This summer, the Loyal Doers 4-H Club in Hooker, Oklahoma, successfully held the state’s first 4-H-sponsored farmers market. The market was a huge success, and the youth gained firsthand knowledge about growing produce and getting involved in the community. It also helped the community connect with the farmers that produce their food while offering them a wonderful selection of fresh, wholesome products.
The 4-H program is the premier youth development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). For more than a hundred years, 4-H has dedicated itself to creating opportunities for youth that broaden skills and aspirations nurturing the full potential of youth.
The Loyal Doers 4-H Club Farmers Market began as an idea for a community service project. Many community members were requesting a farmers market-- including 4-H alumni, homebound elderly and other disadvantaged citizens who did not have access to homegrown produce. These requests prompted the club members to accept this project.
In turn, the community offered support to the market, including a grant from the Hille Family Foundation, Tulsa, Oklahoma through the Oklahoma State University 4-H Foundation. Pioneer Seed Corporation also pitched in, as well as the National Partnership between 4-H and The Tractor Supply Company.
In the spring, donated seed and seed purchased with grant funding were distributed to club members. Over the next several months, club members planted various vegetables. During the growing season, they had to overcome many obstacles, including the same devastating drought problems other local farmers and ranchers in the High Plains region experienced.
At the July club meeting, members were given flyers to distribute to local businesses announcing the opening of the market on July 30. The club officers used the rest of the grant money to purchase tables, wicker baskets and tablecloths to sell the produce at the market, and club members brought what produce they had available for sale. Several club members reserved the best examples of their produce to enter in the county fair. Some even went onto the Oklahoma State Fair, with three entries placing in the top 10 of the 4-H Division. The club also donated some of their produce to needy individuals in the community.
The community’s support and appreciation for this project has been overwhelming, and plans have been made to continue the farmers market project annually with the inclusion of local community gardeners. The 4-H program places a strong emphasis on community involvement, and this club is a prime example of the great work the future generation of farmers provides at both the local and national level. Aside from this project, the Loyal Doers 4-H Club also transformed the local playground providing the children in the community a place to play and connect with their friends and family.
Thanks to the community service actions taken by the 4-H club members with the farmers market, the community now has a place to connect with their farmers, family and friends. They are a great example of strengthening the connection between consumers and farmers, and enriching America’s rural communities.