Where To Buy Local
Some farmers opt to operate their own markets, providing fresh and local not far from their fields and barns. Among these are Yarnick’s Farm Country Market, Trax Farms and Soergel’s Orchards. There also is a variety of corner neighborhood markets, health-food stores and grocers that carry all-natural, preservative-free food and seasonal local goods such as produce, fruit butters, jams, baked goods and breads.
In terms of bigger venues in Pittsburgh, Whole Foods Market offers the largest organic selection of products, but not necessarily all those locally produced. Recently, this all-natural giant has made it easier for the local farmer to get their products onto its shelves. The East End Food Co-Op has also been a strong supporter of local products, but like most, primarily on a seasonal basis. Also, McGinnis Sisters Special Foods Stores has had a longtime dedication to not only buying direct from local farms, but also building strong relationships with individual farmers.
"They promise to provide us with what we want, and we promise to buy it; we can guarantee we’ll sell it," says Sharon Young, one of the three sisters that comprise those of the McGinnis Sisters name. Young adds that her family-owned business is scheduled to break ground on a third location this summer in Adams Township. "Now we’ll have to find a corn farmer up there."
What follows is a list of some retail stores and farm markets around the region.
• The East End Food Co-op, 7516 Meade St., Point Breeze; 412/242-3598.
• Grove City County Market, 49 Pine Grove Square, Grove City; 724/458-7544.
• McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores, 4311 Northern Pike, Monroeville, 412/858-7000; 3825 Saw Mill Run Blvd. 412/884-2323.
• Nature’s Way Market, 796 Highland Ave., Greensburg; 724/836-3524.
• Simmons Farm, 170 Simmons Road, McMurray; 724/941-1490.
• Sunny Bridge Natural Foods, 130 Gallery Drive, McMurray; 724/942-5800.
• Today’s Market, 612 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont; 412/828-4244.
• Soergel’s Orchards, 2573 Brandt School Road, Franklin Park; 724/935-1743.
• Trax Farms, 528 Trax Road, Union Township, Washington County; 412/835-3246.
• Whole Foods Co-op, 1341 W. 26th St., Erie; 814/456-0282.
• Whole Foods Market, 5880 Centre Ave., East Liberty; 412/441-7960.
• Yarnick’s Farm Country Market, 155 Thomas Covered Bridge Road; Indiana County; 724/349-3904.
Whether you’re a fresh-food fundamentalist or you’re simply looking for a fun outing, U-pick farms are a sure way to get the freshest of the fresh. Foods are the most nutritious and delicious after just being picked, and, although a little leg work is involved, harvesting your own foods will provide you with an appreciation for the growing process.
Also, you’ll appreciate the saving on your bill, which comes from your help in reducing the farmer’s time and expense associated with harvesting, cleaning, packing and shipping. Take along a child and make sure he or she learns where food comes from. All u-pick farms are seasonal, so call for operating days and times. The ideal time for picking berries is after a dry, warm summer evening, as berries require warm nights in which to ripen.
• Morris Farm, Slebodnik Road, Sewickley Township. July-Sept.: Mon., Wed., Fri., 6:30 p.m.-dark; Sat., 2-5 p.m. Certified organic lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, greens, eggplant, squash, zucchini, melons. Great u-pick savings: At the market, bagged lettuce runs $2/gallon vs. $3/3 gallons, u-pick.
• Reilly’s Garden Center at Summer Seat Farm, Roosevelt Road, Ohio Township; 412/364-8662. May-Dec.: Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Hours are limited Sept.-Dec.; call for details. Red raspberries, black raspberries, blueberries, strawberries.
• Sarver’s Hill Farm, Westmoreland County; 724/834-2334. This certified organic farm provides u-pick strawberries by appointment only; also offers a CSA that features beets, peppers, radishes, Chinese greens, melons, pumpkins, eggs and meats.
• Cherry Valley Organics, 518 Jofre-Cherry Valley Road, Burgettstown, Washington County; 724/777-0790. U-pick flowers and berries from 35-acre certified organic farm; also features a la carte CSA.
• Triple B Farms, off Route 51 at Elizabeth exit,; 724/258-3557. June-Oct.: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Strawberry and pumpkin picking; baked goods, candles, gifts; also farm animals for viewing and a playground.
• Soergel Orchards, 2573 Brandt School Road, Franklin Park; 724/935-1743. May/June-August: Mon.-Fri., 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Call ahead for pick-your-own strawberries and blueberries; specialty is apple orchard, including Gala, Rome and Jonathan apples. Year-round market house has local meats and other goods.
• Simmons Farm, Simmons Road. McMurray, Washington County; 724/941-1490. May-Oct.: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Strawberries, peaches and apples seasonally. Best to call to verify the availability of picking at the farm. Baked goods and other specialties at market house.
• Trax Farms, Union Township, Washington County; 412/835-3246. Sun.-Sat.: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Call ahead for specific times to pick-your-own strawberries and blueberries throughout the growing season, from May through August, as times vary. Strawberry Festival runs annually in June.
COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE (CSA)
CSA is a relatively modern, yet exotic strategy created to keep small, family-run farms alive while providing a trustworthy and sustainable food supply for the consumer. Stemming from the Japanese word "teikei, meaning "putting the farmer’s face on food," the CSA enables farmer and consumer to reap mutual benefit through a direct-purchase relationship.
Consumers purchase a share from a participating farm that in turn supplies them a bushel of in-season produce and sometimes additional products, such as eggs, flowers and honey, every week from spring through fall. Created by advocates of organic farming in Japan in 1971, American farmers first adopted "The Ten Principles of Teikei" in 1985. These principles are rooted in farmer/consumer relations, support of community, land stewardship and one’s local economy.
The first five principles state:
• To build a friendly and creative relationship, not as mere trading partners.
• To produce according to pre-arranged plans on an agreement between the producer(s) and the consumer(s).
• To accept all the produce delivered from the producer(s).
• To set prices in the spirit of mutual benefit.
• To deepen mutual communication for mutual respect and trust.
While all CSA’s, now numbering 1,500 nationwide, are based upon teikei tenets, they mainly vary according to variety of goods, cost-per-share and distribution arrangements. Below is a list of just the few myriad CSA’s in our region. Log on to www.localharvest.org, a national organization in support of sustainable agriculture, for a comprehensive list.
• Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance (Shelocata, PA.): This unique CSA provides a variety of goods from a cooperative of 15 growers that produce herbs, flowers, vegetables, fruits, goat, lamb, eggs, honey and pork each week of seasonal farm production. Drop-off sites in Oakdale and Indiana. 412/363-1971.
• Kretschmann Farm (Rochester, PA): Members pick up their shares of various vegetables and Italian-inspired herbs, with availability of shared Amish goods at either the farm or approximately 30 designated drop-off points throughout Greater Pittsburgh.724/452-7189.
• Harvest Valley Farms (Valencia, PA): Larry and Art King, brothers, offer more than 58 varieties of fruits and vegetables, with drop-off sites throughout Pittsburgh. They also offer on-farm pickup from 20-30 items on display to choose. Ex: 1/2 doz corn, 4 zucchini, 4 peppers, 1 pint of raspberries. 724/443-5869.
• Mildreds’ Daughters Urban Farm (Pittsburgh, PA): Pick up is at Mildreds’ Daughters site on Normahill Drive in the city of Pittsburgh; one of the last urban farms.Certified organic, they grow specialty, heirloom tomatoes and vegetables,flowers and herbs. 412/799-0833
• Goose Creek Gardens, Ltd. (Oakdale, PA): Specializing in salad greens, culinary herbs, cut flowers, and potted herbs, vegetable starts. We grow year round mainly under cover and supply local resturants thru Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance. Products are available to the public through spring CSA.
• Sarver’s Hill Farm (Greensburg, PA): Certified organic farm. Offering vegetables and fruits, in addition to parnter baker that can supply breads as well as chicken, beef and pork for CSA only. Clients here can share in the family farm experience by volunteering with farm duties for a discounted share. CSA members receive 10 percent discount off table items. We accept Pa Farm Market Vouchers when purchased directly through the farm only. 724/834-2334.
• Cherry Valley Organics (Burgettstown, PA): Both whole sale flowers and u-pick. Diverging from the traditional CSA model, they offer an online "a la carte" menu for subscribers to order from each week, including organic vegetables, herbs, berries, cut flowers and herbal bath and body products. They have also partnered with local producers that bring naturally-raised beef, chicken, pork, and eggs. 724/777-0790.