Celebrating local food all month

Ahhh, September. Back to school. A faint whiff of fall in the air and, best of all, local food on the table. And lots of it.

To celebrate its first Buy Fresh Buy Local Food Month, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture is partnering with businesses and nonprofits to round up a month's worth of activities, including dinners, a book fair, a biscotti river cruise, cooking classes and a blue ribbon and vegetable competition for artists and growers.

Due to the G-20 summit, however, PASA's annual Harvest Celebration Dinner, originally scheduled for Sept. 25 at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, has been moved to October (date to come) and to a new location -- the Fred Rogers Center in Latrobe.

Founded in 1992 to make farming more viable, PASA has about 200 members in southwest Pennsylvania; about two-thirds are farmers. The group, which has about 5,600 members statewide, provides educational, marketing and business support for farms as well as consumer outreach and community building.

PASA has been celebrating local food in September for four years, but this year decided to grow what had been a week of activities into a month.

"Last year we had such a great outpouring of support," said PASA's Mia Farber. "We wanted more people to get involved and be able to find out what's going on before it's over."

PASA also will promote its online networking program for consumers called Good Food Neighborhood with a $5 discount off the $30 annual membership. Users can create a profile, link to their favorite farms, join discussion groups, share in a side of grass-fed beef and get rewards coupons, among other things (buylocalpa.org/gfn).

Highlights follow; find details and more events at buylocalpa.org/event/chapter/southwest/September/2009.

At 6 p.m. on Sept. 3, "YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip" kicks off Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's free Sustainable September film series at the Main library in Oakland. "YERT" (yert.com) was a yearlong eco-expedition exploring organic farming and green issues in 50 states. Other films are "Ladies of the Land," 3 p.m. Sept. 12, followed by discussion with three local women farmers; "Slow Food Revolution," 6 p.m. Sept. 17, followed by discussion with Slow Food Pittsburgh's Barrie Mars; and "Gimmee Green," about America's love of lawn, 3 p.m. Sept. 26, followed by Phipps staffers offering tips on transforming your lawn into a low-maintenance, high-impact garden.

At 7 p.m. Sept. 2, brillobox bar, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield, will host the Pittsburgh premiere of "FRESH," a call-to-action film celebrating the farmers, thinkers and business people who are reinventing America's food system. The free film is sponsored by PASA and the East End Food Co-op, which is participating in a national Eat Local Challenge in September; to participate sign up at the store.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers hosts the PASA Book Fair on Sept. 6 at SouthSide Works with a section of books about eating locally produced foods and cooking seasonally. "They've brought in special books from a list I put together," Ms. Farber said. Pick up the complete list of 29 books, with titles such as Barbara Kafka's "Vegetable Love," on free PASA bookmarks. The Buy Fresh Buy Local team will be there all day, cooking samples and raffling community-supported-agriculture boxes of produce.

Chef demonstrations, organic and IPM (integrated pest management) gardening techniques and canning and fermentation workshops will be offered at Phipps' farmers market each Wednesday from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.

On Sept. 20, PASA's Blue Ribbon and Vegetable Competition will take place at the East End Food Co-op's fourth annual Art Harvest Festival. Artists are invited to submit a homemade blue ribbon and growers can enter homegrown vegetables. Blue ribbon categories are Most Creative, Most Sustainable and Kids (under 12), $5 entry fee; vegetable categories are Most Awesome, Strangest Shape and Largest, $10 entry fee. Prizes include Co-op gift certificates and baskets of local farm products.

Slow Food Pittsburgh will be showing support for healthy, in-school lunches at the Time for Lunch Eat-In in Mellon Park from 1 to 4 p.m. on Labor Day, Sept. 7. It's part of Slow Food USA's National Day of Action designed to encourage Congress to improve the quality of school lunches for children. Tents and tables will be set up but bring a chair and a potluck dish to share-- that's your admission ticket.

Salsa and marinara sauce will be among four recipes on the menu when Slow Food members offer a free tomato-canning demonstration from 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 13 at Grow Pittsburgh's Braddock Community Garden and Tent.

On Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon, Grow Pittsburgh's Susanna Meyer will explain how she grows vegetables and herbs organically in the greenhouse of the Frick Art & Historical Center. Dress for the weather for this rain-or-shine talk at the Frick greenhouse; $10, or $8 for Frick members.

Other outdoor activities include the Be Local Challenge Hike of food-related businesses in East Liberty and beyond, sponsored by Venture Outdoors from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 16 ($20; $15 for members).

Or join the daylong Mid-Altantic Mushroom Foray (7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sept 12) at North Park; the featured speaker is Gary Lincoff, author of the "Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms." With Mr. Lincoff and other experts on hand, attendees will be able to inspect more than 150 carefully identified mushrooms. Fees vary; contact Jim Wilson at 724-265-2398 or visit wpamushroomclub.org.

Whole Foods Market will host a Local Tomato Taste event on Sept. 12, donate 5 percent of its Sept. 16 profits to PASA and hold a Chefs Celebrate Food Dinner under a tent on Oct. 1.

Local food celebrations also will be held on the rivers -- Enrico Biscotti's dinner cruise at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 -- and at Bocktown Beer & Grille, Schwartz Market, Soba, Kaya, Dozen, Legume Bistro, McConnell's Farm, Soergel Orchards & Greenhouses, McGinnis Sisters and the Spitfire Grille.

Patricia Lowry can be reached at plowry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590. First Published August 27, 2009 4:00 AM


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