Authored by Kelsea Siter, KEYS Americorps Member
For years, I have enjoyed supporting and traveling to different local farmers markets with my family. Luckily where I grew up, we had access to fresh and local foods from nearby farmers and businesses that were available to the community each weekend. Supporting local farmers markets around your city is the easiest way to feel good about the food you buy. Here are some of the benefits and reasons why you should buy your food from farmers markets:
Buying in Season and Local: Fruits and vegetables taste the best and are the most fresh and nutritious during their specific growing season. Most fruits and vegetables grown out of season are picked early because they need to be transported to their seller. Food grown in season is harvested at its peak ripeness, then directly transported to the local seller. There are so many fresh foods around Pennsylvania that are now in season such as apples, cauliflower, cilantro, mushrooms, and tons more. Check out this Seasonal Food Guide that allows you to search when foods are in peak growing season in your area. Supporting local growers and businesses also generates money for the local economy, supports better farming practices, and allows the consumer to know where and how their food is grown.
Carbon Footprints and Environmentally-Friendly Practices: Buying local food has many positive impacts on both the environment and the animals that we use for our food. Local food uses less greenhouse gas emissions because there is little-to-no transportation involved. Food from farmers markets has a much smaller carbon footprint than foods shipped internationally that we see in grocers across the country. Supporting farmers markets also encourages the use of sustainable farming techniques, instead of mainstream and harmful farming techniques like monocultures, CAFO’s, and the use of pesticides and chemicals. Animals at these farms are treated much better than at conventional large-scale farms. Most farm animals at small farms are treated without hormones or chemicals, and have the option of leaving their feedlots and cages to graze and spend time outside.
Local Food is Better for You: One of the most significant issues in our food systems today is having accessible, nutritious, and sustaining foods for all members of the community. Many foods we see in our grocers are sprayed with harmful chemicals and pesticides to prevent spoiling and to keep pests and weeds away. These chemicals are dangerous for humans and have been linked with an array of negative health impacts such as cancers, respiratory issues, and reproductive failures. Produce from farmers markets is usually minimally-processed and organic, so there is no reason to worry about toxic chemicals when shopping here!
So what are the best farmers markets around Pittsburgh?
- The Bloomfield Farmers Market is located on 5050 Liberty Avenue every Saturday from 9am to 1pm and is one of my favorites! They feature many vendors including ones that supply tons of fresh produce, organic baked goods, coffee and teas, and even vegan food. This farmers market also accepts SNAP, which allows low-income community members to get local and healthy food.
- The Northside Farmers Market takes place on Friday’s from 3pm to 7pm, located in Allegheny Commons Park and Cedar Ave. There are countless vendors there supplying items like fresh and local fruits, cheeses, and even Jamacian and Middle Eastern foods!
- The Mt. Lebanon Uptown Market is a great farmers market located at 710 Washington Road, from 9am to 12pm every Saturday. This is such a popular event that they have added craft and art vendors every second Saturday of each month. This farmers market offers everything from dairy and meat, to jewelry, pottery and more!
- The City of Pittsburgh Squirrel Hill Market is on Sunday’s from 9am to 1pm located in the Beacon/Bartlett parking lots. This market has vendors supplying fresh and local produce, meats, and baked goods. They also accept SNAP.
- The City of Pittsburgh East Liberty Market is on Monday nights from 3pm to 7pm located on N. Euclid Ave. & Broad Street. This popular market accepts SNAP, and offers a large variety of locally grown foods, dairy, and baked goods.
- The Market Square Downtown Farmers Market takes place every Thursday from 10am to 2pm in Market Square. Over 30 vendors join this event, and it has taken place for over 15 years! There are tons of special events every week that take place here like free concerts and giveaways.
While these are just a few of my favorite farmers markets located throughout and around Pittsburgh, there are countless more located in every community from areas like Robinson and Monroeville, to Moon Township and Southside. Good Food Pittsburgh has a guide to all the farmers markets in the area, which you can find here. No matter where you live, a nearby farmers market has all the nutritious and delicious foods that you need this summer!