Western Pennsylvania farm tour promotes buying locally produced foods
There's nothing like a day at the farm to learn about locally produced foods -- unless it's a day at 20 farms.
The third annual Western Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local Farm Tour sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture showcases many of the region's top producers of organic and homegrown fruits and vegetables.
For $10 per carload, families can map out their own route to what PASA organizers are calling a "behind-the-barn" look at local foods.
The tour is part of PASA's efforts to encourage people to learn about where their food is grown, who grows it and how it is grown, says Mia Farber, outreach coordinator.
"We also hope that the tour will highlight the diversity of regional farms, including dairy, poultry, grass-fed beef, goat, sheep, pork, fine cheeses, vegetables and grains," she says. "Farmers love questions. They are the experts on how to cook something and when to purchase it, and are graciously opening up their homes and farms to have the public get a behind-the-scenes look."
One of the 20 stops on the tour is Shenot Farms in Marshall, where father and son Ed and Rob Shenot -- fifth- and sixth-generation farmers -- work their 100-acre farm. They grow a variety of crops, including broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage and peppers. And they maintain peach and apple orchards.
Visitors to their farm will get a guided hayride tour through the fields, where Rob Shenot will talk about growing techniques and pest management and answer visitors' questions.
"There's a big push right now toward buying local and supporting local farms. People are becoming more inquisitive about how their food is grown -- and rightly so. They should know what they're putting into their bodies," he says.
Another farm on the tour is Mish Farms in West Deer, where Tom Mischen raises cattle and sells the beef at his on-the-farm meat market operated by his daughter, Kim Guthrie. Son Dave Mischen also helps out on the 80-acre farm.
Tom Mischen, who has been farming for 40 years, is proud of his 80 to 90 "all natural" cattle, which are not given antibiotic steroids or hormones.
"We have a smokehouse and make our own kielbasa, sweet and hot sausage and beef jerky," he says. "I don't know of another beef producer in the area with a full retail store. We are unique."
In Westmoreland County, organic vegetable farmers Randy and Elizabeth Morris of Sewickley Township are participating in the PASA tour for the second year. The 14-acre Morris farm offers seasonal pick-your-own-produce from 6:30 p.m. to dark Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and by appointment. Their crops include tomatoes, beans, peppers, zucchini, broccoli and potatoes.
For the tour, Randy Morris will offer wheat flour grinding demonstrations and hayrides. He also will have on display some of his old-time farm equipment that he uses, including a grain cleaner circa 1880, an antique tractor from 1948 and a potato digger from the 1920s, originally pulled by horses and now pulled by tractor.
"People will get a taste of what farming was like 75 years ago," he says.
Morris says that although the number of farms in the region has decreased in recent years, he is encouraged by the current movement among consumers to support local farmers.
The PASA Farm Tour has grown substantially since its start in 2007, when six farms were featured. In 2008, more than 300 people toured 13 farms, and this year, organizers are expecting as many as 500 tour participants.
"One of the most exciting things for us this year is that we are really covering a more expansive region, and there are diversified growers with sheep, goats and veggies," she says.
Farber suggests that those taking the tour bring cash and a cooler in case they want to purchase some farm products along the way.
Dillner Family Farm: 9 Spring House Lane, West Deer. Walking tour, fresh flowers and herbs
Mish Farms: 51 Dillner Lane, West Deer. On-farm meat market, hayride
Shenot Farms: 3754 Wexford Run Road, Marshall. Hayride, homegrown fruits and vegetables
Soergel Orchards: 2573 Brandt School Road, Wexford. Pick-your-own blueberries, raspberries
Triple B Farms: 823 Berry Lane, Monongahela. Fresh picked red and black raspberries, vegetables
Brenckle's Farm: 768 Glen Eden Road, Zelienople. Organic produce, flowering plants
Janoski Farm: 1714 Route 30, Clinton. Hayrides, greenhouse, market and country restaurant
Lewis Family Farms: 258 Zeigler Road, Rochester. Tour to see calves and cattle, refreshments and hayride
Little Brick Farm: 327 Zeigler Road, Rochester. Education, petting and feeding of Alpacas
Kretschmann Farm: 257 Ziegler Road, Rochester. Hayrides on an organic farm
Wild Rose Farm: 2412 Route 30, Hookstown. Demonstrations of indigo natural dyeing, spinning and sheep shearing
Harvest Valley Farm: 125 Ida Lane, Valencia. Flowers, vegetables, herbs
Paradise Farms & Gardens: 2771 Paradise Road, Reynoldsville. Goat creamery tour and cheese tasting
Quiet Creek Herb Farm: 93 Quiet Creek Lane, Brookville. Tours of perennial herb garden, hi-tunnel vegetable garden, self-guided nature trail, shitake mushroom farm, store
Pasture Maid Creamery: 571 Cow Path Lane, New Castle. Tour and tasting, locally made artisan cheeses
Ron Gargasz Farm: 129 Old Ash Road, Volant. Organic vegetables, grass fed beef, buckwheat
Three Sisters Farm: 134 Obitz Road, Sandy Lake. Biodynamic growing
Jamison Farm: 171 Jamison Lane, Latrobe. World-famous lambs
Morris Farm: 110 Slebodnik Road, Sewickley Township. Hayride, wheat flour grinding, pick-your-own organic vegetables
Pounds Turkey Farm: 4200 Melwood Road, Leechburg. Turkey, farm-raised Angus beef, all-natural chickenAdditional Information:
Farm Tour 2009
What : Third Annual Western Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local Farm Tour, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA)
When : 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Cost : $10 per carload for as many farms as you can visit in one day. Proceeds benefit PASA. The ticket: day pass and map is available at any farm on the tour.
Details : PASA office at 412-597-0411 or BuyLocalPa.org