people to try."

Hulbert resident Deni Freihoff-Lewin regularly attends the local farmers' markets and went to the market in Hulbert on a hunt for peaches. She said when it comes to eating healthy in Oklahoma, she's an exception to the norm.

"We're like number 50 in the number of fruits and vegetables we consume and people need to be exposed to it," Freihoff-Lewin said. "I build my menu based on what I find at the farmers' market that week."

Freihoff-Lewin said shopping at a farmers' market benefits a person's health and supports local business.

"This is the person next door growing your food," Freihoff-Lewin said. "It has a smaller carbon footprint because it came from 10 miles up the road. You can go into a [grocery store] and buy big, gorgeous tree-ripened peaches, but from California. To me, why would you do that when you can buy peaches that came from your neighbor. That's the biggest reason for me, to support local people and to have the freshest produce available."

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