Three Springs Farm
By Pauline Thiessen, Fresh Foods Manager
For August, we are thrilled to introduce you to one of our newer farms, Three Springs Farm! Three Springs Farm is located in Eastern OK in the Ozark Hills along the beautiful Spring Creek and is owned and operated by Mike Appel and Emily Oakley. They cultivate over thirty different crops and more than 100 individual varieties on 3 acres of land. Their goal is to maintain a family operation that demonstrates the economic viability of small-scale farming. Three Springs also numbers among one of our Certified Organic producers, certified in 2007 by the OK Dept. of Agriculture, and they take great pride in growing healthy, organic produce.
While they are new as producers to ONF, they are not new to farming. Emily was born and raised in Tulsa, and Mike is originally from Long Island, New York. Together they have traveled around the world to study sustainable agricultural systems. Before starting Three Springs Farm, Mike and Emily worked with a community gardening non-profit in Rhode Island and interned at Full Belly Farm in California. Emily received a Master in International Agricultural Development from UC Davis while Mike was the CSA manager at Eatwell Farm. In 2003, they moved to Oklahoma to start a small-scale diverse vegetable farm.
Both Emily and Mike are very passionate about sustainable practices, both for their farm and for their own health and well-being. In their farming practices, they use only certified organic pest control methods and no herbicides or chemical pesticides; have a rotational crop plan to help with disease prevention and soil health, which they place at the heart of their operation; utilize low tillage practices to preserve soil structure and layers; plant cover crops to prevent erosion as well as to control weeds and build soil fertility; and place emphasis on sourcing organic seeds. They also plant crops for the spring through summer months and do not grow during the autumn and winter months. Along with their land, this gives them time to re-group and focus on family and the larger agriculture picture. Emily is interested in agrobiodiversity and the role of women in farming and Mike is passionate about the social issues surrounding food systems. They use their time in the winter to participate in farmer-to-farmer exchanges with other growers around the world and to work on local and national agricultural issues.
We’ve been working with Three Springs Farm for just two growing seasons now, after I met them at the 2015 Horticulture Industries Conference. The three of us were presenters and on a panel discussion in Fort Smith for the conference, which focuses on agricultural issues particular to the Arkansas and Oklahoma regions. Just in those two years, though, we’ve enjoyed a wealth of produce from their charming and beautifully maintained farm, including beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, green garlic, kale, lettuce, onions, radishes, salad mix, spinach, basil, cucumbers, beans, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, summer squash, and tomatoes.
In addition to their farming practices, we’re happy to share the vision for Three Springs Farm, which includes and extends beyond the scope of their own farm: to be economically viable for two full-time farmers, to be environmentally responsible, socially engaged, and to provide fresh healthy food. In that spirit and representing small organic farms on a national level, Emily serves as an Organic Producer Representative to the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board! For us, we’re so excited to know that one of our own producers has input on reflection on national standards and issues for organics! In addition to selling in our store, you can find Three Springs produce at the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market in Tulsa, OK, or as members of their CSA program that runs April – September. You can also find them on Facebook and at www.threespringsfarm.com. We want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Emily and Mike for providing us with such wonderful produce, living their vision, and representing small organic farmers to such a great extent. Thank you!