Regular visitors to the Cherokee County area, when asked what they like best, could be expected to say the lake or the river. And indeed, many do put these recreational features at the top of their lists.

But more and more, the Tahlequah Farmers' Market is being cited as a major enticement on weekends beginning in the spring. Even last year, during the worst of the pandemic, the TFM found innovative ways to operate and serve customers. And that will be the case again in 2021, with TFM welcoming back its loyal customers base today: Saturday, April 3.

Those who haven't been by the TFM's weekend "encampment," and would like to venture out soon, are in for a real treat. Over the years, the Daily Press has been privileged to do feature stories on a number of the vendors, and some of them offer unique fare that can't be found anywhere else. We will be doing that again this year – not just because these folks are so interesting, but because it's a valuable public service to the community.

Fresh produce, baked goods, eggs, meat, crafts, and even services are offered through various vendors. The prices are always reasonable, and the products superior to those that come off of assembly lines. These are products into which area individuals and families have poured their hard work, resources and love. No one aims to get rich; these vendors have something worth sharing, and are looking to cover their expenses and make a little money in the bargain.

It would be almost impossible to say enough positive things about the TFM director, Marla Saeger. Naturally produced goods and services are right up her alley, and always have been. She devotes herself body and soul to this organization, and her care and nurturing shows not just in the quality of the vendors and their wares, but in the entire arrangement of the market – and her determination to make things work, no matter how much effort and ingenuity it takes.

That resourcefulness has given birth to what Saegar calls a "hybrid market." For social distancing purposes, TFM held a drive-thru market last year, with patrons placing orders online and cruising through the pavilion to pick up their purchases. Naturally, the board and vendors missed the community fellowship of gathering downtown, the system opened a new customer base – including people who may never have dropped by on Saturdays to rub elbows with other shoppers. Now, with both options in place, it's a winner for everyone.

It's time for the rest of us to enjoy the fruits of the labors of Saegar and her friends. The market is open downtown from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays, with pickup of pre-ordered items from 8 to 9 a.m. Online orders for weekend pickup must be placed by 7 p.m. each Thursday; the online market opens at 5 p.m. Mondays.

For more information on this growing source of pride for our community, visit tahlequahfarmersmarket.org. Prepare to be amazed.

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