Stratford family farm still thriving

By Ronda Cowen

News Star Reporter

Kelly Atkins and her husband Brandon have been farming together for 18 years but have never seen a year like this one.

Owners of Atkins Farms and previous owners of Stratford Greenhouse, Kelly and Brandon, along with four of their children and Joseph Prince, operate a small retail produce and gift stand six miles north of the Stratford four-way stop on Highway 177.

“Up until this year, we have been selling our produce wholesale to stores like Homeland and Crest Foods, but that had fallen off so we decided to open a retail stand,” says Kelly. “Our children are able to be with us all the time instead of one of us being away from home delivering produce.”

The change came just in time as this year’s crop was slightly delayed due to the large amount of rain the area received in May and June. The Atkins had intended to open the retail stand in May but it was the first part of July before they were up and running.

“We lost about two harvests due to the flooding, but that’s a lot less than others lost,” says Kelly.

The decreased loss was due to the techniques that Atkins employs in planting and crop maintenance.

Raised beds and consecutive plantings were two key methods that kept the farm from losing its entire crop.

The raised beds are constructed using a special machine and the plantings are spaced one to two weeks apart to keep a constant supply of mature produce on hand.

“If we had planted all our seed right at the beginning of the season like many gardeners do, we would have lost most of it, due to the flooding,” says Kelly.

“Our consecutive plantings helped with that, while the raised beds kept some of the seed from washing away or getting buried too deep in the soil.”

The Atkins Farm consists of 125 acres of land with about 50 acres used for farming, including the land surrounding the retail location.

About 25 to 30 acres is farmed per year, to give the land time to rest and rejuvenate.

A beautiful crop of okra can be seen just behind the small shop, the blooms of the plants closely resembling its cousin, Hibiscus.

“The sight of growing crops draws people in. They want to know that you are actually growing the produce and seeing those blooms assures them of that,” says Kelly.

This year the Atkins Farm has sold more than they could produce so they had to bring some produce in to meet the demand.

They are sure to tell the customers where the produce comes from since keeping an open and honest relationship with their clients is vital.

For instance, watermelon is difficult to grow in the soil around Stratford, so Triple S Watermelon Farms in Hydro, Oklahoma provides those.

The cantaloupes, though, come straight from the Atkins land, picked early in the morning to meet the day’s demand.

At least four more plantings of cantaloupes are left to be picked, providing a few more weeks’ supply of the sweet melons to the customers who stop by.

Fruit from the 5,000 tomato plants are still producing, but the Atkins’ onion and potato crop is already exhausted from the high demand.

They look for growers in the state of Oklahoma first, trying to keep the produce as local as possible.

The Atkins Farm also uses drip irrigation to water the crops, which provides a steady and more exact flow of moisture to the root of the plant, where it is needed most.

The water comes from three wells that are fed from the Gerty Sand Aquifer. Using this type of irrigation allows for better control of the science of the crop.

“People think the rain yesterday will make the cantaloupes that we picked today even better, but actually we stop watering the cantaloupes for a couple of days before we pick them so the sugar will concentrate and the melon will be sweet and delicious.

“The extra moisture the day before harvesting dilutes the sugar, and although they will still be good, they won’t be quite as sweet,” explained Kelly.

The Atkins Farm is truly a family affair with their four children helping out and learning about crops, marketing, retail selling and money skills.

Brandon and Kelly home school their four children, all of whom have been adopted by them in the last few years.

They range from age 12 to 17 and are a huge part of the business, as well as a blessing to Brandon and Kelly.

“People say to me, ‘Oh you are such a blessing to the kids,’ but I know that they are a blessing to us. God gave them to us and we are glad to be a family,” says Kelly.

Maysville death still under investigation

By Jeff Shultz


Maysville Police and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) are still calling the unattended death of a Maysville man “suspicious” as authorities await the results of an autopsy.

According to Maysville Police Chief Randy Minyard, 44-year old Jimmy Vestle was found dead Thursday, September 24, in his garage.

Vestle, Minyard said, was found hanging from a chain in the garage.

“I immediately called the OSBI into the case because they have the forensics and man power to investigate a situation like this,” Minyard told the News Star.

Minyard said investigators are still interviewing family members and friends of Vestle to determine how he died.

“We know what killed him, but we need to know how it happened,” Minyard said.

Maysville, Stratford get good news from tax commission

By Jeff Shultz


July was a good month for Maysville and Stratford as the two Garvin County towns were the only municipalities in the county showing an increase in sales tax collections from one-year ago.

According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC), six of the eight cities in Garvin County all had a drop in sales tax disbursements in September.

The September distribution of sales tax collections by the OTC primarily represents local tax receipts from July business.

The largest deficit came in Wynnewood, who continues to drop in sales tax collections.

In September, according to the OTC, Wynnewood received a disbursement of $56,223.55, a $26,860.51 decline from the same time last year when Wynnewood was handed an $83,084.06 check from the OTC.

Maysville had a $3,261.96 increase from 2014 while Stratford’s increase was $6,147.39.

State wide, the disbursement of $141,905,757 in sales tax collections was returned to 514 cities and towns, reflecting an increase of $4,713,688 from the $137,192,069 distributed to 512 cities and towns last year

PV Chamber gets thrown a brick

By Bonnie Seymour

News Star Reporter

With the announcement that Main Street was closing its doors last week, many wondered what would become of Brickfest, scheduled for Saturday, September 26.

At the regular meeting of the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, August 18, Chamber President Sherri Wing announced that the City of Pauls Valley has handed the reigns over to them, giving them a short time to put together a big event.

“We have the challenge of pulling off Brickfest in five weeks,” said Wing during her presidents report portion of the meeting.

Coming back up a bit later, Pauls Valley City Manager James Frizell elaborated a little bit more on the festival, saying right now the main focus is getting this year’s event done.

“We certainly hope it is something we can enjoy in the long term,” Frizell stated.

Wing’s vision is to have vendors set up from the alley near the Chamber office going east down Paul Street and to have food vendors near the Depot, with tables set up under the newly erected pavilion.

According to new Pauls Valley Tourism Director Jason Selman, the brick toss contest will be a go as always, as well as a pie eating contest.

Those wishing to become a Brickfest vendor or volunteer need to contact the Chamber office.

The current deadline for vendors is Friday, September 18.

Also at the meeting was the new Pauls Valley Superintendent, Mike Martain.

After giving a brief overview of his twenty years in the education field, Martain explained why he made the career move from Davis to Pauls Valley.

“Why Pauls Valley?  It’s a great place.  An opportunity was offered and I took it,” said Martain.

“There’s good people everywhere I go,” Martain went on.

Martain also stated that he looks forward to working with the Chamber in the future.

Other news from the meeting includes:

Jessie Bridgeman with the Oklahoma Department of Health was on hand to get businesses, schools, and individuals in the know about becoming certified healthy.

“These schools are actually throwing money away,” said Bridgeman, after telling the room that Whitebead is the only school district that has applied in Garvin County.

The registration period is from September 1 – November 1.

For more information visit

The new Pauls Valley Arts Council President is Michael Jones.  Vacating the spot is Mike Dyson.

The American Cancer Society will be hosting a Lunch and Learn inside the Chamber Thursday, August 27 at noon.

The event is free to the public, though donations will be accepted.

Stratford woman hopes to build her own ‘Field of Dreams’

By Ronda Cowen

News Star Reporter

“We all have dreams.  But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”  –Jesse Owens


Kimra Qualls has a dream. She is determined to make her dream into a reality, but she wants to share her dream in the hope that others will catch her passion.

Her dream is to build a track and field at Blackburn Field in Stratford, Oklahoma.

Currently, there isn’t a “real” track to run on; only a few practice stations in desperate need of repair. To get the running time in, athletes either run on the dirt road that surrounds the football field or on the paved roads in town.

“Running on pavement, gravel, or other uneven surfaces causes shin splints and other impact injuries. A track and field would have the correct material to limit injuries,” says Qualls.

She and her husband, Patrick operate a chiropractic practice in Ada and see many injuries due to running/walking on uneven surfaces.

There has never been a proper track and field in Stratford, despite the sport being offered for at least the last 35 years, with 331 students participating during that time.

Kimra ran track when she attended high school in Stratford over 20 years ago. Her 14-year old daughter, Alexia also participates in the sport, and Kimra longs for better conditions for all Stratford athletes.

“The new track wouldn’t just help the track athletes, but all athletes and the community,” Kimra emphasizes. “We want to make this a community upgrade, for all residents.”

The track would circle the football field with new stations being added in the outlying areas. The fences would have to be moved back, but not having to purchase any additional property is a big advantage to the community.

The cost of the track comes in $396,000, not including the additional field equipment, which is estimated to be another $42,000.

Kimra has already raised over $86,000, which has been placed in a special account through the school. She has only been fundraising since June 9th, and since school has been out of session, students haven’t even begun their own fundraising efforts.

Kimra has approached over 70 businesses including several large corporations asking for support and has been met with positive responses.

Stratford alumnus Kevin Turner graciously made the first donation. Other donors who have already given to the project include Eldridge Propane, Cindy and Jay Johnson, 1st United Bank, and Mercy Hospital.

Kimra has also applied for several grants. She set up a booth at the Peach Festival, featuring the shirts she designed. These are still available to order.

“We need the support of the community because this is for the community,” says Kimra.

And there are many ways that the community can become involved.

Every donation is important and donations as small as $20 will be acknowledged on a banner at the field.

Those who contribute larger dollar amounts will be honored on a wall of recognition made up of 4”x8”, 8”x8”, or 12”x12” tiles, depending on the size of the donation.

Stone monuments will also be constructed at the field, identifying those who donated $10,000 or more toward the completion of the project.

If you would like more information about the project, you can contact Kimra Qualls at or through her cell phone: 785-477-1131.

Interested parties can also keep track of the project through Facebook at the Stratford Track Project page.

Citywide clean-up to be twice as nice

By Bonnie Seymour

News Star Reporter

The Town of Maysville has hosted a city wide clean-up in the month of April for as long as anyone can remember, and now Mayor Bryson Tate and the Board of Trustees are adding to that with a fall trash-off, set for Saturday, September 26.

The Trustees gave the new event all ‘yes’ votes at their regular meeting held Monday, August 17, with Tate’s hope being this will give citizens of the Town a chance to clear away their summer trash.

Tate hopes with the date being late enough in the season that farmers will bring their tractors into to Town and help, like they do with the spring event and is also making a new addition to the fall event.

“If people want to pile their brush at the curb that weekend, I will dedicate the Town employees to picking it up that Monday and Tuesday,” Tate decided at the meeting.

Trustee Cathy Nobles voiced concerned about the walking trail area, as there were two separate items on the agenda; one for a citywide and one specifically for the walking trail but Tate decided that one clean-up was enough.

“If people are concerned with the walking trail, send them that way. If people are concerned with the cemetery, send them that way.  If people are concerned with the trash in the streets, send them that way,” voiced Tate.

“It will be a citywide clean-up, just like the one in April, not just for the walking trail,” Tate went on.

Like the spring event, roll offs will also be provided for use by the citizens.

“We need mowers, weed eaters, and encouragement,” Nobles said after the Trustees vote was in the books.

Also at the meeting, Trustee Debra Degering has continued her venture to get some sort of summer water fun back into the town, be it via the pool or through a splash pad for the areas smaller residents.

Recently a representative from Paddock Enterprises assessed the state of the Town’s pool and decided that it would cost around $600,000 to fix the ailing area, a number that was shocking to all involved.

Degering stated that she is an eternal optimist and is thinking “outside the box” on her either/or project.

According to Degering, two different renderings for splash pads will be available soon, both possibilities costing around $100,000.

Maysville High goes high tech with grant

By Bonnie Seymour

News Star Reporter

Times are changing and so are the technological needs of students.  With this is mind, Family and Consumer Science Teacher Haly Murray of Maysville High School applied for a career grant through the Career Technology Education Program and received $13,000 for high-tech upgrades.

“The grant is through the state and comes from the lottery fund.  They started doing it about five or six years ago,” explained Murray.

In the first years the grant was only funded for $5,000, but each year that amount has increased and now there are two amounts; a $25,000 and a $15,000 grant.

“I applied for the $15,000 and got right around $13,000, so that’s pretty great,” she said.

Murray used the money to purchase a new smart refrigerator for her classroom, a 60” smart TV, 20 IPad Minis, and two charging stations for them.

“My 7th grade class will be using an online curriculum and they will be using the IPads daily to log into their book,” said Murray.

Murray feels students being exposed to new and updated technology is of the upmost importance and that the grant money was a way to allow for that exposure to happen.

“There was a lot of outdated technology and this was a good way to update everything so the kids can get hands on experience,” Murray shared.

This is the second year Murray has been teaching in the Maysville School District after spending 8 years at Purcell Junior High.

Main Street program coming to an end

By Jeff Shultz


For two years the Main Street Pauls Valley program has been struggling to survive. As of Wednesday, the remaining MSPV board members pulled the plug on the program.

“This was probably the hardest decision we’ve had to make,” MSPV Board President Jesse Alvarado told the News Star.

Alvarado said there were several factors in the MSPV Board’s decision to dissolve the program, but the biggest was lack of support from the City of Pauls Valley and the community in general.

“Actually, the program died two years ago when the city pulled its funding,” Alvarado said, noting the Pauls Valley program is the only one in the state of Oklahoma not receiving municipal funding.

The only funding MSPV received from the city was payments for various promotional videos produced the Main Street for Pauls Valley.

“That just wasn’t going to cut it,” he added.

Another factor in MSPV’s demise was the dwindling board members and Main Street members in general.

“We haven’t been able to get any new board members. We haven’t been able to fill board member openings for quite some time now,” he said.

Also, the program’s deteriorating operational funds was another factor in the board’s decision, Alvarado said.

MSPV does have a $70,000 endowment fund that could be used for operational funds, but board members decided it wouldn’t be enough.

“We looked at cashing in the endowment fund, but we decided it would buy us at least two years of operations and then we’d be in the same boat we’re in now,” he said.

Instead, the board will cash the endowment fund and divide the money among various local charities in Pauls Valley such as the Samaritans.

“We’ll be meeting here soon to decide who will get the money and how much they will receive,” he noted.

For more than a decade MSPV has been the sponsoring organization for Brickfest, an annual festival held in May of each year.

Brickfest, however, has been moved around for the past two years and was scheduled for this fall.

“We will be turning Brickfest over to the city,” Alvarado said. “I don’t know what they will do with it now.”

BULLETIN: Maysville Town Board chooses new EMS service

The Maysville Town Board met in a special meeting on Wednesday, August 5, and, according to Maysville Mayor Bryson Tate, a new EMS service was chosen for the Town of Maysville.

The News Star will have more on the meeting and the new EMS agreement as soon as details become available.

ROAD CLOSED: County officials urge residents to leave barricades alone

By Jeff Shultz


Garvin County officials are warning county residents to stop moving the barricades blocking off closed roads.

“It’s not only against the law, but can be dangerous to public safety,” said Garvin County District 2 Commissioner Shon Richardson.

Due to the recent heavy rains, several county roads have had to be closed due to either the roads being damaged or completely washed out.

Officials have barricaded all of the roads, but someone has been moving the barricades.

“I know it’s frustrating for some people living on those roads, but those barricades are there for a reason,” Richardson added, noting a mail carrier in his district has to drive 13-miles out of his way just to deliver mail to one residence on a closed road.

Richardson and District 1 County Commissioner Stan Spivey said the county is working with FEMA in getting the necessary funds to repair the damaged roads, but that process is a long one.

Garvin County Emergency Management Director Bud Ramming said the county could start setting up security cameras near the barricades if the problem persists.

“I’d hate for it to come to that,” Ramming said. “But we’ve got to make sure those barricades stay in place while we are waiting for the roads to be repaired.”

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