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A Fresh Weekend in Tulsa

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One of the many projects we had the opportunity to partake of kicked off last weekend as Morgan, Helen and I headed to Tulsa on Friday afternoon. Our destination the next morning was the Cherry Street Farmers' Market, one of the largest farmers markets in Oklahoma.

The Noble Research Institute has many different agricultural disciplines represented by their consultants' specialties. One that may not be as common, but one I find especially interesting, is horticulture. Early in our time here, Steve Upson, a soils and crops consultant who specializes in horticultural crops, offered a project to me and the other scholars that tied together my major, agricultural business, and an interest of mine, horticulture.

The project was a farmers market survey in which we would travel to several nearby markets and take notes on what was being sold, how much it was being sold for and the difference that an organically grown label had on the price. Upson was especially interested in the prices so he could give producers a range of prices they may be able to charge when selling their produce at a local market. When I heard this, I immediately volunteered, because not only would I get to tie together my area of study and my interests, but I'd also be able to buy fresh vegetables, and, of course, get tons of free samples.

When we arrived in Tulsa Friday evening, we checked into our hotel and then went for a stroll around downtown Tulsa. I'd been to Tulsa quite a few times, but I'd never been to the downtown area. Even though I'm a native Oklahoman, my time here at Noble has exposed me to parts of my state I'd never seen before. We had a great time looking at the neat buildings and walking through a few parks, but we were a little worn out from our packed week of projects and farm visits, so we settled in early.

The next morning was an early one as we attempted to beat the heat and the large, dedicated crowd that shows up every Saturday. Our first order of business upon arrival at the market was to grab a cup of coffee and walk the length of it to see what was being sold and try to recognize who the most successful vendors were. One vendor that seemed to be very successful was Three Springs Farm, a certified organic vendor selling a wide variety of colorful vegetables. One thing that stuck out to me was that they knew many of their clients by name, an important detail which, coupled with their outstanding looking produce, brought back regular buyers every weekend. After chatting a bit about their methods of growing and the plants they had available, we let them get back to work, as the crowd was beginning to pick up.

As we walked the length of the market, we sampled fresh gazpacho and some locally made cheese, and I bought one of the best breakfast tacos I have ever had. Of course, we also did a little bit of work by taking notes on prices and what was being sold. We will compare the data we took at Cherry Street with the data we will be gathering on our visits to other local farmers markets. Currently, our plans include a trip to the market in Oklahoma City and to one or two in Fort Worth.

I am more than ready for our next trip, though I don't know how the other markets will be able to beat Cherry Street. If you're ever spending a weekend in Tulsa, start your Saturday morning off right at the Cherry Street Farmers' Market, and make sure to get a breakfast taco.

Conner Carroll is a 2014 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Perkins, Oklahoma.