From a new farmers market to a thriving blog, members of Centre County's local foods movement are ready to celebrate and share a year of accomplishments with the community.
Local Foods Week, organized by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Pennsylvania Certified Organic, will provide opportunities for county residents to meet farmers, enjoy local music and learn how to start or strengthen their own efforts to eat local.
Events begin Aug. 3 with Pennsylvania Organic FarmFest sponsored by PCO, an organization that oversees regulation of organic farming throughout the state. The festival will be held at the Centre County Grange fairgrounds and will include workshops, music, children's activities and more.
Festival planner Erin McCracken said the event is modeled after one held in Maine and was planned here as a way to mark 15 years of certified organic farming in Pennsylvania.
Centre County is home to 24 certified organic farms, she said.
"We wanted to celebrate how successful the organic movement has become," McCracken said. "We want to make local food and organic food as accessible as possible. PCO is doing that by having this event and inviting the community to celebrate with us."
McCracken said workshops on organic gardening, raising chickens, home canning and other topics that normally come at a cost will be offered for free, along with free performances by bands Hoots & Hellmouth, Chicken Tractor Deluxe, Pure Cane Sugar and other local bands. Planning for this year's inaugural event went so well, she said, that a date already has been reserved for next year.
There's also plenty to celebrate out of PCO's successes. In the past year, a new farmer's market started in Lemont, the Friends & Farmers co-operative grocery store has started to take shape and the Spring Creek Homesteading organization started a blog to keep the public informed about buying and eating locally.
After FarmFest, events continue with a screening of the documentary "Fresh!" at the State Theatre at 7 p.m. Aug. 9. The film examines the movement away from chemical-based agriculture and toward sustainable food from local sources.
"You get to see farmers and even a grocery store owner who really takes the message of local food to heart, " said Kristin Hoy, PASA's conference planner and coordinator of Centre County's Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter. "It shows you what's going on the food systems but leave you feeling pretty uplifted."
Local Foods Week will conclude Aug. 11 with the seventh annual Centre County Farm Tour, which will feature 21 farms from throughout the county. Patrons can tour individual farms for $5 each or purchase a $15 pass good for admission to all of the farms on tour. Passes will be available at farmer's markets during Local Foods Week and at Webster's Bookstore Cafe, Freeze Thaw Cycles, Nature's Pantry, Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks, IngleBean Coffeehouse, Tait Farm and the PASA office in Millheim.
Looking at the success of the Buy Fresh Buy Local movement, Hoy said the region's agricultural roots have supported local eating for decades, but increased efforts in homes and restaurants are now coming to fruition.
"There was forethought to emphasize local food and people have responded to it," she said. "We're lucky enough to have room for people to have their own gardens and share the food they grow with others, and I think people were willing to see the benefit that comes from having those options."
Local Foods Week schedule of events
Pennsylvania Organic FarmFest, Centre County Grange fairgrounds, Centre HallAug. 3
• 4:30 p.m.: "Produce Year-round in Your Own Greenhouse" workshop
• 5:30 p.m.: Grace Askew
• 7 p.m.: Chicken Tractor Delux
• 9 p.m. Mountain Minstrelsy
• 10 a.m.: "Take Cover: Selecting and Managing Cover Crops" workshop
• 10:15 a.m.: "You Can Get Good Help: Beneficial Insects in Your Garden" workshop
• 11 a.m.: "Boosting Your Farm's Pest Immunity" workshop
• 11:30 a.m.: "Soil Health" workshop
• Noon: "Chickens in Your Backyard" workshop
• 1 p.m.: "Home Canning Basics: Fruits and Jams" workshop
• 1 p.m.: "Produce Year-round in Your Own Greenhouse" workshop
• 1:30 p.m.: In the Weeds: Identifying and Managing Problem Weeds" workshop
• 3 p.m.: "Building and Using Cold Frames" workshop
• 4 p.m.: Tyne and the Fastlyne
• 5:30 p.m.: Pure Cane Sugar
• 7 p.m.: Hoots and Hellmouth
• 9 p.m.: Cabinet
• Dine Fresh, Dine Local for PASA at Harrison's Wine Grill & Catering
• 2-4 p.m.: Second annual Golden Basket Chef's Competition, Boalsburg farmers market
• 6:30 p.m.: Local Harvest Brews and Eats dinner, The Deli, Restaurant
• 7 p.m.: Screening of "Fresh!" at the State Theatre
• 12:30-5 p.m.: Seventh annual Farm Tour, throughout Centre County
• 12:30-5 p.m.: Farmland Preservation Artists event, Bear Meadows Farm, Boalsburg
• 5-7 p.m.: Local foods dinner at Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks, Millheim