Mt. Lebanon farmers market to add focus on kids

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Youngsters might want to tag along on trips to the Mt. Lebanon Uptown Farmers Market.

Starting June 14, the market will feature the Power of Produce Club, a program designed to educate children about where their food comes from and encourage them to try new items that might appeal to their palates.

The POP Club is one of the initiatives brought to the market by Kristin Wessell, who started as market manager in March.

“When I was interviewing for the job, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do was encourage healthy eating for both kids and adults,” said Ms. Wessell, who has lived in Mt. Lebanon for 21 years. Online searches led her to the POP Club, which started three years ago in Oregon and has spread to farmers markets across the nation, with a ringing endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The more I read about it, the more excited I became about it,” she said.

To get involved, children can visit the manager’s table at the Mt. Lebanon market, which is open 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays through October in the Washington Road business district.

Each youngster receives a “Passport To Health,” which will be stamped to indicate participation. Activities encourage children to talk with farmers and food producers to learn firsthand about what it takes to bring what they eat to their kitchens.

Another feature is the “Two-Bite Club.” Certain types of foods will be available at the manager’s table for children to take the requisite number of bites.

“Hopefully, they’ll try something they’ve never tried before,” Ms. Wessell said.

She also has arranged for children’s programs on the second Saturday of each month. On June 14, Travis Leivo of Shadyside Worms, a vermiculture system and composting program at Shadyside Nursery, will visit.

“It’s part of my outreach, trying to sell people on getting involved in composting as part of their education and their kids’ education,” Mr. Leivo said. “I’m putting the science into waste disposal.”

He often attends the Mt. Lebanon market to help friend Heather Cramer at her booth, selling products from her East Liberty store, Olive & Marlowe, which sells olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Other booths at the market feature such items as baked goods, cheese and salsa. The staple of the market is the produce brought by farmers from the region.

“I’ve always been a patron of that market,” said Ms. Wessell, who said she has developed a good rapport over the years with farmers and other participants. So when she saw the manager’s position was open, she put in her application.

“I really enjoy this community,” she said. “I thought that was a great way to get involved.”

Ms. Wessell has previous experience in retail and has worked in higher education.

“I’m putting some of the skills I’ve gained for other jobs to use in new, creative ways,” she said.


Harry Funk, freelance writer:

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