Agriculture placed in the hands of the consumer.

That’s one definition of the growing trend known as “u-pick” farms.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) recognized the popularity of such farms and in the spring of 2016 launched the “Jelly Making Trails.”

On the trails, consumers can pick produce off the tree or the vine, from the orchard or the patch, and it’s quite possible not everyone makes it to the kitchen and the jelly making process before deciding to enjoy the fruits of Oklahoma.

The program took little time to ripen into a success. As a result, the “Jelly Making Trails” program earned the Marketing in Excellence Award, given by the North American Agricultural Marketing Officials, at the annual NAAMO conference, held this month in Manhattan, Kan. Each state is allowed to submit an application for this award. The field is then narrowed down to a select few that are invited to present their project at the conference. The states then vote for the winner.

“This prestigious award was launched to recognize innovative and effective agriculture marketing practices,” said Jamie Cummings, former Agritourism Coordinator and now International Programs Coordinator. “This recognition allows these effective strategies to be shared across the nation with the other state marketing teams and transfer the knowledge about these effective projects.”

The need or opportunity for such a program has developed as more and more consumers have shown interest in knowing where their food comes from, said Meriruth Cohenour, an ODAFF Agritourism Coordinator.

“In response to this, there has been an increase in farmers planting crops for the specific purpose of a ‘u-pick’ farm where the public can come to the farm, learn about the way the food is grown, meet the people who care for and harvest the food, and enjoy outdoor family time,” Cohenour said.

The Agritourism team at ODAFF developed the Jelly Making Trails project. The trails were determined based on geography in order to allow consumers to plan trips around the farms. Any agritourism producer offering a chance to pick or purchase specialty crops was included.

During the first year, 47 producers participated with the busiest months being May to August.

“We provided on-farm education pieces such as crop fact signs, jar labels and stickers to each producer,” Cohenour said. “In addition, we distributed maps with all of the producers grouped geographically in ‘trails’ through the site and through all of our face-to-face marketing opportunities. We also launched a social media campaign to help increase awareness.”

The “Jelly Making Trails” program was funded through the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant program.

“We are so grateful to have the opportunity to utilize these funds in order to increase consumer awareness of fresh food availability in our state,” Cohenour said.

The response to the trails has been very positive as consumers really get engaged with the idea of picking their own produce. Also, by seeing what was available all over the state, consumers got excited about travelling to new places and getting to try various produce.

This year, the second of the program, 53 producers participated.

The 2017 campaign focused on education. The Agritourism team created a 12-page educational booklet that focused on ways to handle produce, nutritional facts and the different types of jellies and jams and other products that can be made from the produce.

“I believe the main reason this project has been successful is that consumers are engaging with the producer,” Cohenour said. “When they visit the farm they make personal connections with the farmers and they learn so much about the way their food is grown. This positive experience encourages them to seek similar opportunities, thus making the Jelly Making Trails material a very valuable resource.”

Moving forward, the Agritourism team plans to seek out more farmers that wish to offer these types of experiences and then continue to inform the consumers of these opportunities.

“We hope to turn some of the educational material from this year’s project into an interactive web experience next year,” Cohenour said.

Photo caption: Jamey Allen, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) Director of Market Development, from left, Meriruth Cohenour, Agritourism Coordinator, and Jamie Cummings, a former Agritourism Coordinator and now International Programs Coordinator, are shown accepting the Marketing in Excellence Award, given by the North American Agricultural Marketing Officials, at the annual NAAMO conference, held this month in Manhattan, Kan. ODAFF received the award for the “Jelly Making Trails” program.

In another fantastic round up, potential for partnerships with Germany and Oklahoma-based firms are great.

According to a recent release from the Federation of International Trade Professionals, “The United States are the second biggest destination for German goods after the European Union and the United States are the fourth largest supplier of Germany. The U.S.-German Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation guarantees investors in Germany national treatment and allows the free movement of capital between the United States and Germany. Taxation of US firms within Germany is regulated by a protocol on the avoidance of double taxation.

“According to U.S. Census data, trade in goods between the United States and Germany totaled $163.5 billion in 2016.”

For Oklahoma-based firms, producers and manufacturers, there are great commercial opportunities in health, food, agricultural machinery and bio-tech sectors.

In Oklahoma, a great asset is our honorary consular corps, with Germany’s Honorary Consul, Jeremy Tubb a great resource for those wanting to connect with Germany.

Check out the full export and commercial guide for Oklahoma companies here.

Shared from our friends over at, Oklahoma-based companies have an opportunity to expand to one of the U.S.’ growing trade partners with access to the wider Mediterranean. According to’s latest country report,  “trade between the United States and Morocco totaled slightly above $2.6 billion in 2015. The United States exported a total value of $1.6 billion and imported $1 billion worth of goods…

“The United States export mainly apparel and food manufactures, electrical equipment and appliances, mineral fuel and oil as well as cereals. Imports from Morocco are mainly fertilizers, raw materials (salt, sulfur, earth and stone), electrical machinery and woven apparel.

“New opportunities for business can be found in particular in agricultural products, textiles and the banking sector.”

For Oklahoma agriculture exporters, especially wheat farmers coming off a better than expected 2016 summer harvest, the USDA’s forecast for nearly 3 million tons of wheat imports (up from 2.8 initially predicted) into Morocco is a positive.

To read the full article, please click here.

Cementing the OKGIT’s ties with foreign countries, companies and peoples are organizations like the Oklahoma Israel Exchange, or OKIE, an Oklahoma-based non-profit focusing on developing exchanges between Oklahoma and Israel. OKGIT member and OKIE Executive Director Susan Robertson spoke with about her organization’s mission, her role and their upcoming November 5 gala event.

What is OKIE’s history?

“The Oklahoma Israel Exchange was endorsed by Governor David Walters in 1992 and became an official non-profit organization during the administration of Governor Frank Keating in 1997. OKIE was a joint endeavor between the Oklahoma City and Tulsa Jewish communities to encourage opportunities for exchange between Oklahoma and Israel.  After some refining and updating, today OKIE’s mission is to promote increased collaboration between the two states in agriculture, commerce, culture and education by coordinating activities, sponsoring projects, ensuring responsiveness to economic development opportunities and cultural exchanges, building networks through people-to-people exchanges and serving as an intermediary to further relations.”

How is OKIE funded?

“OKIE is supported mainly by memberships and a yearly fundraising event.  We also receive funding from the Jewish Federations of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry and grants. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce Israel office is funded in partnership by OKIE and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, serving the Middle East, and is one of three international offices maintained by the state.”

What is your role with the organization?

Susan Robertson

Susan Robertson

“I serve as the executive director of OKIE and I am responsible for carrying out the policies as set forth by the board of directors and  achieving the goals and objectives of OKIE.  I work with the Israeli Consul Generals’ and Economic Office in Houston, as well as state, private businesses, cultural organizations and individuals that have an interest in pursuing programs or partnerships with Israeli counterparts.”

How did you become involved with OKIE?

“I began to learn about Israel while living in Oklahoma in 1986 and made my first trip there in 1989. I was originally connected with a Christian organization, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, and traveled to Israel every fall for a worldwide conference. During my visits I made many Israeli friends and began to learn more about the country and experience the many challenges they face every day. Each trip brought me closer to a desire to do more than just visit. I moved back to Oklahoma in 1998 and in 2004 the executive directors’ job for OKIE became available, I interviewed and was hired. Ten years later I still enjoy the job and look forward to new partners and programs between the two states.”

What does OKIE do on a day-to-day basis?

“We constantly look for opportunities for exchange or connection in agriculture, commerce, culture or education.  Israel has so much high-tech coming out of it. Everyday there’s some new device or app for phones or cure for some disease. We look for a business in Oklahoma that’s interested in partnering with one of those Israeli companies either for research or marketing opportunity. Oklahoma has state-of-the-art medical facilities doing research, is a leader in the oil and gas industry and is also a leader in aerospace. There are definitely a lot of opportunities.

“An example is with the Riata Entrepreneurial Center at OSU. They are interested in partnering with a school in Israel. OKIE contacted the office in Jerusalem and after some preliminary conversations, a school was identified in Israel that was interested and a program is being formed. This is the way we approach all exchanges in any of the four pillars of our mission, like a matchmaker. It is then up to the partnering organizations to move forward with the process.”

Tell us a bit about the annual gala and guest of honor Robert Henry’s presence.

“For the last five years we’ve held what has become the Light, Leadership and Legacy Award gala where we honor distinguished members of the Oklahoma community who have demonstrated unwavering support of OKIE. Honorees recognize the ongoing importance of projects and programs that link Oklahoma and Israel.

“This year on November 5, 6:30PM, at the Skirvin Hotel, Robert Henry is being honored for his commitment to Oklahoma and the relationship with Israel. We try to make sure the program is not only informative about OKIE but also entertaining. Proceeds help to support new and ongoing opportunities between the two states.  For more information or to purchase tickets they can call 405-848-3132 or email”


To learn more about the Oklahoma Israel Exchange, please visit or follow them on Facebook page.

Oklahoma Chef Kurt Fleischfresser and Barbara Charlet in a recent visit to Stuttgart, Germany demonstrating Oklahoma Products

Oklahoma Chef Kurt Fleischfresser and Barbara Charlet in a recent visit to Stuttgart, Germany demonstrating Oklahoma Products

Another great piece in the October 13, 2015 edition of The Journal Record by Brian Brus about the continued efforts of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture’s Barbara Charlet.

Charlet, who serves as the department’s international market development coordinator, recently traveled to Germany with OKC Coach House Chef Kurt Fleischfresser to promote Oklahoma-made food products in Europe’s largest economy.

As noted in the piece by Charlet, who is also a member of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team, food stuffs made in Oklahoma such as Griffin Foods and Clements peanut butter are already on the shelves of many German stores.

Fleischfresser gave a his take on the draw of products from this part of the U.S. to international consumers, saying ““The thing about overseas market is that they’re intrigued by the old Southwest,” he said. “Oklahoma has a musical named after it that everyone seems to know.”

Read the full article by Brian Brus here.

Charlet is a regular attendee at trade shows and export conferences around the world, spreading the good word about Oklahoma’s food offerings. And it’s not just German stores that are fans of ‘Okie-made products. Charlet cites Ponca City’s Head Country  as a success story for its increasingly popularity in Scandinavia, where a Swedish importer began buying the Oklahoma-based company’s BBQ sauce and repackaging it for resale under another name.