Growing season: Farmers markets bring fresh goods to eager locals


Josh Ritchey of Altoona smells a kohlrabi before buying it from Rispoli’s Produce of Williamsburg during the farmers market at Heritage Plaza in downtown Altoona on Thursday morning.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Farmers market season is in full swing in the region, with vendors offering fresh, local goods.

While the aim is to bring together local producers and customers, the markets also offer an outing for family and friends who can connect over cantaloupe or chat over coffee.

“I like the people; they’re all friendly,” said Virginia Carnell, while shopping Thursday at the Heritage Plaza market in Altoona. “I look forward to doing this every year.”

The downtown setup may be small by some accounts, but it’s drawing big excitement from residents, who said they enjoy looking around and supporting local businesses. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays.

Vendor Tim Wilson of Williamsburg offers a selection of fresh-picked berries and other goods, including sauerkraut, Carnell’s favorite.

The Hollidaysburg farmers market meets rain or shine from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through September on the Diamond.
Courtesy photo

“We run fresh veggies and berries. … That is our claim to fame,” Wilson said.

Wilson said it’s rewarding to provide fresh, local goods to the community, but on top of that, “I get to see young kids and families enjoy it and the farm.”

Wilson and his wife, Karen, own and operate Blue Barn Farm where they also sell their signature berries and vegetables, along with sweet corn, he said.

Produce is just one of many items available at farmers markets, as vendors sell baked goods and beverages as well as condiments and jams.

In Kai-Halona Santore’s case, it’s essential oils and natural herbs. The eighth grader works with her mom and said she enjoys farm market days.

“It’s very, very fun,” said the Blair County Christian student. “Being helpful is fun.”

Fred and Judy Brumbaugh have been selling baked goods, soups and sandwiches for 40 years and always look forward to the market season.

“It’s super,” Brumbaugh said. “I love it and I always look forward to coming back. I love the people and the public, and we get good responses. Altoona has always been close to my heart.”

Kailyn Patterson and her friend, Rene Allison, colleagues at the Altoona Center for Nursing Care, enjoy browsing the market during their lunch break.

“We just look around,” Patterson said, noting she goes to several markets.

“We come for coffee and baked goods and check out the food,” Allison said. “A lot more people should come out and check it out.”

In Hollidaysburg, market manager Melanie Ramsey enjoys connecting with the public in an environment that she said brings people together.

The market is “inherently enjoyable, full of delicious food, and it’s a good way for the community to touch base with each other outdoors,” she said.

At the Hollidaysburg market, Ramsey said, there are typically between 10 and 17 vendors at a time. But the focus is more on quality than quantity.

“The goal is not to make it grow, but it is to make it more successful,” Ramsey said. “With limited space and time, if we had 25 vendors, we could never fit that.”

Every Tuesday, a few hours before the market opens, subscribers get a newsletter that tells them what vendors will be there and what products are fresh and in season.

Ramsey said anyone can subscribe to the newsletter through the market’s Facebook page. Click on the blue sign up button at the top of the screen and fill out a form.

The market is held on Hollidaysburg’s Diamond from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through September.

In addition to produce, offerings include handmade lollipops, milk soap, local honey, cut flowers, herbs, potted plants, handmade jewelry, leatherwork, carved local wood and other crafts. Food trucks are often on hand, too, she said.

In addition, local nonprofits and community organizations are invited to visit the market and share information about community resources and events, she said.

“Recently we have had the Hollidaysburg Area Arts Council, the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective, Blair County Conservation District and SeniorLIFE,” she said.

“After the market, there are the great local shops of Allegheny Street to visit,” Ramsey said. “Tuesdays from 11 to 2 are very enjoyable times in uptown Hollidaysburg.”

Farmers markets are held rain or shine, so coordinators urge visitors to bring an umbrella and perhaps a large bag to carry purchases.

In Bedford County, the Bedford Farmers Market features an average of 30 vendors each Wednesday.

In her four years as manager of the market, Lindsay Salas has looked for ways to make the operation more appealing to the public, including handing out $10 vouchers to youth, seniors and veterans.

The vouchers draw a crowd and for farmers — it gets money into their pockets, she said.

Salas handed out 225 vouchers to youth in just an hour and a half on June 15.

“It’s definitely a hit with the public,” Salas said. “They visit and learn about produce and how it’s made, so it’s educational as well.”

In another promotion, vendors donate products during a weekly giveaway on Facebook. To get into the drawing, people can like, comment and share the post on Facebook Live on the Bedford Farmers Market Page.

“It gives more activity to the market and spreads the word as well,” Salas said.

The farmers market, held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. is located in downtown Bedford near the courthouse and draws more vendors and shoppers every year.

Products can include everything from flowers, baked goods and fresh produce to chicken barbecue and hot dogs.

“It keeps growing,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

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Growing season: Farmers markets bring fresh goods to eager locals

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