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Farmers markets offer fresh products with more flavor

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Patricia Radford of Crafton stocks up on sweet corn at the Green Tree Farmers Market at Green Tree Park last week. Sweet corn always is a best seller at these markets.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Patricia Radford of Crafton passes a bag full of sweet corn to her husband Skip Radford at Green Tree Farmers Market at Green Tree Park last week. Sweet corn always is a best seller at such markets.

Grocery stores have almost anything a consumer could want, from star fruit to naturally-raised chicken.

What the consumer doesn't necessarily know is when the produce was picked. Farmers markets featuring local produce and other items in the South Hills include the Lions Club in Pleasant Hills, Caste Village in Whitehall Borough and the New Wine Harvest Church in Baldwin Borough.

Simmons Farm in McMurray participates in more than 16 farmers markets a week, including the South Hills.

“The goal is to pick the produce the same day it is sold,” said Bob Simmons, 51, who owns the farm with his brother, Scott.

Prices can get driven down by competition with other farmers, which is good for the consumer, but bad for the farmers, Simmons said.

Simmons sells corn, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, zucchini, peaches and other seasonal products.

Markets also are a place to get to know the farmer and ask any questions about how the produce is grown.

“What I like at the farm is that you can talk to the person who picked it out of the ground and grew it,” said Alex Pattison, a chiropractor at the City of Bridges Chiropractic office in Brentwood, “compared to a high school student at a grocery store.”

Pattison, of Bethel Park, presented a seminar on nutrition called “How to Lose 10 in 20” at the Brentwood Civic Center yesterday. He will give a second seminar July 31 at 7:30 p.m. Pattison suggests asking farmers when and where produce was picked, as well as if pesticides were used.

Pattison recommends consumers ask similar questions about meat. He said it's important to find out if the animal was grass fed and grain finished.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture still considers an animal grass-fed if it is given grain within 100 days before slaughter. An animal that is fed grain has more fatty tissue, making it susceptible to illness that would be treated with antibiotics.

Temple Farm in Scott Township frequents the New Wine Harvest Church Market in Baldwin Borough. It offers grass- and grain-fed pork and beef products.

“We don't add antibiotics or hormones,” said Shawn Temple. “The only time we give them an antibiotic is if they are sick, which is almost never. The cattle are pretty much pastured year round; they aren't confined.”

Consumers also might notice a steeper price for the locally-raised meat.

“There are some things you can buy in the grocery store at half of what we are charging, and some is the same price,” Temple said. “Part of what people don't understand is that the meat at the grocery store, (grocers) they can buy (meat) it for less than it costs us to raise it.”

Farmers markets are available to almost everyone.

“They are all really good for community,” Simmons said.

Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or bgoncar@tribweb.com.

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