The Best of Oklahoma Farms, on a Bus
Your average farmer’s market might have a couple stands, with fruits and vegetables out on the table. If you’re lucky, maybe some homemade jam or jelly. Not the case in Shawnee. A mini bus comes rolling in, and brings a sampling of the state. I went shopping on board…
“But these are bus tickets, we go through the crowd and give bus tickets.”
Jerri Parker knows how to sell you on an idea. It’s a pamphlet disguised as a free bus ticket…
“Enough room? Yes come on in, please, please, please.”
This is the type of bus you would expect to see. Beat up, it looks like one of those airport shuttle buses that took a detour to a farm for the past two decades. The 1990 Ford – bought for a thousand bucks – could fit maybe 15. But there aren’t many seats left…
“It just looks like an aisle in a store, just one little line. Produce on the shelves, cabinets, just like a regular store,” said Calvan.
As Jerri explains to people, “This bus is because of this kid. This is Calvan, he’s now 17 but this is when he was 13 years old, okay. He’s kid number five for me. At thirteen he came in and he says ‘Mom, I figured out how to pay for college.’ I said ‘Well son, that’s a great idea, how are you going to do that?’”
“And then my mom got this bus, we had to take out the seats out, built all these cabinets and stuff and I had a lot of fun with it, trying to make all this, so I was just like maybe I could do something like this. And this is what happened.”
It took 17 year old Calvan somewhere between 60 and 100 hours to get everything good to go in the bus, but that’s only the first part of this story. Now, what about what’s in the bus…
“Jams, jellies, meats, eggs, jerky, salsa, cheese, buffalo, goat, Blue and Gold.”
Have to give credit where it’s due. Calvan put everything together, but his mom Jerri – she’s the one you hear in the background – is on the road every Friday morning at 6 AM picking up everything from farmers across the state.
“So we’re going to get some samples here. Now I have cheese that comes out of Kingfisher, this is a sundried tomato and basil. So get you a little piece of cheese.”
“That’s okay, I’ll let her.”
“You going to let her try the cheese? Well there ya go. Wanna try sundried tomato and basil? There ya go.”
She’s like a politician, on a bus tour through Oklahoma. A stop in Perkins on the way up to Enid, down to Noble, over to Tecumseh. It’s all part of a trip in the Country Peddlar.
“The whole idea is that everything from all over Oklahoma, everything is made in Oklahoma products. Just on this one wall, we’re talking about peanut butter from Lawton, barbeque sauce from Oklahoma City. We have jams and jellies that come out of Okemah.”
See and the list goes on…These are all farmers who simply can’t make the drive to sell a couple goods. So they sell their meat, or vegetables, or specialties to Jerri and Calvan. The farmers get the money without the hassle. And Calvan builds another small business, and tucks away the profit for college…
“If they can’t get here, we take it and we sell it for them. It’s kinda a win-win situation. They get the stuff that they need out and they get money for it. And for us, it’s more business coming through here too.”
“I think it’s tremendously helpful.”
Derek King is marketing manager for the Oklahoma Food Coop…
“The idea of a mobile market is really nice. If you can’t afford a retail storefront, and you’re working with small farmers who may not have the capacity to bring their goods to market, you can collect it from them and bring it directly to the consumer, that works as easily well.”
Back on the bus, Jerri doesn’t stop.
“So feel free to look around, lift the lids, see if there’s anything in there. Look around.”
“People come up to me and shake my hand, and they’re just like ‘And that’s the most cool thing I’ve ever seen.’ And they just congratulate me and tell me to keep on doing a good job,” said Calvan.
Just walking up to a farmer’s market, a bus might catch you off guard. Here in Shawnee, it draws people in, and keeps them coming back.