Farm fresh: Area markets offer up local goods, chance to socialize

Farm fresh food isn’t just an alliteration. It’s a movement.

Farmers markets popping up for the summer across the area offer local producers a chance to sell directly to their customers who want to know where their food is coming from, local market participants said.

On a recent Friday, the farmers market at UPMC Altoona hospital had baked goods for sale from the Bake Shop Bakes, Altoona. Sun and Moon Creations, Altoona, was selling soaps, candles and baums. Cottage Confectioner, State College, was selling vegan treats, and Cherry Hill Farm, Tyrone area, was selling goat milk soap.

“Buying local food means that you are getting fruits and vegetables that are picked at their prime ripeness,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture ombudsman Beth Futrick, who coordinates the Juniata Farmers Market and the farmers market held at UPMC Altoona hospital. “If you buy vegetables in the grocery store a lot of times those vegetables and fruits are grown to ship, meaning they pick them when they’re not ripe so that they can ripen on the journey to your grocery store. So we believe that our food tastes better because it is more fresh. And the quality of the nutrients are better too because, again, as that vegetable ages the nutrition value starts to decrease. So it’s better for you. It tastes better and supporting local farmers means that your dollars are staying in the community.”

Many of the same vendors sell at the hospital as the Juniata market, said Futrick, who is with the Blair County Conservation District.

“Both markets, they’re producer-only, and we felt that was important too, because we wanted to make sure that customers know that when they’re buying from that vendor, that vendor grew it or made it or baked it. So you know that your dollars are going right to the producer.”

That’s something farmer Michael Friday of Greenbriar Farms, McVeytown, who sells at those markets, appreciates.

“I like to sell directly to my customers,” he said. “I like to meet my customers face-to-face.”

The farm’s selections include produce, eggs and seasonal baked goods.

“A huge movement” of buying local food is taking place now, he said.

“They want to know where the food’s coming from. They want to know that it’s safe, and they also want to know who’s growing the food.”

Farmers markets are also a chance to get out and socialize, said Downtown Altoona Farmers Market coordinator Judy Brumbaugh.

“For one thing, it’s local fresh produce and goods. It’s all local. Usually handmade,” she said. “But more and more I see it; there’s a social aspect to it, too. I mean, you come down and you see your friends and you’re outside. There’s just a nice atmosphere.”

Brumbaugh said attendance since opening week in May has been “super.”

The market’s offerings include local produce, homemade baked goods, jams and jellies, homemade soup and sandwiches, kettle corn and wine, she said.

Local crafters sell various items including folk art, crocheted scarves and washable diapers.

Shoppers can also find fresh local goods at the Hollidaysburg Farm & Craft Market.

On the list are fresh vegetables and fruits, herbs, jellies and sauces, syrup, beeswax products, fresh cut and dried flowers, baked goods, local wine and various craft items, Main Street Manager Jamie Baser said.

The craft items, which can vary from week to week, have included handmade jewelry, quilted items, homemade soaps and lotions, she said.

“I think the Hollidaysburg community enjoys our market because of its location and walkability,” Baser said. “Residents and visitors to Hollidaysburg can pick up what they need at the market and walk to the restaurants and shops downtown while they’re there. Everyone loves fresh produce, but I believe people feel especially good about the opportunity to support local growers and crafters while also supporting local business in Hollidaysburg.”