Rare Breed Farms in Hulbert has a team of 10 workers dedicated to growing quality produce for the people of Cherokee County. And the team members are all in the same family.
Tabitha Findley, her husband, and their eight children have surfaced as just one of the new vendors at the Tahlequah Farmers' Market this year. According to Findley, Rare Breed Farms offers "a little bit of everything."
"All of our vegetables are non-GMO [genetically modified organism]," said Findley. "We raise everything organically, so we don't use pesticide or fertilizers. And right now, we're raising beef, pork and chickens, so we should have that available next year."
The Findleys moved to Hulbert last year, and once they were able to produce their own food to the point that they had extra, they decided to take their surplus to the TFM.
"It's really important to us that we offer good-quality food that is free of chemicals and healthy for you," Findley said. "Each of the kids have different parts of the farm that they take care of. One of my daughters raises sheep, one raises goats and my son takes care of our cows. Then I have little ones who collect eggs, make sure everybody has water and those kinds of things. Everybody does their part in working and helping out here."
Other new vendors to the TFM include a jewelry company called Bricks and Moss, J5 Farm, Osage Oils, Persimmon Farm and the George M. Murrell Home.
Linda Johnson, who's been a part of the TFM for several years with Single Loop Ranch, said the veteran vendors have welcomed the new folks with open arms.
"It's always nice to have new people and finding out what they're making, or growing," said Johnson. "We do quite a bit of trading around there, so now we have a few more people to trade with this year."
J5 Farm is located in Stilwell and puts an emphasis on raising local, fresh and healthy produce for the patrons in Green Country. Strawberries are at the top of the list.
"We had Stilwell strawberries this year for the first time," said TFM President Marla Saeger. "It was great. Now [J5 Farm] is working on other vegetables, so they can be with us year-round."
The mission of Osage Oils is to share the benefits of using essential oils to naturally live a healthy life. All Osage Oil products are handmade and chemical-free. Osage Oils items include beauty products, sleep products, bug spray and more.
Persimmon Farm is another family-run operation based in Hulbert. The farm features heritage chickens and heirloom veggies.
For those who want a taste of the past, the folks at the George M. Murrell Home are using 19th century practices to produce a variety of healthy food options. Behind the historic house museum, workers at the Murrell Home have labored to plant items like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, herbs, beans, squash and much more.
"We're turning this back to a 19th century farm," said Jennifer Frazee, historical interpreter. "So we're using all 19th century practices as much as we're possibly able to, even down to these hoops over the tops of the beds. It looks like it's just a bunch of sticks, but that is actually our green house."
Once the historical garden was up and thriving, Frazee said she noticed a difference in quality, compared to produce found at larger grocery stores.
"The thing is, it seems to me that places like Walmart and other big stores, the produce has all been modified to be able to reach uniform size at a specific time, so that you can harvest and get it out to the people who need to eat it," she said. "Here that's not the case. I used to hate tomatoes. I could not stand them, until I ate one that we grew out in the garden that hadn't been modified to do that, and the flavor is completely different."
Frazee said much of the produce that is grown at the Murrell Home is cooked and served to those who visit the museum for one of its programs. Left over produce is preserved for the Murrell Home's Antique Agricultural Festival.
"We're preserving a lot of it, but sometimes you have a little bit of a surplus," Frazee said. "So our surplus we sell in the gift shop, so that money can go right back into [the Murrell Home]. Well, we have a few people who come out to the gift shop to buy it, but not a whole lot of people know we're here and selling that stuff right now. So we thought, what better way to get more people to know than to go to Farmers' Market?"
Aside from the new vendors, TFM has also acquired some new features, the biggest of which is the Pavilion in downtown Tahlequah that now hosts the market.
"We're very happy being under there," said Johnson. "It's so nice to be able to set up without having to set up our tents and tie them down with weights. Everyone is together all on level ground, and the customers can walk around more easily and safely. So it's kind of more of a community, than it used to be."
Patrons at the TFM now have more payment options, too.
"We have a new program that started at the end of last year, and that's our double-up snap program," said Saeger. "If people spend money using their snap benefits, then they get up to 20 extra dollars every week."