By Carol Mowdy Bond
Cathy and Mike Best, co-owners of the 18-acre Locavores Fork Farm, 7541 Sara Road NE in Piedmont, are watching their business mushroom due to COVID-19. They’re ingenious, creative entrepreneurs who specialize in pasture-raised animals, free range pasture egg and meat chickens, and garden variety produce. And they founded and manage the Piedmont Farmer’s Market.
Mike, an Edmond school bus driver for 24 years, said, “We’ve had a huge growth in the number of our customers. Due to COVID-19, we’ve had more interest in how to grow food and where food comes from, and healthy food.”
“But one of the issues was that we order our meat birds from a Texas hatchery and they were a month late,” said Mike. “So, we’ve had supply chain issues. But we haven’t slowed down since COVID-19. We got a seed donation in March. We had six pallets of seed donated to us. We distributed the seeds for free to our customers. People lined up everywhere here on our property and road. We donated them to help people due to lack of food. People were suddenly very interested in growing food.”
Cathy said, “Also, we’ve experienced a surge in vendors at our Farmer’s Market. We also have more crafters at our market, because craft shows have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Since last week, we’re adding one vendor daily.”
Mike said, “Our Farmer’s Market and our farm are essential businesses, so we didn’t have to shut down due to the pandemic. We’re all about helping people and helping each other and vendors, and it’s been very important this year.”
The Bests grow garden crops, plus they have large areas of cover crops to improve the soil. “Cover crops are good to hold the soil and keep moisture in the soil,” Mike said.
“One cover crop I planted this year is sorghum because it helps with nutrition in the soil and water infiltration. And I’ve got several kinds of beans. Red rippers are like black eyed peas. I also have Mung beans and Crowder peas.”
Cathy said, “We’re planning to couple cattails with the sorghum stalks and sell them for decorations.”
SUPER SATURDAY ON SEPT. 12TH
Mike said, “In Piedmont, we’re all promoting each other’s businesses for a Super Saturday Sale on Saturday, September 12th. There will be shopping, and we’ll have the Farmer’s Market. We’ll have a food truck: #daddybrads. We’re working on all the details.”
If you’re interested in Super Saturday, text Mike at the number below.
FUSS AND FEATHERS
The Bests are meat and egg chicken producers. Clucking loudly at the moment are 150 Rhode Island Red egg layers, and 300 Cornish Cross pasture raised, meat broiler chickens. They feed on a non-GMO, non-soy, corn-free food, and forage all they want.
Amidst all those chickens are huge-and-ear-deafening, honking geese that are very in-your-face serious about their guard-dog status. Geese can fend off skunks, rodents, and a variety of enemies of chickens and eggs.
Added to that mix are guineas, with their super duper bug, snake, and rodent catching talents. The geese and guineas together are like first responder sirens when anything remotely predatory approaches. They keep predators at bay and let you know there’s trouble brewing.
Locavores has beautiful scenic areas plus props, and the Bests sell photo shoot opportunities on the property. It’s not unusual for professional photographers to be roaming their prairie land.
TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS
“We founded the Farmer’s Market eight years ago, starting in a Piedmont food pantry parking lot,” said Mike. “We donated extra produce to the pantry. Now we’re at Owens Roofing and Insurance, 12 Monroe Avenue in Piedmont. They’re the host. There are no booth or rental fees. And whatever we do, we always advertise for Owens.”
Cathy said, “Last week we had 22 vendors. We have 40 vendors on our Farmer’s Market list, though they don’t all necessarily show up.”
Mike said, “For Saturday, August 22, we brought in four varieties of fresh-picked apples from Minnesota. And we had apple cider and baked apple pies and other apple baked goods for sale.”
“We’re looking at starting a year-round Farmer’s Market, except closing in January and then open
again in February,” said Mike. “Between Halloween and Christmas we may not do every weekend.”
FROM BACKYARD TO PRAIRIE
“We were living in a residential neighborhood in Piedmont and had two egg layer chickens,” Mike said. “Someone complained.”
Cathy, who works in Piedmont Middle School’s kitchen, said, “The City of Piedmont said we either had to get rid of the chickens, or move. Or get a pricey, special use permit, and get approval from our neighbors. So we moved here in 2014.”
Mike said, “It was the push I needed to do what I wanted to do. My grandpa was a wheat and cattle producer. And that fueled my fire to do this. My grandpa’s land had belonged to his father, who obtained it in the Land Run of 1889.”
Beside the home they built is a large slab where the Bests keep their chicken processing gear, and where they butcher and prep meat chickens to sell.
Cathy said, “The previous owner of this land had a 3,000 square feet home here. The 2011 tornado took the entire home, leaving only this slab.”
Mike said, “The safe room is still here, and we still use it. I plan to use this slab when we add on to our home. Also, we’re working toward having cattle and building a barn.”
The Bests use their Locavores and Farmer’s Market Facebook pages to keep customers informed on what’s happening. Recently they baked fresh apple pies, some made with sugar and some with honey, and customers picked them up at the farm. And they’ll sell all sorts of fun, home-made gifts during the holiday season.
“We want people to know their food and to know their farmer. This is a lot of work, and we have a lot more to do,” Mike said. “But it’s a labor of love.”
Connect with Locavores Fork Farm and their chickens, eggs, garden vegetables, products, and photo shoot opportunities, or the Farmer’s Market, by calling or texting Mike at (405) 919-6406.
Or go to Locavores Fork Farm or Piedmont Farmer’s Market on Facebook.