LEWISTOWN - The Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network is helping to bring another farmers' market to Lewistown. The market will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday beginning June 5 in the area next to the parking lot of the Rec Park Community Center.
This particular area of Lewistown is classified as a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A food desert is any area where healthy, affordable food is more difficult to obtain while unhealthy, fast food is plentiful. The new market is within walking distance for anyone living downtown to stop by and get healthy food.
The PAWAgN is responsible for obtaining a grant in order to accomplish this project. The grant will allow them to not only bring residents healthy, locally grown food, but they will be putting on 10 nutritional classes that are open to the public.
The 10-week class series will feature nutritionists, chefs, farmers and saavy home cooks with topics including easy homemade baby food, soup from scratch using leftovers, creating fresh salsa, saving time with slow cookers, 10 ways to eat a zuchinni and cooking with kids. Detailed brochures of the series will be available at the farmers market.
Patty Niener, a key player in the farmers market, said, "We really want it to be community based. Instead of just being a place to buy food we want it to be a social event. Eventually we'd like to have kids events and music or entertainment as well."
She commented, "A lot of local people drive all the way to Wegman's or other places in State College to buy organic food and we want them to realize that they can shop locally and still recieve quality food at a great price. It's important that you can get to know the person that's growing your food and really develop a relationship with them."
IF YOU GO
What: Farmers market
When: Rec Park Community Center, Lewistown
Where: 3-7 p.m. Tuesday
One of the hopes of the PAWAgN is to make it possible for the market to accept electronic benefits transfer cards from those who recieve the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. WIC (Women, Infants and Children) check vouchers will also be accepted at the market.
Niener commented, "This market really is for everyone."
Already there is a great amount of diversity at the market including The Fisher Farmstead, selling produce, baked goods, honey, eggs, and meats. Tall Pines Farm will also be selling produce. Hollowbrook Dairy or Batdorf Farm will be there with their chemical free produce, meats, honey, eggs and flowers. Misty Dell Farm will be selling herbs and produce. Out of Our Gourd Farm also has chemical free produce and handcrafted bird houses. Sunset Valley Farm will be providing dairy products. Additonal vendors include Lydia's Bakery and Ferguson Valley Meats.
Another local involved with the project is Jim Tunall, President and Executive Director of the Juniata Valley Chamber of Commerce. Tunall commented, "We have in the county two farmers markets already, however, both of those are morning markets whereas this one will be held in the evening. I think this market will catch a whole different audience, people who typically wouldn't be able to make it due to work will now have the opportunity."
Tunall also said that the location of the market is ideal because it has unlimited space to grow and expand. They will not only be able to bring in more vendors but the community center has the space for them to offer the nutritional classes as well. He commented that it would be great to eventually have a covered pavilion allowing the market to start earlier and go deeper into the cold weather.
Sam Price, Executive Director of Community Partnerships RC&D, said, "We have partnered with PAWAgN in order to help point them in the right direction locally."
He continued by saying that when it comes to providing names for possible partners and vendors to helping think out the logistics of the market even to providing person power, they have been trying to help in whatever ways possible.
He said that AmeriCorp service member, Beth Miller, will be volunteering at the market each week, setting up activities and helping in whatever ways possible.
Price also noted how monumental both Kevin Morgan, Environmental Program Director, and Melissa Piper Nelson, Outreach and Marketing Manager, have been in the efforts to really make this farmers market successful. Morgan hit the streets last year asking locals at other farmers markets what they were looking were. Through this data collection he was able to help direct PAWAgN so that they are better able to meet the needs of their customers.
Overall it has been a community wide effort to put together a farmers market that will benefit everyone. Eating healthy and shopping locally has become increasingly important and the overall goal of the market is to help make it easier for others to do just that.