Posts Tagged ‘Kent State’

by Sarah Steimer

A little slice of the Bethel Park Farmer’s Market, south of Pittsburgh and five minutes from my house. Last year it took first place in the region.

If you’ve never been, let me paint you a picture of Kent State (from the inside, looking out):

University –> college town –> farmland.

Naturally, it would seem like the pinnacle of food success. The university would be full of brilliant minds who educate themselves about health. The college town setting would be ideal for restaurants and grocers carrying local produce. And the farmland, well it provides the sustenance to fuel it all. And this is all true of Kent.

And then I came home to Pittsburgh, and it got even better.

Monday morning I went to a program at my local library called “Eat Seasonally.” It drew a small crowd (of which I was the youngest) and featured speaker Erin Hart of Farm to Table PA.

The obvious was touched on: How buying local helps the economy — the money goes directly into the farmer’s pocket, not a corporation’s that is based who-knows-where. It helps the environment — a pick-up truck that travels from the next county will pollute far less than an 18-wheeler barreling across the country. Plus “factory food” does involve factory pollution from machinery.

But Ms. Hart made a few interesting points that the nodding heads in the room paused at. Turns out there are likely

Click to enlarge (fruit and veggie facts)

many more organic farms in the nation than we’d think. To “officially” be called organic, farms have to play by the government’s standards — and not every farm is OK with that, so they avoid the official moniker to avoid government control. And the official organic stamp doesn’t necessarily mean absolutely no pesticides were used, some pesticides are deemed all right by government standards.

What piqued my attention was the information about the Southwestern Pennsylvania local food movement. The area was voted No. 1 in the country in 2006 for its number of farmer’s markets and community gardens per capita by SustainLane.com. I won’t go on and on about Pittsburgh and its locavores, so here’s just a quick idea of how important local farmers and their goods are to Southwestern Pennsylvania.

But what really makes the Pittsburgh area stand out, to me, is its ability to keep those farmers, restaurateurs and its other foodies honest.

“Pittsburgh is the city of bridges,” Ms. Hart said. “And you don’t want to burn any of those bridges.”

Pittsburgh is fairly small, she explained, so word will get out if you try to pull a fast one on Steel City consumers.

I walked away from the program not only with an apple from a local orchard, but feeling pretty confident in what I eat in and around Pittsburgh: We’re more than just sandwiches with coleslaw and fries on top (with all due respect, Primati Bros).

A few tips for eating local and organic:

Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 – A guide of what fruits and vegetables should be bought organic.

What nutrients are in your basket? – Find out what foods give you what vitamins.

Guide to Pennsylvania vegetables – What to buy and when.

Reporting and photos by Sarah Steimer

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