John LeClair makes his own cider.
He often uses Golden Russet apples that may not be ideal to eat, but makes a great drink, he said.
LeClair owns J.L. Farm on Shingletown Road, where he grows 56 types of apple trees on the property along with other produce he sells at his farm and to local restaurants.
He was one of 16 farmers that participated Saturday in the ninth annual Centre County Farm Tour, where he passed out farming and recipe tips, and gave visitors a tour of his land.
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The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, with a mission to show patrons where their food comes from.
“The purpose (was) to give people a chance to meet the farmer behind the food,” said Kristin Hoy, of PASA. “There is a lot of interest in local food and how it’s grown. This takes the farmers market aspect and takes it a step further.”
The tour annually attracts about 500 people, Hoy said. All money raised in ticket sales goes back into PASA’s work.
PASA is a Millheim-based nonprofit that aims to improve the economic and social prosperity of Pennsylvania food and agriculture.
Potters Mills residents John and Paula DeCosta are big advocates of buying local.
“We like to support our local farmers and go to a lot of farmers markets,” Paula DeCosta said. “We come out here because it’s close, and we might eat the produce these farmers provide our stores and restaurants with.”
Their goal was to learn something new about the food they consume.
And LeClair gave his guests a lesson on nutrition.
“Collard greens have a lot of calcium, but the nutrition in this beats ‘em cold,” LeClair said about kale as he picked a leaf and showed it to Lewistown residents Al and Betsy Gordon. “It’s the perfect food.”
He likes to slice the kale into thin strips and make a homemade slaw with ranch dressing.
“You can really make anything taste good and still be healthy,” LeClair said. “I think we are what we eat in so many ways.”
Fellow farmer Mark Maloney agreed. His mission was to educate guests on the importance of growing and eating organic foods.
“They have the chance to see where food really comes from, not just the store,” Maloney said.
His farm, Greenmoore Gardens in Port Matilda, is the largest organic farm in Centre County at about 95 acres, Maloney said. Everything he grows is organic.
“It’s the only way to truly get nourishing foods,” Maloney said. “When you use chemicals, it compromises the soil and the seed, and that chemical doesn’t have what we can use naturally.”
As Maloney picked weeds in an herb garden at his farm, Melanie Rosenberger, community-supported agriculture manager for Greenmoore Gardens, gave nearly a dozen tours.
The farm attracted people of all ages, including Hava Ragusea, 5, who was able to try samples of fresh-picked produce.
“It’s especially rewarding when you see young kids and families come, and are able to educate them at a young age about agriculture and the health surrounding it,” Maloney said.
Greenmoore Gardens has participated in the farm tour since 2007.
In the last few weeks, Maloney said he has been reaching out to local restaurants about selling his goods.
“It’s so easy for them to get food through Sysco that comes with big trucks every week and ships everything, but then again there’s something to be said for farms locally,” Maloney said.
Hoy said that more than half of the farms featured this year have been a part of the tours in the past.
“We get some new and some old farms that keep jumping on board with us,” Hoy said. “We just really aim to bridge the gap between the consumer and farmer.”