Harvesting community in Oakley

Welcome table: The Oakley Farmer’s Market celebrates fall and its second year with the Harvest Festival. Photo by Gina Smith
Welcome table: The Oakley Farmer’s Market celebrates fall and its second year with the Harvest Festival. Photo by Gina Smith

When something really works, why not do it again? The folks at Oakley Farmers Market will celebrate the coming of autumn and the end of another market season at the second annual Harvest Festival on Thursday, Oct. 3.

The market was organized two years ago by a group of Oakley residents to address the economically diverse neighborhood’s food-security issues and to support local farmers. The weekly Thursday afternoon market has also become a gathering spot for the neighborhood, which lacks such hubs as a coffee shop and or a diner.

With this in mind, along with an awareness that Oakley is home to a large percentage of low-income families, market organizers have planned their annual capstone event not as a $30-per-plate fundraiser, but as a laid-back, kid-friendly community party. The festival includes a by-donation dinner (suggested donation is $5 per plate), which is made with produce and other products from market vendors, and served cafeteria-style by volunteers.

Last fall’s inaugural Harvest Festival brought hundreds of attendees, much to the organizers’ surprise. “Our goal is to create community,” says Market Manager Carly Esslinger. “By offering an affordable dinner from our vendors’ produce, we can be sure that many of our neighbors can partake in the event.  We’re not looking to make a profit. If we make any extra it’s a bonus, but if we lose money, well, we consider it a small price to pay to bring our neighbors and vendors together.”

This year, in addition to the dinner, expect to find live music, fresh-pressed apple cider, pumpkin carving, raffle drawings, a puppet show, a scavenger hunt, farm animals, face-painting, balloon art, storytime and antique tractors. The festival runs 3:30-6:30 p.m., in the parking lot behind Oakley United Methodist Church off Fairview Road. Admission is free. For details visit www.oakleyfarmersmarket.com.

— Gina Smith is an Oakley resident and one of the event’s organizers.

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