Room to Grow
After months of searching, the Cherry Street Farmers Market finally has a new home.
The Tulsa City Council approved a request by market officials on Feb. 25 to close two blocks of 15th Street on Saturday mornings so that the market could operate in that area. The street will be closed between Quaker and Rockford avenues, while a nearby side street--Quincy Avenue--will also be closed.
For Lisa Brandborg, the council's approval was a welcome development.
"We definitely will have room to expand," she said. "We'll be able to allow a couple of more vendors this year; although our intention is to grow slowly, so we don't all the sudden have twice as many vendors and not have the customer base to support them."
Brandborg said the market outgrew its longtime home in a parking lot at the southeast corner of 15th Street and Peoria Avenue and needed to look for a more expansive home.
"We have 70 vendors, and we only had 47 parking spots (at the old site)," she said. "So it got a little crowded ... We were definitely at a point where we were going to have to stop growth and limit attendance if we didn't do something."
Organizers considered a number of sites for the market's new home, Brandborg said, including the fairgrounds and River Parks. But finding another site on Cherry Street was always the preference of most market customers and vendors, she said.
Resistance to the closing of 15th Street was minimal, Brandborg said.
"There were two or three businesses that were opposed and 30-odd businesses in favor," she said. "We also had the support of neighborhood associations like Swan Lake."
The market will operate each Saturday from April 10 through Oct. 30 this year from 7am-11am. Brandborg said the streets would be closed from 5am to noon each of those Saturdays.
"We're just really excited and looking forward to having more room for our customers to come out and enjoy the market," she said.
Brandborg is anticipating this will be the last move for the market.
"Oh, we sure hope so," she said. "If the community accepts us and businesses see an increase with us there, we hope to be there a long time and have a lot of fun."
A project that converted the south formal garden at the Philbrook Museum of Art into a vegetable garden last year proved so successful that museum officials have announced the program will continue this year.
The produce grown at the garden again will be donated to the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma for distribution to its 460 partner programs in 24 counties.
Cindy Stevens, the Food Bank's director of marketing, said the program has been a boon to her organization.
"Just the fact that we can offer that to our member agencies, fresh produce picked that day and grown locally, that's a real plus for us," she said.
The project got a late start last year after museum officials decided they lacked the money to plant the ornamental garden on the museum's south side. Melinda McMillan, garden manager at the Philbrook, came up with the idea in May of developing a vegetable garden to benefit the community instead, and the idea quickly took off.
By the end of the season, more than 1,800 pounds of fresh corn, cucumbers, okra, tomatoes, eggplants, basil, peppers, squash, cantaloupe and other fresh produce had been picked and delivered to the Food Bank. McMillan is anticipating that with an earlier start, the total will increase in 2010.
"Barring a crop failure or a hail storm, we should have a bigger harvest this year," she said, laughing.
Some plants that are able to tolerate cold weather were left in the ground after last season's harvest ended in late October, she said, including garlic, leeks, onions and spinach. And the museum already has ordered its seeds for this year. McMillan said the garden will feature more than 50 kinds of plants this season, including the addition of herbs and strawberries.
"We're prepared this time," she said. "So we should have a much longer growing season."
Stevens said any increase in productivity will be welcome news, given the demands her agency faces.
"We've been seeing about a 40-percent increase in the number of people seeking assistance," she said.
Fresh produce is a valued addition to the usual staples the Food Bank provides to the needy, she said.
"It makes all the difference in the world," she said. "Food out of a can usually has a lot of sodium in it. So the nutritional value is not as high as when you eat it right off the vine."
As was the case last season, McMillan and her staff will do most of the planting and initial work on raising the produce, while volunteers will be sought to do the harvesting. But she added no one who wants to help at any stage will be turned away.
The museum will play host to a volunteer orientation session at 5:30pm on Thursday, April 1 at 2727 S. Rockford Ave. Anyone older than 16 who is interested in helping harvest this year's produce is welcome to attend. Call Kate Pelizzoni, director of volunteer services at the Food Bank, at 585-2800, ext. 112, or e-mail her at HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org"email@example.com for more information.
McMillan is planning three to four plantings this spring, the first one within the next couple of weeks. Others will follow in mid-April and early June.
She said the project is a good way for the museum to perpetuate founder Waite Phillips' legacy of helping needy Oklahomans.
"We've been impacted by the downturn in the economy just like all nonprofits have, so we feel the pinch, too," she said. "This is our way to thank the community for its support of the Philbrook in good times and bad times."
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