Farm Market Starts “Glass City” Revival

Jeannette Farm Market 2

By Sienna Rodriguez-12 Grade, Pa Distance Cyber Charter School    

“This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”– Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every Thursday around the evening, the Farm Market sets up. From what was first established from a group effort several years ago has planted its roots in the middle of downtown Jeannette. Tay Waltenbaugh, the Chief Executive Officer from Westmoreland Community Action as well Clyde Bittner the Market Manager and his wife Lucy, were able to talk with me about how this small market is about to alter the face of this forgotten city. The produce from local gardens tended by master gardeners and from the Bridges to Prosperity. Not only do they sell freshly grown produce at an affordable price, but there are also local vendors selling homemade goods. Whether it’s jewelry, cupcakes, or even jam; if it’s homemade you can sell it there. Considering the only thing like a supermarket in this town is the local dollar store, you can imagine not many families can get things of nutritional value for themselves. With poverty rate in this city is just about 23% in 2013, not many are able to make the commute to nearby towns in order to get their groceries. The transportation cost could have been used to cover for household necessities, so you can see why that option might be out the equation for many locals. It’s tough to beat a bag of fresh locally grown tomatoes for just a dollar. Fresh herbs, fruits and veggies all for real affordable prices.

Jeannette Farm Market

This outdoor market is on it’s way to open many doors for the community. The Jeannette Redevelopment Authority provides them land for their set up and for their many gardens around the town. For the past five year, they have only cancelled once. Rain or shine, you can guarantee that the market will be open at 3:30pm every Thursday. Promising potential to have a storefront in the future, the Jeannette Farm Market is on it’s way to be one of the many things this community can look forward to being established. The Westmoreland Community Action has acted like an umbrella for the project as far as resources and funding, but plans to expand things further.

Talks about a laundromat being put in place, affordable clothing store and maybe even a youth center to be established as well. The glamorized image of the once industrious has been painted with an unsafe area. From being the shining Glass City to being considered a fruit desert, revival of the not so active city is coming very soon. The Farm Market is trying to change how people perceive this community.

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“I think there’s a lot of positives in the community. A lot of times in the media Jeannette is pictured as a very impoverished area with a lot of blight. A main street that maybe could be more active. But when you take a look at the community itself. It’s one of the most involved communities when it comes to volunteers. It’s one of the most involved community when it comes to community participation at any level it creates and so forth. There’s a lot of new housing. There’s opportunities with the glass plant, that is now owned by the county being redeveloped. Two hospitals are going to be redeveloped… I keep telling everyone you’re going to hear a lot about Jeannette in the next four to five years.” — Tay Waltenbaugh

 

 

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Clyde Bittner is not giving up the dream of seeing the farm market take off with a storefront soon. With the community’s participation, there would be more opportunity for jobs. The people of Jeannette wouldn’t have to go out their way to a nearby town for their food. Many gardens are set up across the city, one even directly across from where the market sets up. A new bus stop is going to be put in front of the garden and rainwater caught from it will be used to help feed the garden. Buildings have been raised, murals have been painted, and the face of Jeannette is slowly shifting. All things of course, take time. But that’s not stopping these locals from expanding their space for produce. Two acres were obtained recently from the Habitat for Humanity over in West Jeannette to help aid this expansion.  Each and every vendors said they will be doing this for future summers to come. The farm market stands strong because the help from the leaders, vendors, and the neighborhood are all actively participating.

“It’s not just us or the gardeners or the vendors, it’s the community. Because the people here are important. They need to have sustainable foods that can help them in every way… There will always be trial and tribulation but it’s part of the vision. It’s part of the dream.” — Clyde Bittner

A business plan has been made for a Food Hub to be brought into this city. The plan is to hire about 36 people, bringing in produce from up to 1,500 farms within a 200 mile radius from the area to be repackaged and re-purpose it. It will be an educational program to help educate the community on how to eat more nutritiously. Also space within it will be leased out for those wanting to start up a business.  During their off season, they have a planning committee where they gather to plan out the next summer’s market. They plan out the crops, how they can improve business and expand in advertisement so all of Jeannette can be a part of the market.

On the sunny Thursday when I was able to meet with the leaders and vendors of the Farm Market, they were celebrating the Olympics. Anyone wearing red, white, or blue would receive a free hot dog. A great way to show thanks to the community for being a part of this project with them, as well as cheer on America and their efforts in the Olympic games. All vendors I’ve spoken to said they’ll be more than happy to do this again next summer and possible more in the future. So whether it be produce, some baked goods, homemade jams and jewelry, or some dog treat, the Jeannette Farm Market has you covered.
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Sienna Rodriguez is a 12th grader at PA Distance Cyber Charter School and she lives in Jeanette, Pennsylvania. For the past 2 years she has participated in a program at High Tech (in New Jersey) and they offered photography and journalism. The summer before she participated in the Performing Arts Youth Out Reach at the Malcolm X and DR. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Manhattan, New York. She acted in a showcase and wrote some scenes in the production.

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