MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 29, 2013

Organic farmers dig in

(Continued)

— The complicated

business of farming

The Herringshaws are building up their farm before they build a house. They grow garlic, basil, tomatoes, peppers, squash and other produce in a half-acre garden.

“We’re starting small on purpose,” Andy said. “We’re calling this our building year. We’ve been selling at the Muskogee Farmers’ Market for maybe eight weeks this year.”

He said they’re making about $200 a week.

The Herringshaws are learning which produce sells best and which does not. For example, Farmers’ Market customers want slicing tomatoes more than sauce tomatoes and they love okra, Andy said.

Cassie added: “People want lettuce all the time. We tried summer lettuce with some pretty sad results.”

She said garlic has been their best seller.

Andy said he’s learned how organic farming in Oklahoma is not the same as in Iowa.

“Heat matters,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to start tomatoes in spring, but come July, the tomatoes are just dying.”

The couple built a greenhouse to help tomatoes and other plants start producing earlier in the spring. Cassie said she hopes to get a good crop of lettuce before it gets hot.

Produce isn’t the only thing the Herringshaws hope to grow. They have free-range chickens in a mobile coop, which allows the birds to eat from different parts of a pasture.

The Herringshaws also keep bees. Clover on their property will allow them to make lots of honey.

“When we bought this place, we found it has wild blackberries,” Andy said. “That was kind of a fun development.”

Q&A

HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?

“Our three-year service in Bolivia ended in 2012, and we wanted three things: to be close to family, to farm where we could ride a bike to get ice cream, and to be involved in education. Muskogee was the natural choice since family is here and nearby, land is affordable, and it just feels like home.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?

“It's not too big, and there's plenty to do.”

WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?

“Keep improving public spaces, like the library, bike trails and sidewalks.”

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?

Andy will teach seventh- and eighth-grade math at Ben Franklin Science Academy; Cassie is a part-time biology instructor at Bacone College. Both are organic farmers who sell produce at Muskogee Farmers’ Market.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

Building a straw-bale house, beekeeping, visiting friends.

WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?

“Doug Walton, with the Health Department and Farmers’ Market, and Cindy Ball, a teacher at Sadler. Both are people who have given amazing amounts of energy and time, professionally and personally, to better our community.”

WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?

“Cassie had a flat tire biking and got a ride from an off-duty county deputy. He had to move several guns for her to get in,” Andy said. “Mine was probably when I blew up my first car in a welding accident.”

HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?

“Plenty to do, easy to get around — even on bicycle, affordable, pleasant people.”

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