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Tulsa Master Gardener, Dave Davis is harvesting plants at the Seed to Supper Farm.
Master Gardener Dave Davis grows his knowledge of horticulture through tending crops at the Seed to Supper Farm. (Photo by Sierra Walter)

Fresh Off the Vine

Monday, January 9, 2023

Media Contact: Kaitlyn Weldon | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 |

As the morning sun rises, light cascades across the horizon and through rows of crops peeking above the soil. On a small farm outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, agriculturalists begin work early — picking, harvesting and tending crops. This may look similar to many farms in Oklahoma, but this operation offers more than meets the eye.

An hour later across town, a food pantry receives produce the farm harvested that morning to serve a community inneed. The produce — fresh, safe and nutritious — is grown through a new program called the Seed to Supper Farm.

Housed within Oklahoma State University Extension, the Seed to Supper Farm serves as an educational tool for Tulsa Master Gardeners.

These Master Gardeners, educated by OSU Extension staff, serve Tulsa County in educational and volunteer roles. Through the Seed to Supper Farm, Tulsa Master Gardeners furthered their reach.

“We are learning and helping people in the process,” said Tom Ingram, horticulture program assistant.

The Seed to Supper Farm provided training for Master Gardeners and allowed the donation of 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of fresh produce the past crop season. Nonetheless, starting the farm was no easy task, Ingram said.

In early 2022, Ingram began brainstorming ideas to start a farm with Brian Jervis, Tulsa County horticulture educator. The group had the vision to add an additional learning experience to enrich the educational work the OSU Extension already offered.

“The driving force was for Master Gardeners to learn more about growing vegetables,” Ingram said. “What better place to do it than hands-on and with 80 tomato plants rather than your two tomato plants at home?”

The team quickly faced roadblocks as the building process began for the Seed to Supper Farm.

Finding land, irrigation and funding all posed challenges to overcome. However, the team was not short of support from the OSU family, Ingram said.

“Brian Jervis had the idea to use the Bixby Research Station, which had a couple hundred acres,” Ingram said. The duo sent a proposal to Chris Richards, director and professor for the field and research services unit, who was quick to grant them use of 2 acres for the farm, Ingram said.

Using this land allowed Tulsa Master Gardeners to share resources with the station, including irrigation and equipment.

Tulsa Master Gardener Rhonda Weaver said Ingram contacted her and other Master Gardeners to help get the farm started.

“It was such a simple, obvious thing to do,” Weaver said. “We have the land, we have the skills, and we have the manpower. Everybody who helped said they thought it was one of the best things we’ve ever done.”

Tulsa Master Gardener Laura Koval said the farm served as an opportunity to teach Master Gardeners about growing crops on a larger scale.

“We have a beautiful demonstration garden at the OSU Extension offices in Tulsa, but we only had one tiny bed and didn’t have any space for actual vegetables there,” Koval said. “This farm gave us the space to learn more from a larger operation.”

Once the farm was established, the work began.

“We started by defining the space, and then figuring out what crops could be easier to grow and what would be most enjoyable and educational to grow,” Koval said.

The work began with tilling the ground, installing irrigation and planting seeds. The team planted potatoes, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and corn in addition to herbs and other vegetables. Master Gardeners came to the farm every Tuesday morning to work the farm throughout the summer.

“It was so hot,” Weaver said. “We had about 10 to 12 people out every week to help.”

After all the hard work, the Master Gardeners began to reap what they sowed.

“When we first started actually getting sizable harvests, I was like, ‘Wow, this really is working,’” Ingram said. Following the farm’s first harvest, the time came to start distributing produce to food pantries. Weaver said they delivered fresh produce to food pantries weekly.

“People were so excited to get produce because they don’t have access to fresh vegetables,” Weaver said. “As Master Gardeners, our whole purpose is to serve the community, and usually that focuses on education. But, this was a very hands-on way to give back to the community.”

Vegetables serve as one of the main nutritious food groups for a healthy diet but are the hardest for food pantries to acquire, Weaver said.

Giving away fresh food was the most rewarding part, Ingram said.

“Unless you come out here and eat it off the vine, it’s not going to get much fresher than what we donate to the food pantries,” Ingram said. “The reports I heard back were people saying ‘Wow, this is awesome. Fresh tomatoes? Are you kidding me?’”

Master Gardeners concentrated on serving smaller food pantries in the Bixby and Tulsa area.

As a foster parent, Koval saw firsthand how food insecurity can impact lower-income families.

“It’s a pretty profound impact you can have just by providing people with the resources to eat better,” Koval said.

In addition to giving back to the community, Master Gardeners grew their knowledge on raising vegetables. Finishing the first crop season, Koval said some crops were successful and others were not.

Fighting weeds and the summer heat were obstacles. However, those obstacles allowed them to gain experience in growing crops in those conditions, Koval said.

“Growing a tomato is one of the most humbling experiences you can have because everything wants to eat your stuff,” Koval said. “And everything is trying to kill it. That really makes you appreciate farmers and what they do for all of us because it’s hard.”

Moving forward, Ingram and the Master Gardeners plan to grow the educational efforts at the farm. This includes hosting tours at the farm to inform the public about growing nutritious food.

“There are lots of opportunities in the future,” Koval said. “I don’t think anyone knows at this point how it’s going to play out, but we want to bring the public in or use it as a tool to help educate people on growing vegetables.”

As the Seed to Supper Farm finished its first crop season, Ingram was proud of what the Tulsa County Master Gardeners accomplished in the first year. The farm is bigger than just growing crops and fully embodies the OSU land-grant mission, he added.

Weaver said working at the Seed to Supper Farm served as her most rewarding involvement with the Master Gardeners program.

“We are reaching out to the public on a very local, hands-on, personal basis and teaching other people how to benefit from growing vegetables,” Weaver said. “I can’t think of a better way to fulfill the OSU mission.”

Story By: Sierra Walter | Cowboy Journal

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