With the onset of summer, communities across the Mon Valley are opening their annual farmers markets.
Farmers markets have become an important addition to communities in the Mon Valley by providing access to fresh, locally sourced food. They also support local economies and create a sense of community, a place for residents to gather and share local resources and upcoming events.
Downtown West Newton, Inc. (DWNI), a nonprofit community development organization, started a farmers market in its community last year which includes local farms, bakeries, and artisan businesses.
“We recognized that there was a need to bring people to our business district and provide residents with access to fresh fruits and vegetables. That became even more necessary recently when we found out that our local grocery store is closing. Last year, we set up the market in a vacant lot in the middle of downtown and had nearly 100 residents at each market,” Barb LaFace said, member of DWNI and MVI Board Member.
Just Harvest’s Fresh Access program is at 15 area farmers markets, including the Swissvale Farmers Market. This enables residents to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, as well as credit and debit cards, to buy local produce.
Income-eligible seniors, 60 years of age or older, can also receive $50 in Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) vouchers to be used at farmers markets and farm stands. The vouchers will be distributed by the end of June and eligible individuals can call their County Aging office to find out how to apply and when and where vouchers will be distributed.
Some local Mon Valley communities, including in Braddock and Turtle Creek, grow their market produce in local community gardens. The gardens provide an additional opportunity for community involvement and education.
In Turtle Creek, volunteers, including members of the Turtle Creek Development Corporation (TCDC), transformed an old baseball field into a community garden, aptly named the Homeplate Garden. Every week throughout the summer, the produce grown at the garden is sold via a farm stand adjacent to the community garden. Residents can check the Turtle Creek Homeplate Garden Facebook page or Savvy Citizen app for upcoming farm stands.
Below is a list of farmers markets and stands throughout the Mon Valley region. For information on markets that accept SNAP benefits, visit usda.gov. For a list of markets participating in the SFMNP voucher program, visit pameals.pa.gov.