Pennsylvania’s number one industry is agriculture. According to the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, southwestern Pennsylvania (the ten counties around Pittsburgh) is home to 11,423 farms. We are lucky to live in a place that can provide nutritious, locally grown food.
The key to eating local is to make a commitment to eat seasonally. Eat greens, asparagus, berries in spring. You can then progress to tomatoes, corn, zucchini, melons throughout the summer. Move on to autumn crops, such as potatoes, more greens, squash in the fall.
The farm stands and stores, farmers markets and retail stores that sell these local products are located throughout Allegheny County. According to the Sierra Club, Pittsburgh ranked number 1 in a study of community gardens and farmers markets. Farmers Markets typically run once a week for about four hours at a time.
You can also subscribe to a CSA which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you buy a CSA share from a farm, you get a box of products from the farm as they are harvested. In early June, a CSA share might include greens, onions, honey, strawberries, mushrooms, etc. In the summer a CSA share might include cabbage, cantaloupe, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, etc. These shares run throughout the growing season, usually through October. A list of local CSAs can be found online: www.localharvest.org.
Ask your favorite restaurant if they buy from local farms. If you notice specials that contain seasonal ingredients, they are most likely getting these from a local producer.
Lastly, start a garden and grow your own food! The easiest plants and some of the most delicious are tomatoes and basil. You will be rewarded with the freshest tasting ingredients for many summer dishes.