Nutrition is critically important for all area residents, but even more so for area senior citizens. Area seniors now have more options than ever to include fresh produce into their diets.
The Chickasaw Nation offers summer and winter farmers’ market programs to provide access to fresh fruit and vegetables year-round by subsidizing the purchase of these products.  
According to manager Roxanna Newsom, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program  provides up to $100 a month to Chickasaw citizens who are 100 percent disabled along with all eligible Chickasaw elders. An additional $50 check is provided to eligible Native American seniors, 55 and older. A $50 check is also provided to non-Native American seniors who are 60 and older and live in a Native American household.
“They (produce) have to be grown within the state of Oklahoma and anything not grown in this area can’t be purchased with the checks,” Newsom said.
All of the vendors help by participating in the summer program while, “only half a dozen participate in the winter program, due to some farms being unable to grow in the winter,” Newsom said.
While there are less farmers who are able to grow during the winter months, fruits and vegetables are still accessible, thanks to the Winter Fruit and Vegetable Program. The WFVP is, “another program for Chickasaw seniors 55 and over and Chickasaw citizens who are 100 percent disabled,” Newsom said.
Winter packages consisting of three fresh items, two frozen and two nonperishable items are provided to eligible participants.
“Our summer venders are branching out and using high tunnels, also known as hoop houses, which help to extend the growing season,” Newsom said.
High tunnels are a type of greenhouse that allow farmers to grow produce year-round.
According to Tammy Byars, area farmer, it’s much easier to control disease, fungus and pests with high tunnels, which helps produce grow faster and get an earlier start in the growing season.
“High tunnels help us grow in the winter by making our climate like that of Houston, Texas’ climate,” Byars said. It does so based off how many layers of plastic the high tunnels has. Each layer makes a seven degree difference. “It could be 30 degrees outside and you step in there and start shucking coats, I mean it’s as warm as toast in there,” Byars said.
With the help of the Byars’ high tunnel, they grow turnip and broccoli for the Chickasaw Nation during the winter.
“Growing outside in Oklahoma is really good from April or May through October, but after that there’s not much you can do in the winter,” Byars said.
Just putting in high tunnels doesn’t help much because there’s still not a lot of public market for it.
“So the Chickasaw Nation started their farmers market program where they buy from locals, and by doing so made it possible for us to make payments and grow our produce,” Byars said.  
By helping the local farmers such as the Byars in this way, the Chickasaw Nation is able to offer their winter program to their seniors and 100 percent disabled.