At 3 p.m., a crowd forms outside the Carnegie Library in Schenley Plaza as vendors set out their goods at the Oakland Farmers’ Market, where residents can find vegetables, such as kohlrabi, vegan cookies and hot cross buns.
Dino Lopreiato brings Italian baked goods from Vibo’s Italian Bakery in Brackenridge, Pa. He works while he talks, pausing only to sell to eager customers, who enjoy the fresh-baked pies and elephant ears stored on the table. Red-raspberry pie is the popular choice of the day. Lopreiato also sells pepperoni bread, punchi, which are small Polish donuts, and long and round breads.
“Everything is made by hand,” Lopreiato says, showing the differences between two of the same pastry — an indication of their true individuality.
From 3 to 6 p.m. every Friday, about five to seven vendors, including My Goodies Vegan Bakery, Dillner Family Farm and Vibo’s Italian Bakery, set up shop in Schenley Plaza to sell Oakland-area residents freshly grown and homemade food.
The Oakland Farmers’ Market is a project of the Oakland Business Improvement District and has been active in the neighborhood for years, although this is the first year that the market is in Schenley Plaza. According to Deanna Hitchcock, owner and operator of My Goodies Vegan bakery, an independent bakery specializing in pure vegan and allergy-friendly treats, the vendors see about 200 customers on a fast day, typically when the weather is good and students return to Oakland. The market runs from early June until mid-October.
Selling fresh food at farmers markets allows a certain amount of independence.
Hitchcock rents a commercial space to bake and travels to different farmers’ markets around the Pittsburgh area. She has spent six years baking and selling through the farmers’ market circuit.
Hitchcock said that having a farmers’ market in the Oakland area is good for students who often don’t know where to buy fresh or homemade ingredients.
Customers can also find a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, depending on what is in season at the time. Mary Windstein Fournier, of Quiroz Farm, cuts into a lodi apple and offers a sample to a woman, explaining that lodis are early apples, sour and excellent to use in anything in which controlling the sugar amounts is a concern.
It’s Fournier’s first week selling at the market because Quiroz Farm lost a significant amount of its crop in May during an unexpected frost. Jose Quiroz, owner and operator of the farm in Salem, Ohio, said he lost 5,000 plants and wanted to wait until the crop was steadier before he started selling. Now, Quiroz participates in farmers’ markets throughout the Pittsburgh area.
Becca Dischman farms through Dillner Family Farm and puts together boxes of vegetables that she sells at the markets. Here, a person can buy freshly grown and sustainable tomatoes, potatoes, beans, onions, peas, cucumbers and lettuce.
Dischman said she sees many students come to the market especially toward the end of the summer as people move back into Oakland.
Students say they value the opportunity to buy freshly grown food.
Erin Rozwat, a graduate student of Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she goes to farmers’ markets throughout the week and comes to the Oakland Farmers’ Market specifically for fruit and pepperoni bread from Vibo’s.
“I just like shopping local,” said Rozwat.
The Oakland Farmers’ Market is also a place for students to learn how to buy fresh food locally. Junior Shannon Achille, a member of service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, started a program through the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council to help international students learn English as a second language. As a field trip for the program, Achille and her fellow volunteers brought a group of international students to the farmers’ market to focus on buying local foods and integrating into the community.
Achille also enjoys making trips to the market whenever she can.
“I got some rhubarb,” Achille said, holding out her bag. “I’m going to make a pie later.”