Mercyhurst, neighbors partner to bring farmers market to eastside Erie

Mercyhurst College and the Southeast Hills Neighborhood Watch Group today announced a partnership to situate a farmers market on the northeast corner of E. 38th and Pine Avenue beginning Saturday, Aug. 15.
Area farmers will be welcomed to sell their produce on the vacant lot owned by Country Fair every Saturday for 10 weeks from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October 31.

In addition, the public will also have the opportunity to purchase produce that the college itself has harvested from its new sustainable garden at the Mercyhurst West property in Girard. Members of the college community, including faculty, students, staff and alumni have worked all spring and summer at the garden to raise an assortment of produce using sustainable methods, like chemical-free fertilizer.
The eastside farmers market is the brainchild of 1999 Mercyhurst College alumnus Robert Merski, who also serves as president of the neighborhood watch group. 

“Our group was looking for ways to better utilize the vacant property at 38th and Pine about the time that the City of Erie’s downtown farmers market was discontinued, and we knew that Mercyhurst was very involved in green initiatives so we reached out to them to partner with us,” Merski said.
Besides Mercyhurst’s support, Merski said the city has endorsed the effort as has Country Fair. Further the Erie Community Foundation provided a grant of $500 to help pay for insurance and advertising costs, he said.
Merski said an eastside farmers market will be a godsend for many elderly in the neighborhood who can’t drive and can now walk to the market to purchase fresh produce. Mercyhurst students and employees provide another source of potential customers.

"The neighborhood farmers market is very much in keeping with our mission to advance sustainability both on our own campus and in the community,” said Dr. Chris Magoc, who directs the Mercyhurst Green Team and who, along with Thomas Billingsley, executive vice president for administration, facilitated Mercyhurst’s involvement in the endeavor. “This is an excellent opportunity to not only offer our students and employees healthy food choices, but also to heighten the importance of buying local produce and supporting our local economy. Purchasing local fruits and vegetables consumes less energy and water and generates far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than store-bought produce grown and shipped from an industrialized long-distance agricultural system. There is no better way to practice environmental sustainability than to put money in the pocket of a local farmer."

Merski added, “As a Mercyhurst alum, these are the principles I was taught – having a sense of community and practicing sustainability. This is a good thing to do.”

For more information, contact Merski at 825-7392.

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