Come Face-to-Face with Freshness at Happy Valley Farmers Markets
Come face-to-face with freshness at Happy Valley farmers markets and CSAs
Fifteen years ago, entering a large grocery store and leaving with multiple produce items identified as organic or locally grown would have been a difficult task to complete.
Today, however, the options are plentiful. The influx of produce identified as organic, farm-fresh, or locally sourced that is readily available in grocery stores is a highly positive advancement by almost anyone’s count, but there remain experiences and a level of freshness that can only be found outside of the grocery aisle.
At more than a dozen farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs throughout Centre County, consumers are enjoying what it is the large supermarket chains lack: face-to-face interaction with the person who grew their food, the opportunity to directly support the local economy, and a quality and freshness of natural food unmatched in stores.
The Downtown Farmers Market
At the Downtown Farmers Market on Locust Lane in State College, frequent costumers from throughout the last 25 years have likely enjoyed face-to-face interactions with Barrie Moser. Moser’s Garden Produce first joined the market (originally established in the 1970s) in 1992, and Moser has been a mainstay of the thriving farmers market since.
“I really don’t think there is a better-quality product than what you can get at the farmers market,” said Moser, whose Moser’s Garden Produce has supplied shoppers of the Friday market with large varieties of fruits and vegetables over the years. “It’s almost impossible to get produce that was picked that same day anywhere else. A lot of people really appreciate the flavor of the fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, asparagus — all the crops that really are less than a day old when they purchase them.”
In addition to high-quality produce, the Downtown Farmers Market hosts a wide array of vendors selling bread, milk, cheese, beef, honey, plants, baked goods, fresh cut herbs and much more.
“We’re all from within Centre County, and you’re buying it direct from the farmer,” said Moser, who currently serves as the treasurer of the market. “The farmers themselves are there to present their product and to talk about it, so you can ask questions of the farmer that’s growing the food that you’re buying. That’s a great advantage.”
The 2019 Downtown Farmers Market is set to begin in early May and continue through November with the market running every Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
However, it is not only on Fridays that consumers can find Moser’s Garden Produce on Locust Lane; Moser is also a part of the Tuesday State College Farmers Market, a separate market held Tuesdays at the same street location each May to November.
“It’s a great location, and we’ve got a great group of vendors that come to both markets,” said Moser. “With farmers markets, we’re reducing our carbon footprint. There isn’t shipping from one end of the country to another to get stuff to the supermarkets, so we’re saving on fuel. We’re helping the local farmer, and the farmers like us are putting a lot of money back into the local economy.”
The North Atherton Farmers Market
After visiting Moser’s Garden Produce on Friday, head north on Atherton Street to the Home Depot parking lot between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, and you are likely to meet another longtime farmers market vendor, Tony Musso.
For the last 10 years, Musso and his wife, Dee, have been a part of the North Atherton Farmers Market, operating their own organic skin care and health and beauty aid company, Nittany Valley Organics. Today, Tony also serves as the president of the popular farmers market.
“I love dealing with all of the vendors and customers, especially during the Saturday market because of the way we operate the market with e-mails,” said Tony, a marketing professional by trade. “On Fridays, our customers get an email that tells them what vendors are going to be appearing and what they’re going to be bringing. If you watch your email and get your timing right, you can buy fresh beef and fresh chicken; that means that it was just slaughtered in the last seven days. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!”
Thanks in part to Tony’s marketing efforts, as well as to the high-caliber and variety of vendors at the North Atherton Farmers Market, the weekly market grew to include 31 vendors in 2018 and in 2019 will feature approximately 36 vendors, as well as two to four food trucks each week.
This year, the vendor list will feature local growers and makers offering fruits, vegetables, fresh and frozen meats, fish, cheeses and other dairy products, bread, locally brewed beer, wine, and kombucha, non-edible products (including Tony and Dee’s own organic soap and skin care lines) and much more.
The North Atherton Farmers Market will return in mid-May and continue into early November, with the market open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Home Depot parking lot off of North Atherton Street in State College.
The Farmers Market at Nature’s Pantry
With the ongoing success of the North Atherton Farmers Market and with many of the vendors producing food and items able to be sold year-round, a new farmers market was born in December 2018: The Farmers Market at Nature’s Pantry, located at 2331 Commercial Boulevard in State College.
The brainchild of Nature’s Pantry owner Michele Briggs and Tony, the weekly winter market meets the needs and demands of farmers market customers previously unable to purchase in the winter the products they had grown to enjoy in the summer.
“It’s phenomenal; it’s reached and exceeded our expectations for a first-year market,” said Tony. “I’m already running into a problem for next year where everyone wants to be there, and I don’t think I can fit 31 vendors in there!”
The 2019 Farmers Market at Nature’s Pantry will continue every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. until the second week of April.
While the list of farmers markets throughout Centre County continues, there is also another option available to Happy Valley residents looking for fresh, organic produce: CSA programs.
At Tait Farm Foods, located in Centre Hall, the Community Harvest certified organic CSA program provides members with a share of fresh, organic produce grown on the farm and the opportunity to support local farmers while enjoying seasonal produce.
Each week, members are able to pick up their share of fruits and vegetables, often choosing from a selection of common vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, intermixed with lesser known varieties such as celeriac.
Once the fruits and vegetables are selected from the farmers market style distribution, members not only enjoy naturally grown produce with exceptional flavor, they often receive cooking ideas and recommendations on how to prepare the foods they’ve selected — all adding to the experience only found outside of the grocery store.
“The biggest difference [between supermarkets and other options] is our farmers markets are truly very local,” concluded Tony. “You’re getting the highest-quality, fresh food, and you’re putting money right back into the local economy.”