FARM FRESH: Markets offer a bounty of produce
Summer is on its way, and local farmers markets are popping up in several area communities.
Boasting fresh vegetables, baked goods and more, these markets offer not only the chance to buy local, but also to experience a sense of community, according to organizers.
Organizers tout many positives, including the atmosphere that goes along with the shopping experience.
“I think it’s a social thing,” said Juel Ormsby, organizer of the Strongstown Community Market. “That’s probably the most important aspect. It offers a way to get out and talk to our neighbors.”
Buying local is another benefit.
“You know where your food is coming from,” said Chloe Drew, a board member who handles public relations and marketing for the Indiana County Farmers Market. “You can talk to the person who put the seed in the ground. That’s a luxury.”
Another positive is that those purchasing from the market know that it’s fresh.
“I’m harvesting it Thursday morning and selling it Thursday afternoon,” Ormsby said. “I don’t know how you get any fresher than that.”
In Blairsville, Leann Chaney, executive director for the Blairsville Community Development Authority, said the market is especially important because there is no grocery store in Blairsville Borough.
“It’s important to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said.
Farmers markets also benefit the local communities with economic advantages.
Chaney said markets boost the economy not only for the farmers but for other local stores, where people may choose to shop.
In Blairsville, the market is held in the lot of the forthcoming Tractor Supply store, which could benefit both as customers from the market may visit Tractor Supply, and vice versa.
The Indiana County Farmers Market assembles from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at the former BiLo parking lot along Wayne Avenue across from the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the S&T Bank parking lot behind Eighth and Philadelphia streets.
The move to the new location on Wednesdays will allow the market to accommodate more vendors, as the previous location at a lot at Eighth and Church streets allowed for only eight.
“We’re excited,” Drew said. “We have so much more space to grow. I think in the long run, it will be a really good move for us.”
Newer features of the market include a community booth, where various organizations can gain exposure and educate the community on various topics, such as nutrition, and a kids/welcome booth will offer educational materials, activities and more with organizations such as the YMCA and the Indiana Free Library.
An artist tent and musician tent are also available to provide entertainment.
There are about 15 vendors at the Indiana market, selling produce, eggs, ice cream, baked goods, soap and beauty products. Some vendors only come one day.
For more information and updates on the market and vendors, visit the Indiana County Farmer’s Market on Facebook.
The Blairsville Downtown Farmers market is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Tractor Supply Company parking lot at the corner of East Market and North Morrow streets.
About a dozen vendors attend the market, Chaney said. In addition to fresh produce, they offer handmade soap, baked goods, cut flowers, candles, local honey and meat, crafts and clothing.
Community groups, such as the Blairsville Historical Society and local Boy Scouts, also participate.
Also this year is face painting for a minimal fee, with proceeds to benefit the national Elks organization grants through the Blairsville chapter.
The Blairsville market is in its second year. It’s managed by Connie Constantino and overseen by the Blairsville Community Development Authority, Chaney said.
In previous years, the Indiana County Farmers Market ran a market in Blairsville, and after that was discontinued there was no market for a year.
The market is still accepting vendors, and applications are available at the BCDA website, blairsville-pa.net.
A school bell signals the start of the Strongstown Community Market each week, in the former one-room schoolhouse at Route 422 and Historical Road.
It is open from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Sept. 25 and offers fresh produce, baked goods and crafts.
An average of nine vendors participate in the weekly market, said Ormsby, who coordinates the market.
The market is celebrating its fifth year this season, and about 100 to 125 people visit each week, she said.
It began when Ormsby, who grows a lot of vegetables and sells at the market, was shopping at the annual community yard sale and said to members of the historical society that a farm market would be a nice addition.
They thought so, too, and thus the idea for the Strongstown market was conceived.
It is run in conjunction with the Strongstown Historical Society, of which she is now a member.
She advises people who want to shop at the market to arrive early, as the best items go first, and to exercise caution when pulling into the market because of traffic on Route 422.
The Homer City Farmers Market is from 3 to 6 p.m. on Fridays at Floodway Park.
It offers produce, baked goods, flowers, plants and more, according to organizers.
New vendors are always welcome, according to the group’s Facebook page, Homer City Farmers Market.
The market is affiliated with the borough and started in 2012.