Pioneering the Way to the Future

Final Report for CS02-007

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2002: $6,900.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Diann Neal
Okemah Chamber of Commerce
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Project Information


Our project "Pioneering The Way to the Future" began as a strategy to give meaning to the current Pioneer Day Festival. We wanted to encourage Economic Development that would include every size producer. We envisioned an Herb Festival that would provide education concerning Sustainable Agriculture. We also obtained an agreement to begin research into a study of the feasibility of raising Echinacea. The community profile consisted of routine farming practices such as cattle, hay, hogs and goats. The average size farm is 40-80 acres. Our community has consistently been comprised of one of the highest unemployment percentages in the State of Oklahoma. One of our strongest attractions is that this area is in close proximity to Interstate 40 and centrally located between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the two largest cities in Oklahoma. Thus the goal of our project was to demonstrate that Sustainable Agriculture through the raising of Echinacea was feasible for any size or type of producer in an economically disadvantaged rural setting.



Echinacea is a perennial, medicinal plant commonly called “purple cone flower” or “snake root”. Echinos is Greek for “hedgehog”, thus the name applies to the prickly spines of the center of the flower which produces the seeds. This plant grows from 1-3 ft. tall. It is drought resistant but likes irrigation and well drained soil. It also prefers sunny conditions. There are nine species ranging from East of the Rocky Mountains Westward to Missouri and North to Wisconsin or even as far as areas in Southern Canada.
“Snake Root” comes to us from the Seneca nation of Native Americans. They commonly used this herb for a range of problems including snake bites. Echinacea has excellent expectorant effects and a general power of stimulating secretion.
Echinacea has a wonderful history of being used for everything from a primary medicinal “cure-all” to being a blood purifier.

Project Objectives:
  1. Give meaning to the current Pioneer Day Festival.

    Educate citizens about diverse areas of sustainable agriculture.

    Build a market for local producers.


Materials and methods:


Method 1: Provide entrepreneurs, farmers, crafts persons and local citizens opportunities to offer their produce and products for sale, and develop connections with other stakeholders through activities occurring during an herb festival. These activities would include speakers, demonstrations, food exhibits and various booths. It will be held every April in conjunction with the Pioneer Days Festival.

Method 2: Distribute educational material,schedule speakers and demonstrations in order to provide outreach to individuals in all areas of the community.


Method 1: Distribute educational materials to
4-H and FFA youth concerning the raising of Echinacea, how to establish and operate an income-producing project and a variety of aspects of herb farming.

Method 2:
Distribute seeds for the purpose of giving various entities the opportunity to begin their own Echinacea plot.


Method 1:

Research various methods and feasibility of raising Echinacea in the Oklahoma climate.

Method 2:
Research and provide information concerning current markets available for selling Echinacea. Pursue the opportunity of opening a processing center in the Okemah area.

Research results and discussion:
  • The whole Echinacea plant can be used for marketable products:
    1: Sale of seeds
    2: Sale of dried leaves and stalks
    3: Sale of fresh plant material - retains
    more medicinal qualities but not viable
    for commercial use because of time and
    transportation factors
    4: Sale of root

    Easily grown in Oklahoma climate

    Normal harvest time is 2-4 years

    Included Native American history in educational materials developed and distributed

    Echinacea was declared the "Official" flower for the City of Okemah.

    Increased interest in utilization of natural resources and sustainable agriculture

Participation Summary

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

(1) The Okfuskee County OSU Extension Center held an Herb Growing Clinic, Tuesday, December 17, 2002.

(2) The OSU Extension Center staff held demonstrations and presentations on April 26, 2003 during the Okemah Pioneer Day.

(3) Planted 100-3” plants, April, 2003.

(4) Brochures were developed for community education and were first presented at the Okemah Chamber of Commerce dinner, March 29, 2004. Presentation was given by Project Coordinator.

(5) Seeds and potting containers were distributed to Chamber and community members.

(6) OSU Extension Center provides educational presentations to county-wide 4-H programs.

(7) OSU Extension Center provides seeds and brochures to local Native American groups and facilities.

(8) Presentation given by Project Coordinator during SARE Tour, August 11, 2004


Potential Contributions

The potential contributions of the project are many. This small, economically disadvantaged community has learned that any one, regardless of race, financial status, or even whether physically challenged, can successfully raise herbs including Echinacea for fun and profit. The community has also enjoyed the Native American history that has resulted from the research of the project. An increased awareness and interest in Sustainable Agriculture will promote economic development in a new direction that will benefit the entire area.

Future Recommendations

As a whole this project has been an extremely positive experience for Okemah. The only recommendation that I see as a Project Coordinator is for SARE to provide additional area workshops that educate more than the agriculture community about the advantages of sustainable agriculture. You may already be providing this, but it seems that our State Department of Commerce and Department of Tourism could benefit from your expertise.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.