SPOTLIGHT: For Wayne Whitmore, the Edmond Farmer’s Market is a family affair.
“My children grew up going to the farmer’s market, and now their children are out there with us,” said Whitmore, who operates the family-owned Whitmore Farms.
Whitmore and family – and many, many more – will be there again April 15, when the Edmond Farmer’s Market celebrates its 20th season.
Open Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. – except May 6, when the facility is closed for the annual Arts Festival – at the Festival Market Place, 26 W. 1st Street, its home since 2005, the market brings Oklahoma-grown produce and locally produced artisan crafts in an open-air setting that is family-friendly.
“The best thing, from a consumer standpoint, is the market provides the community with a good, locally grown source of fresh produce,” Whitmore said, “and all the money stays in Oklahoma, supporting local farms, local businesses and the community.”
All 54 slots in the pavilion are already accounted for, said Farmer’s Market Coordinator Emily Young, and the diverse menu of items and options reflects how the market has evolved as it’s grown.
“This year, we have a really good variety of produce, and we have some new options,” Young said. “Along with the produce we traditionally see, there is a really good variety of nurseries with a wide variety of gardening plants – vegetables and fruits and flowers. We’ve never had fruit trees before, but we will have them this year. We also will have dairy products available every week we are open.
“You will still be able to find cheese and eggs – even more vendors will have eggs available this year – as well as milk, bread, and the proteins you need to make dinner throughout the week. There also will be coffee and, for the grownups, beer, and wine selections. We really try to embrace the idea of one-stop shopping. None of our customers will need to leave us to go find goods and products anywhere else.”
Whitmore was part of the market during its informal beginnings in 1988. Eventually, the market grew to the point that the City of Edmond was asked to step in and manage the market. Beginning in 2001, former City of Edmond architect David Odle grabbed that opportunity with passion and enthusiasm and started the path to where it is today.
The market became part of the City’s Parks & Recreation department in 2004, and the Festival Market Place location opened in 2005, with the pavilion dedicated to Odle.
Today, visitors come to enjoy the experience and choose from the variety of locally grown vegetables and fruits, meats – including goat and lamb meat this season – and handcrafted specialty foods, as well as a diverse selection of unique handmade soaps, jewelry, and other artisan crafts.
“We are at 100 percent capacity for vendors, and the footprint is growing,” Young said. “We are using micro-vendors as well – it’s a collaborative approach that lets vendors partner with other vendors that have products that complement each other. That showcases how easy it is to shop at the market exclusively, and how easy it is to shop and prepare meals for your family using everything you can find at the market.”
Also, this year, there will be a focus on education, with presentations on things like freezing and canning foods to “help stretch seasonal produce so it can last longer for you at home,” Young said.
“In the economic environment of today, the Farmer’s Market is quickly becoming an economic and efficient way to feed your family,” Young said, “and to do that with fresh, locally grown products that also support your neighbors.”
The market is registered with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and emphasizes Oklahoma produce. It meets all license requirements of the Oklahoma Department of Health.
“All our vendors must have the appropriate licensing and certifications and insurance,” Young said. “There are a lot of compliance requirements we follow.”
For Whitmore, the continued growth is something he’s enjoyed experiencing firsthand.
“There weren’t always farmer’s markets in Oklahoma,” he said. “When we first started, they were pretty much unheard of around Oklahoma. They struggled sometimes because there wasn’t the variety you could find at grocery stores. But, as they have grown, more and more farmers and producers have come out and they have gotten more and more popular over the years. When we started, there was more produce than customers, and now there are times when we have more customers than produce. So, I guess that means more opportunity for more people to be a part of it.”
Learn more about the Edmond Farmer’s Market at edmondfarmersmarket.com.