Local farmers and artisans gathered at the Lawton Farmer’s Market Fall Festival to mark the end of the harvest season on Oct. 27 at the Comanche County Fairgrounds.
This Fall Festival celebrated having a bountiful bath of products because the Southwest Oklahoma Growers Association — a non-profit organization — sought to assist local growers.
Lawton Farmer’s Market Manager Angie Ellis explained that farmers in Southwestern Oklahoma pool resources throughout the season.
“It has been difficult, but we have quite a few vendors who have access to wells bring in water throughout the season,” she said.
Ellis said the Lawton Farmer’s Market provides a service to the community that includes bringing fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm to the table.
“We are not about making money; we are about providing a service to the community,” Ellis said. “We are also about healthy eating. We want people to start eating like they should be and cook for their kids so that they know how to eat well.”
Ellis encouraged area students to get involved with the Lawton Farmer’s Market.
“We have invited FFA high school students to give them an outlet to sell their produce and raise money for their boosters,” Ellis said. “We have experienced growers here, but we are also looking for young blood.”
Marlow farmer Jack Sayre Jr. has experience in abundance — he inherited his knowledge of farming from his grandfather and has been tending his land and managing J and P Produce with his wife Patty for 12 years.
Sayre has watched as the Lawton Farmer’s Market has taken root in the community, but he still believes their business has room to grow.
“Since I started here, the Lawton Farmer’s Market has grown considerably,” Sayre said. “We would like to see more growers here. Events like the Fall Festival really draw people in, but some people still do not know who we are.”
Sayre said participating each Saturday in the Lawton Farmer’s Market has alleviated the burdens that come from selling independently and he appreciates the support and solidarity he has found among other growers in the area.
“Before I joined the Lawton Farmer’s market, I had a bunch of vegetables that went to waste. I put a sign out by the highway and I had a few customers, but I had a lot of waste,” he said. “We get together and share growing tips and techniques with each other. It is like one big family here, and we help each other — If one of our farmers here needs equipment, one of us comes over and brings the equipment to help till and plow their land.”
However, Sayre would still like the community to know how buying locally benefits the people who plant crops in his home state.
“Some people go to markets out of state — not that there is anything wrong with going to markets out of state — but this hurts local growers who plant with their sweat, blood and tears. This is hard work,” Sayre said.
Sayre said he especially enjoys making connections with his customers.
“My fondest memories are the smiles on faces of people who tell us they are glad we are here growing fresh, local produce,” Sayre said. “They enjoy what we do, and they let us know.”
Turkey Creek Lavender Farm’s Cathy Field said she shares her love of lavender with a wider audience when she takes the products she makes to the Lawton Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning.
“It allows us as farmers to develop relationships with the people who come to the market,” Field said. “For example, there are people who are devoted to our Lavender Lemongrass soap, and they stock up every time they come to the market.”
Field described the delight she has for lavender, and she said she especially enjoys sharing its delicate scent with people who pass by her stand.
“The most exciting time for me is when the lavender is blooming and I can take fresh cut bundles to the market,” Field said. “So many people have never seen fresh lavender, so when they talk about the smell and the beauty of it I am so excited to be able to share that with them.”
Field said she thinks more people should know about the specialty goods that are also available at the Lawton Farmer’s Market.
“People tend to think the farmers market and think food, even though we instituted the first Saturday craft vendor day this year, and had the Tomato Festival and Harvest Festival. Perhaps it not widely known that we offer more than just fruit and vegetables,” Field said.
Field wants the Lawton Farmer’s Market to become something of a one-stop shop for groceries and goods.
“Ultimately, I hope the community sees the farmers market as a go-to resource for buying local, whether it be lavender, herbs, fruit, vegetables, pastured chicken and turkey or handmade items.”