In an effort to boost the profile of local farmers and ranchers, September is being celebrated as local food month in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Throughout the month, activities, contests, restaurant offerings, and more will highlight food that’s grown or raised in the region.
“We have hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables, there been, in the last ten years, a growing availability of sustainably-raised meats, poultry, and eggs, beef, pork,” said Alissa Matthews, chapter coordinator for the Buy Fresh Buy Local program of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA).
The number of farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are on the rise in the region, and the number of restaurants featuring menus built around local food offerings is also on the rise. Proponents of local food cite not only health benefits of knowing where your food is coming from, but also economic benefits.
“Buying local supports regional farming. Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in Pennsylvania, and buying locally, in season can also be very affordable so it’s a great way to get fresh, healthy food on your table,” said Matthews.
This summer’s hot, dry weather made for some challenges conditions for regional farmers and ranchers. Matthews said they had to content with more insects and animals such as deer and raccoons, but she added, offerings at farmers markets shouldn’t suffer, “September is the perfect time, since it’s the harvest season and everything is ripe and there’s plenty of products available so it’s a perfect time to buy in-season.”
Local Food Month events include a Buy Local Summit at the Fayette County Fairgrounds, the East End Food Co-op’s 7th Annual Art Harvest Festival, PASA’s 1st annual Farmer Olympics, and screenings of the films “FRESH the movie” and “American Meat.”