5 reasons to go local

I have this t-shirt that says “Buy Local” on the back. You hear and see that phrase a lot now. Small businesses use it, and so do businesses like Wal-mart and Whole Foods, which hype their willingness to carry foods from local providers. But if everyone’s using it, what does it mean? And has it become a useless marketing term?

“Local” isn’t defined in any official capacity by the government or some other body. And it can’t really be defined by state lines, since where we live in Pittsburgh, we’re closer to Ohio and West Virginia than our state capital. It’s also hard to define it by miles – do you count a day’s drive as local or a certain number of miles from your home? I’ve seen products labeled as “local” in grocery stores where a quick google reveals that I’d have to drive 8 hours to get to the place it was sourced. That doesn’t really feel local.

For my purposes, I’d casually define local as sourced from within my own economic region – the greater metropolitan area of Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania. I’d extend that to sourcing items within a radius I’d be willing to drive to pick up the item itself or to co-ops with drop-off locations throughout that same area. 

By why buy local? Here are my 5 reasons.

  • Simplification. It can be really complicated balancing different priorities with food purchases – organics v. conventional, natural, sustainable farming practices, humane animal treatment. When I buy locally grown and produced food, especially directly from the source, I have more confidence. There is little marketing hype, and I am more confident that the farmer across the table from me at the farmers’ market is not handing me food that’s laced with poison or destroying the viability of the land. He or she has a vested interest in taking care of the land and producing a healthy crop – because it’s his or her family eating that food too and living on that land. It just feels simple.
  • Economics. When you buy something from a local producer, whether that be food or another item, that money stays in the local economy instead of flowing outward to nameless, faceless companies for their exorbitant profit margins. Instead the money is put back into the community through taxes and the costs of running a business, plus supporting the employment of local people. Local producers who also source their raw materials from local sources help keep that cycle going. (e.g. Local distilleries and breweries who source their grain from local farms.)
  • Expertise. While there are certainly people working in traditional chain stores who know their stuff, it is really fulfilling to patronize a local business and benefit from the expertise of the people who run it. I am often willing to pay more for a product or service from a local business simply because there is value added in the customer service that often isn’t there at other stores. 
  • Quality. When it comes to food, I’ve never once been disappointed with a local purchase. It’s also nice that it typically lasts longer, since it’s had less time from the field to my table and spent less time on the highway (or sky) in a refrigerated truck (or plane). I think when a local producer sells you something, there’s a bit of a subconscious awareness that they might see you around town. They take pride in the quality of their products, knowing that it’s one of the best ways they compete with big business. 
  • Because I love my community. I’m proud to live in this area and proud of the great things that people are innovating and creating and growing here. It’s rich in history and legacy, and I want to support businesses that continue that and are helping to make Pittsburgh the most liveable city that it is. 

a small, local victory for bluefin

I think it’s easy to feel sometimes like one person doesn’t make much of a difference. We spend time and energy sharing our passions, not knowing what type of return we are going to get. Will anything change as a result of our efforts? 

Recently, I noticed through Instagram that a local Pittsburgh restaurant – an icon, really – was featuring bluefin tuna as a special. 

Bluefin tuna are apex predators – top of the food chain. They help maintain balance in the ecosystem and are amazing, fierce and fast creatures. And a single fish can bring in more than $1 million at market, its flesh highly prized, especially for sushi and sashimi. So it’s vastly overfished and considered an endangered species by the World Wildlife Federation as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.

Not only are bluefin endangered, but the way they are caught includes high levels of bycatch, so it contributes even more to declining populations of other fish.

So I politely contacted the restaurant about their choice of entree. I stated first how much I loved their restaurant and that’s true. I then briefly pointed out bluefin’s status as endangered, with links to back up my claims. I requested that they take bluefin off their menu permanently, since their menu is already so delicious and strong. I also mentioned, as the ad above suggests, that if we looked at seafood like we look at other endangered mammals, we wouldn’t eat them. Customers would balk at panda on a menu, but bluefin is still considered a delicacy. 

And you know what? They responded. They said they were experimenting with potential summer specials, but in the light of this information, they wouldn’t serve bluefin tuna again on their menu. And they thanked me for my feedback and encouraged me to visit the restaurant again. I sure will.

So it’s a small victory – one restaurant in one state in one country not serving bluefin tuna. But it’s something, and it was as easy as sending an email. These little acts of activism can make a difference. And it’s a win for them, too, because they’re made me a customer for life by showing exemplary customer service and caring about something other than the bottom line.

For more info on responsible seafood practices, check out these posts and resources.

Image: WWF France ad campaign
Source: http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/wwf_bluefin_tuna_overfishing_panda

pittsburgh half marathon recap

My alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday and I shot out of bed with the excitement of a kid at Christmas. I had 45 minutes to fuel and hydrate before we had to be out the door to catch a T into the city for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

When I did my first half marathon last fall, I had an entire spring and summer of training behind it. This year, with a really rough winter, my training was spotty and included zero hills. It definitely wasn’t what it should have been, so while I probably wasn’t in peak physical condition, mentally I was so excited I could barely stand it.

There’s just something about the Pittsburgh Marathon for me that’s hard to put into words. The energy is like a wave. Standing in the start corrals for 35 minutes until my group got close to the start line was cold, rainy and exhilarating. I was trying not to jump up and down from just sheer excess energy – not even nervous, just excited from head to toe. Once we were off, I settled into my music and mouthed the words at some parts, heading through downtown to the Strip District.

I knew my friends and family cheering section was waiting on the North Side, just around mile 6. All I could do was think about getting to them during the first 6 miles. I was moving at a really fast clip and had to sometimes stop myself from getting too excited – my heart was racing and I was smiling like a crazy person. I was getting swept up in the energy. Even the hills on the North Side felt like nothing. 

I spotted my cheerers on the other side of the road from where I was running and I darted across to slap their hands. That moment for me when I saw them cheering and screaming my name and waving signs – it’s indescribable. Maybe it’s because I was never an athlete growing up and the activities I participated in didn’t really warrant “cheering sections.” But I felt like I was soaring and lifted up. So much so that I choked up as I passed them and almost burst into tears right there on Western Ave.

It was with that burst that I crossed the West End Bridge and entered the West End. And hills. And I realized I was way too hyped up and tried to slow my pace again. But by mile 9 around Station Square, I knew the wheels were going to fall off the wagon. My calves started cramping – not even just being sore, but twisting in pain. And my IT band? Yikes. I could barely muster the strength to finish those last few miles. I kept going and managed to only take two small walk breaks for 30 seconds, but I knew the PR was gone. I had used up all my gas in the first 7 miles and was going to run on fumes at the end.

At mile 12 I knew I was going to see my cheerers again during the last stretch, so I really pushed my legs and let that drive me forward. Mark took a few photos of me running by and my face pretty much shows how rough it was. I got to mile 13 and only had a tenth of a mile to go, and one of the medics flanking the end of the route looked directly at me, saw my name on my bib and yelled “You GOT this JOANNA! Just 100 yards to go! You can do it!” and I had to choke down tears again as I basically hurtled myself across the line and walked with jello legs forward to collect my medal and some fuel and a spaceman blanket. And some ice. And meet up with my friends.

I feel like I learn something new about the way I experience running in every race. And this race? I realized how much I just love good races and the thrill of running in general. I still want to push myself to complete a 26.2 this year, and I know how much commitment to training that will take, as well as rehabilitation for my IT band. (I start physical therapy today for an injury I’ve had since last year but never really addressed.) 

But I also realized that for me, PRs are not something to strive for. I’m not fast and I never will be. Completion is the goal, because if I keep pushing at faster and faster times, I end up having a great first half of a race and a punishing second half. I would rather coast along and enjoy myself and the thrill of being out there and watching my cheerers. During this race I was off of my PR ultimately by 7 minutes, which is only thanks to how fast I ran the first 7 miles. 

I do this for health and because I love it, not because I’m ever going to win anything, and I want to stop trying to win against myself. I will remember the first half of this race in my mind as one of the best runs I’ve ever had. And the only thing I’m going to chase this summer is that feeling. 

I can’t forget to mention probably the most important part of this whole thing. Through Run for a Reason and the generosity of my family and friends, I raised $710 for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. My original goal was to raise $350 and I doubled that. Correction – YOU doubled that. I am comforted by the fact that something very good came out of this effort and that there are bellies being filled in our area by the money the Food Bank team managed to raise.

I won’t be writing about running much unless I race during the next few months, so if you’re interested, you can follow me on Instagram and watch for the hashtag #yearofthemarathon to see thoughts and photos on training. So now it’s on to physical therapy and training with some races peppered in here and there – the Columbus Marathon in October being the ultimate goal. Columbus, here I come!

book review: silent spring by rachel carson

In my nearly 9 years of living in Pittsburgh, I have crossed the Rachel Carson Bridge many times – on foot and in my car. I’ll cross it this weekend during the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I’ve always vaguely associated Rachel Carson’s name with Pittsburgh and with environmental stuff. There are outdoor programs and nature trails named after her, so it’s hard to live here and not know her name.

But it struck me recently in doing some reading about pesticides, that I had never read the book that really started it all when it comes to raising public awareness of the risks of pesticides. So I picked up Silent Spring in audio format and got acquainted with Rachel Carson.

(I should note that I would not recommend the audio version that I used. The narrator had a highly obnoxious voice that made it hard to concentrate. I think I would have enjoyed this book even more had I read it in hard copy.)

The book is credited with starting the environmental movement, which still continues to this day, more than 50 years after the publication of the book. Carson’s arguments are centered around the idea that the use of pesticides and insecticides is detrimental to the environment and all things that are a part of it. Actually, Carson calls the pesticides and insecticides that she details “biocides,” since they affect more than just their intended targets. 

Nature doesn’t operate in separate compartments – everything is interrelated. When one piece of the ecosystem is threatened, it threatens the balance and health of everything. This also holds true for water, which while in itself not a living thing is a vital part of all life on earth. As Carson points out, pollution of water somewhere is pollution of water everywhere, since we have a limited supply of fresh water on earth. Along those lines, poison at any part of the food chain travels up and down, affecting predator and prey. This simple summary doesn’t do justice to Carson’s extensive research or her talent with prose (which can be hard to come by in books about science).

Silent Spring is heavy on details, which while that makes it dry at times, is a good thing when it comes to the validity of her arguments. I’d imagine if I had a hard copy there would be footnotes a plenty. It’s also important to keep in mind that it was written in 1962, so some of the particular details of what she talks about aren’t accurate anymore – things like particular chemicals that are no longer in use in agriculture (most notably DDT). But sadly, even the parts that aren’t factually accurate anymore are still relevant, since chemicals that have since been banned have been replaced by others. 

While this book won’t be up your alley unless you’re really interested in pesticides and their impact on ecosystems, it’s worth knowing about this book in the broad sense and what it has done to impact where we are currently with these issues. For more on how Silent Spring jumpstarted the environmental movement, check out this piece in the New York Times from the 50th anniversary of the book’s release. 

Pittsburgh can be really proud that one of its natives was an environmental pioneer and a fascinating person in general. (I’d actually love to read more about her life and the years before Silent Spring, since she died just two years after its publication.)

carnegie VFD 5K recap

Saturday marked my third Carnegie 5K, benefiting my little borough’s volunteer fire department. For a small borough, the race is always well attended. It’s even becoming a sort of tradition among my friends to do it together, since it’s a well organized race with a low entry fee and a nice course through the ever more revitalized downtown Carnegie area. 

It threatened to rain all morning, and we had a few drops at the beginning of the race, but not enough to really make a difference. Ironically the weather turned beautiful just an hour or so after it was all over, but I’m glad it didn’t get rained out. (You can tell it was cold from this group photo, since we’re all hunkered down just a little bit. And yes, my legs were freezing. Good choice for the actual run, but standing around waiting for door prizes afterward, not so much.)

I was pretty proud of my performance, with it being the first short race of the year. I came in at 28:55, 41 seconds off of my PR of 28:14 that I set at the Armed Forces 5K in Erie last July. But realistically, none of my PRs have ever come early in the racing season, since I’m coming off of winter laziness. I’m also trying to train myself to run to my heart rate, not a particular pace. My shoes are just about ready to give out, which I started to feel more acutely this weekend. Just one more week until they are retired!

It was nice to have a low pressure, casual race before this weekend’s Pittsburgh Half where I want to push for that personal record. Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, I’ve made it over the $600 mark for my Run for a Reason fund. Less than one week left, but there’s still time to donate


boston trail half marathon recap

First race of the season is complete – the Boston Trail Half Marathon

I am rarely out in the McKeesport/Elizabeth Township area – I think I might have been there once in the over 8 years I’ve lived here. So I really knew nothing about this section of the Mon/Yough Trail, which is a link in the Great Allegheny Passage. (If I had kept on running, I would have made it all the way to DC!) 

This was an absolutely beautiful trail and perfect weather conditions for a run. Not too much wind, except for a little bit coming back, lots of sun, and relatively cool temperatures for how sunny it was.

Now, me? I wasn’t really in peak condition for a run, let alone a race. Having been out the evening before, getting less sleep and more food and beverage than I would typically consume the night before a race, I knew going into this there would be no PR. 

Instead, it was about like this:

  • Mile 1: Holy cow it’s beautiful out today.
  • Mile 2-3: Wall. Help me. Why did I do this? Last night’s dinner is in my mouth. Why did I do this? I have double digits left. Why did I do this?
  • Miles 4-9: Well this isn’t so bad. Feeling pretty good. Need more water stations. But this is enjoyable. Yes, I will mouth along the words to my music. Look at me go! I’m a runner! I passed the 2:30 pacer! Holy cow, will I actually PR in this?
  • Mile 10: I need more water. Thirsty and face feels like salt monster from Star Trek’s “The Man Trap.”
  • Miles 11-12: My legs. Oh my legs. Oh hi, Wall. Nice to see you again.
  • Mile 13: Complete autopilot. No recollection of this mile whatsoever except for running by an 8 year old and yelling “you’re doing awesome!”

Turns out, the 2:30 pacer didn’t actually keep to a 2:30 pace. So, while that was some good fake motivation for awhile, I ended up really slowing down those last few miles and came in at 2:36:51. (My PR was at last year’s Montour Trail Half Marathon – 2:28:18.) Also I didn’t bring my own water and was relying on the water stations, which wasn’t enough for me.

It was also my first race where I was entirely alone. No fellow runners and no cheerleaders. It worked out that way because it wasn’t really a shining race moment, but it was also an accomplishment in that I pushed through poor prep the night before and finished. 

I really am looking forward to the Pittsburgh Half in less than two weeks and hope to prep properly and break that PR. Carnegie 5K next weekend, too. So stay tuned!

(Also, remember that there’s still time to donate to my Race for a Reason fund benefiting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. I’m just $5 away from $600 and I know I can break that mark in the next two weeks. If you haven’t already donated, please consider getting me over that hump! Donate by clicking here, or read more about why I’m doing this from this post, here.)

Jarosinski Farm Project needs our help, Pittsburgh!

Early this year, Pittsburgh came together in an awesome way to support a Kickstarter project for Superior Motors, a restaurant/culinary school/urban garden in Braddock. It was not only fully funded, but became the largest funded restaurant project on Kickstarter. And only a few days before the deadline, it looked like it wasn’t going to make it.

And now we have another local Kickstarter that needs your help. This one is only for $5,000, but it’s five grand that will go a long way to help a local, first-generation farmer.

Kevin Jarosinski is a farmer in the Butler area, north of Pittsburgh. He is dedicated to sustainability and to humane animal husbandry, and produces pastured poultry, pork and grass-fed beef. We already have suppliers of meat that we use regularly, as well as the three ladies producing eggs in our backyard. But I’ve heard great things about Jarosinski Farms and what he’s trying to do, from the ground up.

The Kickstarter project is to build a springhouse that will allow him to utilize the fresh water spring on his property and be in compliance with all regulations concerning that water usage. The extra money from the project would go toward building more mobile chicken pens, to help him rotate the flock.

I think it’s important for communities to support their farmers in ways beyond just buying their products. Farming can be resource and infrastructure intense – having the proper equipment and set-up is expensive, and farms are always susceptible to elements outside their control, like weather, pests or disease. So when I can, I try to do things like supporting their projects or writing my legislators in support of legislation that protects and supports them.

It also bugs me that so many subsidies and tax breaks are available for large agribusiness, when the same benefits aren’t necessarily available to small farmers and local producers. And it can often be difficult to get traditional funding. So when they need community-sourced funds, the community that benefits from their environmental stewardship and quality products should step up.

So, Pittsburgh. Work your magic. Support Kevin Jarosinski’s Farm Project with me. 6 more days and he’s only just over halfway there. We can push that number up!


run for a reason: one month to go!

In exactly one month, I’ll be getting into a corral in downtown Pittsburgh to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon for the first time. It won’t be my first half marathon, but the first one that feels like it matters in more ways than a personal record. 

Part of it is that the race is probably my favorite of the year, simply because of the energy and fun along the course. I run the core of city all the time on the trails in my training, but to get to run on the actual roads that I travel on my commute is pretty cool. And being part of a swarm of runners is pretty awesome. I’ll even get to retire my shoes after the race – my old faithfuls over to the left that carried me through the first real racing season of my life last year and will carry me into this year’s. 

And the cheering during this race? Awesome. Last year I ran the fourth leg of the marathon relay, so this year I’ll basically be running most of the first three legs. So I’ll get to see sections I didn’t get to see last year. And if the cheering was strong after the half marathon turn-off in the part that I ran, I know it will be strong from the start. 

But besides the fact that the Pittsburgh Marathon gives good swag, has a good expo and gives finisher medals that say “Runner of Steel” on them, this race is important to me because of the Run for a Reason program. Runners know that one of the great pleasures of racing is that the night before you get to carb up on pasta without guilt. And right after the race, when you’ve hauled your body for over 13 miles, a banana and a half of a bagel never tasted so good. But there are people who don’t have the luxury of eating a banana and a half of a bagel for breakfast on a regular day.

I’ve been raising money for the last few months for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and just yesterday made it over the $500 mark. Which is pretty amazing, considering that it will provide about $2500 worth of food for families who need it. 

That’s a lot of food. But I don’t want to stop. I’ve still got a month to go until the race, and I know that $545 doesn’t have to be where I stop. 

There are many great charities that people run for, usually ones that serve people or animals in need, whether groups that provide support for individuals with a particular disease or animals that need to be rescued. I’ve supported other runners in their causes too. And I know how many solicitations people get for charity on a routine basis. To me, there’s something different about a charity that works to meet people’s basic needs. 

Before anything else but water, food is a necessity for human life. There are people who need it – who go to bed hungry or have to send their children to bed hungry because there isn’t enough. That’s quite simply why this matters to me so much. I can’t support sustainable agriculture and just food legislation and eat at restaurants that use local and sustainable ingredients (and are often high-end for that reason) without also having a deep understanding of the fact that some people don’t have enough food to sustain themselves each day, let alone locally grown, organic food. It’s a privilege to choose what I eat for breakfast every morning and in this country, it’s actually a privilege to eat it at all.

Consider donating even a dollar to support my Run for a Reason fund. Often people feel they have to make a larger donation for it to matter, but I’d love to see my fund fill up with a dollar here, five dollars there. Every little bit matters and every dollar turns into five when combined with the GPCFB resources. So if you really want to give $50 and can’t just give $10!

You can visit my donation page by clicking here. Please share it at will. I’m planning on trying to PR at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, and I’d love to blow past my fundraising goal and leave it in the dust with the old PR as well. Thanks for helping me to make that happen! 

why Superior Motors is so important – and not just for Pittsburgh

This past week a Kickstarter campaign started by a local chef, Kevin Sousa, was not only fully funded, but became the most successful Kickstarter campaign for a restaurant in that site’s history. The campaign was for a community restaurant concept called Superior Motors, named as such after the Chevy dealership formerly located in that space. Also notable about the space? It’s located in Braddock, a Pittsburgh neighborhood devastated by the loss of the steel industry, with a 90% population loss. It doesn’t even have a McDonald’s, let alone a restaurant with dinner service. (View the videos describing the project here.)

Mark generously contributed to the campaign as a birthday gift to me. For awhile it looked like they weren’t going to meet their goal. Which would have meant the end for the concept, since though Mr. Sousa is a James Beard semi-finalist chef with a loyal following, banks are not interested in investments in such an economically distressed area.

But in the eleventh hour, a dramatic surge of support pushed the campaign way over the top and it was fully funded. 124% funded, to be exact. 

From Kickstarter campaign website

Superior Motors will be an accessible restaurant for Braddock’s residents, and will help to educate Braddock youth with free professional culinary instruction. A greenhouse on the roof, with room for raised beds, a hostel next door with free housing for workers, a nearby apiary and flock of hens, plus the Grow Pittsburgh Braddock farms nearby, providing the majority of the produce for the restaurant are just some of the layers to this ambitious concept. The Kickstarter information indicates that a core principle will be that no Braddock resident will be excluded from partaking based upon household income. (Visit the page and read more about the details of this project. It’s fascinating.)

And that right there is what makes this concept revolutionary. Yes, the success of the campaign should be looked at as an example of what can happen when Pittsburgh comes together. It truly is an amazing place to live and even when I’m shaking my fist in my car at the traffic approaching the Fort Pitt Tunnel, I am blessed to live and work here. But this goes beyond Pittsburgh.

Fine dining is virtually inaccessible to anyone below a certain economic threshold. And because of that, it’s often thought of as elitist. The same holds true for many issues around health and food. People validly argue that only focusing on issues like organic agriculture and GMO labeling obscures the fact that thousands of Americans don’t have enough FOOD, let alone healthy food.

I am so moved by this concept because it holds at its core the value that good, fresh, quality food belongs to everyone – even communities that have been largely abandoned by society. The idea of Superior Motors embodies the word ‘community’ by feeding, nourishing and sustaining not just the people, but the land and the place and history. It places value there and encourages others to follow. Other communities across the country will look to this project as well, and hopefully attempt to rally around similar investments in their own areas.  

I am so excited to see Superior Motors develop and can’t wait to go eat there someday. It’s going to be worth braving the tunnel traffic, that’s for sure.    

Mother Earth News Fair recap

For the third year in a row, we headed to Seven Springs for the Mother Earth News Fair (MENF). The best way I can describe it is a giant convention and vendor fair for sustainable living. Vendors showcase everything from farming equipment to handmade soaps and workshops are offered for just about all things under the sun – from classes about livestock to home fermentation.

We have found something new to learn and discover each year, and the fair gets bigger and bigger. This year, I went to workshops on chickens in gardens (and how they can peacefully co-exist), home fermentation, building a real foods pantry and foraging for wild foods. A wicked storm moved in on Saturday and when we were soaked and freezing, we skipped an afternoon of workshops to get dry and warm. But otherwise? Awesome.

In particular, the class on lactofermentation inspired me to finally get off my duff and get my kombucha (fermented tea) going at home. Mark had given me all the tools to get started for a gift one year – including a SCOBY – so I don’t know what’s been holding me back from starting. Someone at one of the workshops mentioned that you can’t be afraid to be a beginner. I think it’s given me enough push to get started!

Mark and I laugh that we both leave the MENF each year and want to quit our jobs and move off grid into a cabin in the woods and raise some goats. While that’s not in our immediate future, it’s nice to come away refreshed and with new ideas on how to live more sustainably.

One of my favorite parts of the fair is the presence of all manner of animals. If you follow me on Instagram (@nextgenhouse), you might have seen these guys.

Seven Springs doesn’t offer much in the way of good food options for this fair, which is the only down-side. Particularly at a conference about sustainability, I don’t want to eat commercially raised meat or rock-hard, out of season vegetables. Thankfully there were a few vendors that had some good snack options – and one local food truck in particular that had good meal options – Randita’s Grill.

It’s no secret that we aren’t vegans by any stretch of the imagination, so I was a bit hesitant to try out a vegan food truck. I guess in my head I was expecting creepy textured vegetable protein, but I ended up having a great chili and a fantastic salad that was fresh and delicious (with figs! so yum!), a sharp contrast to the processed commercial offerings at the main food area. (The main food area had a mashed potato martini bar. I mean, seriously. Ew.) I was impressed by the food from Randita’s – and also how the people in the truck kept their cool despite a ridiculously long line and pouring rain. I’m adding their restaurant in Saxonburg to my list of places to try!

Really, we actually end up learning a lot from the vendors we meet. Here are some of my favorites:

Snack Taxi – I bought two reusable snack bags for my lunch and thus far they’ve been working out fantastically. I am working on reducing consumption of plastic bags, so my two Snack Taxi bags have already saved me almost 20 bags! Plus it looks cute too.

St. Lynn’s Press – Pittsburgh publisher of some great gardening books, including some by local authors. We picked up Good Bug, Bad Bug to help us with pest ID. They’ll be publishing The Steel City Garden: creating a one-of-a-kind garden in black and gold by Doug Oster in the fall, which looks to be awesomely Burghy! Might be an idea for our front yard flower area. 

Gourmet Grassfed – I had my first ever beef jerky from Gourmet Grassfed and holy cow (no pun intended), was I surprised at how delicious it was. We bought some jerky and beef sticks – they’ll be perfect for Mark to take out in the woods when he’s hunting all day.

Farm Fromage – Fantastic raw milk cheese from PA farms. I had a mushroom and leek jack cheese which was amazingly bizarre but delicious.

CeCe Caldwell’s Paints – non-toxic, eco-friendly paints, including one called Pittsburgh Gray, which is highly appropriate

Singer Farm Naturals – producer of some delicious cherry juice concentrate. We picked some up to mix with soda water as a yummy drink, but I’m also interested in its use as a recovery drink for running after seeing a blurb about it in an issue of Runners World.