Photo by Erika Fleegle
The annual farmer’s market in East Park was held May 8 for the first time this year.
By Erika Fleegle
Northside residents didn’t let overcast skies stop them from getting the first fresh produce of the summer.
East Park played host to vendors of all kinds for the first of the Northside’s weekly farmer’s markets May 8, sponsored by Citiparks. Beginning at 3:30, the vendors opened their trucks, vans, and tables, displaying their wares to the community.
Over 15 vendors were present, selling everything from fresh vegetables to flower baskets to spices and handmade pasta.
“I’ve been coming to this market since I was a kid, and I’m from East Liberty,” noted Daniel, a representative from Zeke’s Coffee. “It’s great to see it grow.”
Zeke’s was serving fresh hot or iced coffee on site that afternoon, along with selling bags of their fresh-roasted coffee beans. Their Market Blend was a huge hit, made specifically for the farmer’s markets the roastery contributes to throughout the summer.
“It’s not too strong,” Daniel says. “It’s perfect for people who want a gentle introduction to coffee.”
The market will continue to grow as the summer wears on.
“It’ll really pick up later, in June or July,” the owner of Zz Bz Jams and Jellies, out of New Bethlehem, said. “There’s another big produce vendor that parks over there, and there’s an apple guy that’s usually across from me.”
But the amount of vendors isn’t the only thing that’s growing – her son and daughter are on hand, making their own contributions to the family business.
“Our grandma does a lot of stuff, not me,” her daughter protested, but mom chimed in, “She started cutting stuff, so that counts for something, right?”
Zz Bz offers a wide variety of jams and jellies, along with delicious canned goods like ginger carrots, dill-pickled green beans, and brown sugar-spiced pickled pineapple.
Family bonds run strong at other booths, too. Freedom Farms, owned and operated by the King family of Butler, was on site, delivering their fresh vegetables and farm-raised meat to the masses.
“Our brothers started the farm in 2009,” one of the younger King brothers tells me over brilliant red bunches of radishes and baskets full of potatoes. “Now, we’ve expanded – we have hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. We use intensive grazing, too, which means the animals get a fresh pasture to graze on every day.”
Other vendors in place that afternoon included Sand Hill Berries, the Pittsburgh Pickle Company, The Olive and Ohio City Pasta, each offering their own unique takes on your average farmer’s market finds (try The Olive Tap’s smoky bacon olive oil as a part of a marinade or drizzle their coconut and dark chocolate balsamic vinegars over ice cream for a sweet and tangy summer treat).
Another special addition to the market was Fresh Access, a program designed by Just Harvest, to allow farmer’s market vendors around the city to accept “tokens” in the place of cash, credit or debit cards, or food stamps. Access cards can be used to purchase a desired amount of $0.50 or $1.00 tokens that act exactly like cash at the Fresh Access tent. Fruits and vegetables, bread and baked goods, meat, dairy, jams, pickles, sauces, and maple and honey products can all be purchased with the tokens. If you have any left over, don’t worry! The tokens are good all season and can be used at any Fresh Access market. Unused tokens can also be returned at the Fresh Access tent and refunded onto an Access Card.
Want to get your hands on what these vendors have to offer? The Northside farmers market will run every Friday until November 20 in East Park from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
For more information, call Citiparks at 412-422-6523 or visit their website.