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Now is the time for Pennsylvania's peak produce

Joe Napsha
| Friday, July 28, 2017, 3:27 p.m.
Shari Binda picks out a fresh watermelon at Appleseeds fruit stand along Route 30 in Hempfield
Tribune-Review
Shari Binda picks out a fresh watermelon at Appleseeds fruit stand along Route 30 in Hempfield
Lucy Bittner of Jeannette gets ready vegetables she has grown and will sell at Jeannette farmers market Thursday.
Tribune-Review
Lucy Bittner of Jeannette gets ready vegetables she has grown and will sell at Jeannette farmers market Thursday.

Shari Binda of Jeannette likes shopping the farmers markets for locally grown produce. This week, she went to Appleseeds fruit stand along Route 30 in Hempfield, where a Bullskin Township farm sells corn, peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupes, and strawberries from its fields as well as neighboring farms.

"We like the fresh fruits," Binda says, as she stopped to buy a watermelon that sat in front of a table filled with fruits and vegetables.

"Everything's been coming in pretty big this year," says John Robertucci of Scottdale, who was manning the fruit stand for Appleseeds.

Local produce, fruits and vegetables, are plentiful at this time of the year at farmers markets and fruit stands in the region.

"It's a decent year," for locally grown produce, despite the rainy weather that made it difficult for farmers to get into their fields for planting in late April and May, says Robert Pollock, extension educator at Penn State Extension in Indiana.

"I think for the most part, we should have a reasonable supply of fruits and vegetables this summer," says Pollock, who also serves as extension director for Somerset and Bedford counties.

Farmers who scheduled their first planting of corn in late March or early April, and kept it undercover to prevent frost damage, were able to harvest their corn by the July 4 holiday, Pollock says.

Tomatoes grown under "high tunnels" of protective covering in the spring are ripe for harvest, Pollock says, although it's still a little early for zucchinis.

At the Oakford Park Fruit Market in Jeannette, the Chambersburg peaches are plentiful, says Barb Baughman, who is in charge of the fruits and flowers.

Local corn, peppers and onions are in good supply at the fruit market.

Lucky and Clyde Bittner, one of the suppliers for the Jeannette Farmer's Markets on Thursdays, were busy yesterday harvesting a big supply of peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and squash from their backyard garden.

"We've had a good year," Bittner says, which has helped the people in Jeannette.

What are we growing?

According to PaVeggies.org, Pennsylvania's 3,950 vegetable growers plant 49,400 acres of vegetables and produce more than 280,000 tons of food, including sweet corn, potatoes, snap beans, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cantaloupes, watermelon, zucchini and other squash, lima beans, lettuce, beets, carrots, onions and fresh herbs. Crops are ranked as follows:

1. Sweet corn: approximately 10,300 acres per year (Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the country).

2. Potatoes: 5,500 acres.

3. Snap beans: 5,500 acres (fifth in the nation)

4. Pumpkins: 5,500 acres (fourth in the nation)

5. Tomatoes: 2,500 acres of fresh-to-market tomatoes and 1,000 acres of processing tomatoes.

Other top-ranking vegetable crops in Pennsylvania include peppers (1,200 acres); cantaloupes (1,200 acres); cabbage (930 acres), squash (900 acres); and watermelon (800 acres).

PaVeggies.org is the website for the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program, a statewide marketing organization established by growers.

Where to find produce

Pennsylvania has more than 1,000 farmers or community markets. To find the closest market, go to:

PAVeggies.org and click on Find PA Veggies.

Papreferred.com , where you can find a calendar of each type of produce is ready to harvest.

• Penn State University's AgMap at agmap.psu.edu

• Pennsylvania Buy Fresh, Buy Local website, buylocalpa.org

• Local Harvest website, localharvest.org

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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