2011-08-04 / Local & State

August Is Pennsylvania Produce Month

Pennsylvania vegetables are at their best

August is Pennsylvania Produce Month. For the sixth year, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program, along with vegetable growers across the commonwealth, will be celebrating Pennsylvania Vegetables at their Best during August. Not only are Pennsylvania vegetables “Simply Delicious” and “Simply Nutritious,” but buying local vegetables can reduce your carbon footprint and save you money.

If you are interested in eating local foods, August is the perfect time of the year. Pennsylvania’s 4,300 vegetable growers plant nearly 55,000 acres of vegetables that produce more than 200,000 tons of vegetables for fresh and processing use. August is the peak season for many Pennsylvania vegetable crops, and all but the early spring and late fall vegetable crops are available in August. There’s sweet corn, potatoes, snap beans, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cantaloupes, watermelon, zucchini and other squash, lima beans, lettuce, beets, carrots, onions, fresh herbs and more.

Roadside farm markets are a favorite place to pickup fresh, locally grown vegetables – or even pick-your-own. Pennsylvania farm markets may be a simple picnic table under a shade tree in front of the farmer’s house or a large modern retail store with a full line of local produce along with a bakery, deli and garden center. Some markets will be hosting special festivals with various forms of entertainment for your whole family during PA Produce Month.

Shopping at a community farmer’s market is also an enjoyable way to buy “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” vegetables from a variety of local growers. Most farmers’ markets are open at least one day a week while some offer several shopping days a week. Here, the farmers bring their fresh farm products to your neighborhood, allowing you to purchase your food directly from the farmer who produced it.

Pennsylvania has over 1,000 farm markets and community farmers’ markets and many of them are participating in the PA Produce Month promotion with special events or offers to their customers. But all the farm markets and farmers’ markets in the state will be offering an abundance of “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Pennsylvania vegetables during August. To find one near you, call the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-783-9948 to request a copy of “A Consumer’s Guide to Pennsylvania Farm Markets 2011.” The guide is available at www.agricul- ture.state.pa.us under “Online Services” or at http://www.pameals.com/Mea lsPublic/FarmMarkets/MarketSearch. aspx?PC=Markets

Four other valuable resources are Penn State University’s AgMap at http://agmap.psu.edu; the Pennsylvania Buy Fresh, Buy Local Web site at http://www.buylocalpa.org ; the Pennsylvania Market- Maker Web site at pa marketmaker and Rodale Institute’s New Farm Farm Locator http://www.newfarm.org-/farmlocator/ index.php.

You can also often purchase Pennsylvania produce in your favorite supermarket right along with your other groceries. It will often be identified with the “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” or “PA Preferred” logos. As more people are recognizing the freshness and quality of local produce, supermarkets are making a special effort to purchase more of their fruit and vegetables from Pennsylvania growers in season.

Sweet corn is Pennsylvania’s largest vegetable crop. Growers plant over 16,000 acres per year, ranking the state as the ninth largest producer of fresh market sweet corn.

Snap beans are the second largest vegetable crop with over 8,000 acres being grown. Most of the snap beans are grown for processing, ranking the state sixth in the nation in processing snapbean production.

Pennsylvania also ranks third in the nation in the production of pumpkins, the state’s fourth largest vegetable with over 6,700 acres being grown. Tomatoes are the state’s fourth largest vegetable crop. Pennsylvania growers plant 2,200 acres of fresh market tomatoes, ranking Pennsylvania 13th in the nation, plus about 1,500 acres of processing tomatoes.

The other top-10 Pennsylvania vegetable crops are peppers at about 1,200 acres; cabbage at about 1,200 acres (12th in the nation); cantaloupes at 900 (eighth in the nation); squash at 800 acres; watermelons at 600 acres; and cucumbers at 600 acres.

Pennsylvania vegetables are not transported thousands of miles across the country in refrigerated trucks that use a tremendous amount of fossil fuels. They’re grown by nearby family farmers who may be just down the road. While that local farmer may deliver his produce to your favorite supermarket where you can buy it fresh from the farm, other local growers sell their produce directly to consumers at a roadside market on the farm or at one of the hundreds of community farmer’s markets across the state. Your favorite restaurant may also be serving local produce.

High-quality, farm-fresh produce is worth a premium price in terms of its superior taste and nutrition. Local growers need to charge reasonable prices to cover their increasing costs of fuel, fertilizer, labor and other supplies, but consumers can often find real bargains on local produce in August when the season is at its peak. If you’re worried about high food costs for this winter, you might even consider freezing or canning some Pennsylvania sweet corn, snap beans, tomatoes, peppers or beets.

Pennsylvania vegetables are “Simply Delicious” and that is reason enough to seek them out during August, but they are also “Simply Nutritious.” Health experts recommend that the average American should:

Strive to eat the following amounts vegetables from each of the five groups of vegetables each week: dark green –broccoli, dark green leaf lettuce, kale, spinach, turnip greens – 3 cups orange – carrots, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato – 2 cups legumes – dried beans and peas – 3 cups starchy – corn, green peas, lima beans, potatoes – 3 to 6 cups other – asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, peppers, lettuce, onions, tomatoes – 6 to 7 cups.

The latest nutrition advice is that half of your plate should be vegetables and fruits.

For prize-winning vegetable recipes that will help you enjoy including Pennsylvania vegetables in menus, visit www.paveggies.org for the finalist recipes in the “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest for 2011 and previous years.

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