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Civic Impact

Farm to Table Conference opens local-food possibilities -- for planting, buying and cooking


The hills around Pittsburgh and throughout Pennsylvania are good for more than dramatic views and traumatic bicycle rides -- they mean the state is inhospitable to large factory farms.
 
And that's a good thing, says Erin Hart, who works in business development for American HealthCare Group. In Pennsylvania, locals have a better chance of becoming locavores: people who eat locally grown foods and get the nutritional benefits of unprocessed meals that move quickly from farm to table.
 
The annual Farm to Table Conference, which Hart's organization runs, will be held March 23-24 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. It offers a taste of local farm products, a guide to preparing them and a chance to learn about the other health benefits of eating right.
 
The conference's farmers' market includes about 20 farms selling eggs, honey, maple syrup, teas and other products, such as seedlings and small plants. Vendors will offer new ways to prepare local foods in a healthy way, including live cooking demonstrations using local ingredients, alongside other demos of garden planting, canning, and heirloom seed use.
 
The many speakers, from educators to farmers and cooks, include Mark Buzzatto, a holistic dentist with a Bridgeville practice, who will talk about how food affects the health of teeth, and your health in general, as well as Christopher Rihn, a Greensburg internal medicine doc who counsels his patients to be locavores.
 
There's even an extra event -- a food tasting the evening of March 23rd, featuring 45 chefs, food producers and farms, all using local products for locally made foods.
 
"Agriculture is Pennsylvania's number one industry and we're exporting a lot of the food that's grown here," Hart says. "And we're importing food not just from other states but from all around the world." She hopes the Farm to Table Conference makes people aware that great local food "is everywhere," and that learning about the possibilities "makes it easier for people to eat from local farms, so that it becomes second nature."
 
"The best thing" about eating local foods, she concludes, "is that you're eating real food, not an invention."
 
Do Good:
Get ready for Citiparks' farmers markets; catch the schedule here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Erin Hart, American HealthCare Group
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