Oklahoma farmers have signed contracts with the Osage Nation’s Women, Infant and Children program (WIC) and the Osage Nation Elder Nutrition Program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables through a Farmer's Market grant through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The program provides Farmer's market vouchers to their clients to use at the Farmer's Markets set up in their locations.
The program currently has around thirteen farmers from Oklahoma participating in all the ON WIC locations, which include Pawhuska, Ponca City, Tulsa, Fairfax, Sperry and Hominy.
The program began in June and will run to the end of September when the grant expires for the season. The program will return next summer in June.
There is a concern with the amount of client participation and the vouchers not being utilized and expiring, said Donna Patterson, WIC Breastfeeding and Training Supervisor. The fear is that if clients and community members fail to use their vouchers and take advantage of the Farmers Markets, it could hurt future grant possibilities and services.
"If your vouchers expire do not throw them away; bring them in to be extended. We would really like for them to be used," Patterson said.
Paul and Toni Zemp, farmers from Perry, Okla., have traveled to Pawhuska every Monday since June to set up their produce, along with fellow farmer Rebecca Logan from Fairfax. They have provided things such as fresh yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes and Okra, as well as melons and strawberries and other berries. They brought eggs, green beans, potatoes and various home-canned jellies and salsas with them. The plan was to have their produce stand until the end of September, but due to the lack of participation in the community, the cost of fuel and the cost of some of their packaged products - the loss of participation cost them money and Aug. 28 was their last day to set up. They said they will come for special events and set out their produce when the occasion arises.
"We started out pretty good but have slowed down considerably. I am not sure if it has to do with school starting or what, but we have enjoyed coming to Pawhuska," said Toni Zemp.
The Tulsa farmers market has had the most success and Patterson said she hopes people will take advantage of this opportunity to acquire fresh produce and fruits in the future.
"In coming weeks, we will be holding a big event for Elders here in Pawhuska where several farmers will bring their produce and fruits back and trucks will come with other items to provide food for the Elders. This event is open to all elders in the community and surrounding areas," she said.
WIC and Elder Guidelines
According to the guidelines set in the WIC farmer's market manual, the Farmer's Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) started July 2, 1992, as Public Law 102-314. The program also includes the Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) for income based citizens 55 years and older. The senior's program is administered by the Osage Nation Elder Nutrition Program.
The rules for the farmer’s market are that the farmers must sign a contract with Osage Nation and be from Oklahoma. They must grow at least one produce item they are selling. The farmers can only sell fruits and vegetables grown from Oklahoma. The vouchers can only be used for eligible items. Prices and quality of the product must be extended to those who are not voucher holders. They must follow the voucher redemption and processing procedures and collect no taxes on the vouchers.
For more information on the farmer’s markets and their locations, contact Donna Patterson at Osage Nation WIC (918) 287-5365.