Although I live right around the corner from Parish, I don’t frequent its Saturday Farmers Market, as I always tend to forget about it due to the fact that I have never thought much about buying local produce.
Well, now I can forget about forgetting about it, because my best friend began working there every week and demands my attendance if I am in town. Not only does she delight in my company, but she also wants me to support local farmers and become as enthusiastic about rutabaga as she is.
My friend is Kelsey Weisgerber, who works for Clarion River Organics, a cooperative comprising 10 family farms. Each of these farms, located in Sligo, PA, are certified organic, which, according to Weisgerber, is an expensive and difficult certification to receive.
“It costs Clarion River Organics a premium to produce certified organic produce, but we believe that the health and wellness of animals and people, as well as cleanliness of the farm and the watershed, rely on organic practices,” Weisgerber said.
Weisberger rambles on (in a good way, of course) about the benefits of shopping at local farmers markets.
She says one of the major perks to shopping at the St. James , 200 Walnut St., Sewickley,for produce is that you can speak directly with the people who produce the produce (no pun intended).
“You can walk directly up to them and ask them if their products are organic and how they go about running their farms,” she said.
For instance, on Saturday, Weisgerber found herself explaining the difference between free-range and organic eggs to a customer.
Sometimes, people just pay more money for organic products in the grocery store without knowing anything about the product. Often times, organic eggs that you’d buy in a grocery store come from a flock that hasn’t had the free range it should, and therefore the quality could be sacrificed, she said.
However, visiting a farmers market allows you to learn about these differences and ask important questions about the food you’re spending your hard-earned money on and feeding to yourself and your family.
Another advantage to is being able to afford getting creative with your palate.
On Saturday, Clarion River Organics offered turnips, which, if you ask me, are something the average person doesn’t stock up on. However, Weisgerber pushed them all day and suggested tasty ways to use them in a meal.
“We were offering high-quality, organic turnips for $2 per pound, whereas they were $4 per pound at the grocery store where the quality isn’t nearly as good,” Weisgerber said.
She also recommended an entire dinner party menu to a customer, featuring Clarion River Organics’ apple fennel sausage and rutabaga, which is a far cry from your everyday entrée.
There are several other vendors that sell organic farm products and produce, as well as homemade pasta and fresh fish and poultry.
If you aren’t looking to experiment with your diet, you can always stick to the staples: lettuce, tomatoes and other in-season fruits and vegetables. Either way, though, you’re supporting people who farm the right way, which is healthy and sustainable for people, animals and land, Weisgerber said.
The Farmers Market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through November in the St. James parking lot.