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Michele Marchetti: Celebrate Farms and Local Food at Second Annual Summer Solstice Celebration

by on June 13, 2012 6:00 AM

Imagine a time when we show as much enthusiasm for a new farm as we do for the opening of a new big box store.

Could those fresh herbs we picked up at the farm down the road bring as much joy as the pots we bought at the new Home Goods on North Atherton Street? (For anyone who, like my husband, has never heard of Home Goods, it’s the “home fashions” chain with a devoted clientele.)

For a growing number of people in this area, that scenario is reality. The price tag for a “share” of a local farm’s fresh produce may still seem steep, but when placed in the context of our overall spending—including those spontaneous purchases at those I’ll-buy-it-but-I-don’t-really-need-it stores—more of us are moving those expenditures from the “Miscellaneous” to the “Vital” column.

We aren’t waiting in line for a new farm to open its barn doors or pushing our fellow canvas-bag toting shoppers to the dirt floor for the last bunch of rhubarb. But we are waiting in line at farmer’s markets and calling ahead about blueberry and strawberry picking.

Penn State and State College Area School District are currently searching for ways to add more farm-fresh produce to their menus. And our local publications are putting farmers on their covers. Processed food is still king but, in this community, asparagus, strawberries, and, yes, even kale are getting the love they sorely deserve.

The fields bursting with the first rewards of the summer harvest are verdant reminders of one of this area’s biggest assets. As our suburban and city neighbors carve growing spaces out of rooftops and abandoned lots, we are surrounded by farmland. We don’t have Old Navy or Whole Foods, but we have farms.

If there was ever a time to appreciate the growing farming community we have in Centre County, it is now. This is the season local food eaters wait for, the one that makes winter tolerable. On Saturday June 16, from 1-4 p.m., come out to Tait Farm and celebrate the season and our farmers at the second annual Summer Solstice Celebration.

Admission is free (there’s a $5 donation for parking), and you can nosh on local food and beverage from Harrison’s Wine Grill & Catering, Elk Creek Café and Ale Works, Gamble Mill Restaurant and Microbrewery, Otto’s Pub and Brewery, Tait Farm, Zola, New World Bistro, The Gamble Mill and Mt. Nittany Winery —all committed to the “Buy Fresh Buy Local” mission. In fact, each restaurant is donating food.

The festivities will include hayrides, live music, a kid’s activity area, and art display by the Farmland Preservation Artists, who donate a percentage of every art sale to the Centre County Farmland Trust, the benefiting organization. Between 2002 and 2007, Centre County lost 67 farms totaling 16,670 acres to development, so the organization’s mission to preserve farmland is an important one. (Learn more about the organization in the article I wrote last year.)

The event is aiming to be zero waste, and all utensils, plates, cups, etc., will be compostable. (Colorado-based Eco-Products is donating all serving materials.) The State College Borough will provide containers and incorporate these discards, along with any food waste, into its composting operation.

The extra hand from the borough is made possible through its food waste collection and composting pilot program, which includes composting services for special events striving for zero waste.

So pick up some greens in Tait’s Harvest Shop, sample beer from breweries that feature local produce, and pay homage to our farms. Just come early. Last year’s event drew 750 people—you would have thought a new Home Goods was opening.

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Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of StateCollege.com. Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMStateCollege or contact her at mitchmarchetti@gmail.com
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