Vendors offer locally produced food, place to mingle at Shady Side Academy
When Brenda Roger moved to Fox Chapel last year, a neighbor welcomed her with fresh flowers and homemade pie from the Fox Chapel Farmers Market.
“It was the nicest thing,” said Roger, who pays it forward every chance she gets. Standing amid a dozen booths in the Shady Side Academy parking lot, Roger gripped a bouquet of sunflowers in one hand and a pint of freshly picked strawberries in the other.
“I'm buying for a friend this week,” said Roger, adding that weekly stops to the market are part of her summer routine. “It's my favorite thing to do. I like to cook, but I'm picky about my produce, and I love the variety you can find here.”
In its fourth season, the farmers market runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through October on the Shady Side Academy campus, 423 Fox Chapel Road.
Founder Sarah York-Rubin said she simply wanted a place where locals could walk and shop.
“I used to drive to other markets and thought it was weird that we didn't have one in the area,” she said.
The aim with the Fox Chapel market is to not only offer fresh meat, produce and bakery goods but to foster a sense of community, York-Rubin said.
“We'll have music every week, and we have tables and chairs for people to sit and talk,” she said.
Matt Ferree, a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, runs the entertainment schedule. Last week, he took to the guitar himself to entertain the small crowds mingling in the parking lot.
With 15 vendors, York-Rubin said, there typically is something to please everyone. From homemade honey to vegan sweets and pasture-raised pork, she said, the vendors each care about sustainability.
Jackie Quimpo, owner of household-management company CleanGreen, distributes organic beauty and cleaning products that use essential oils, not chemicals, to provide the scent.
“I want people to have healthier homes,” Quimpo said. “I'm trying to help them change the quality of their air. The largest amount of pollutants in homes comes from cleaning chemicals.”
Likewise, baker Deanna Hitchcock wants to offer shoppers healthier food options.
Her My Goodies Bakery is in its third year of producing gluten-free goodies such as oat bars and chocolate cookies.
“I run into so many people who have specific dietary needs, and they are excited when I tell them my stuff is almost all vegan,” she said.
Shoppers Emma and Helen Paulini, both students at Fox Chapel Area High School, visited the market for the first time last week and said they'll be return customers.
“I like the home-grown produce,” Helen Paulini said. “I especially like the look of the spinach.”
Emma Paulini said the sisters tend to a small vegetable garden at home where they grow bell peppers, tomatoes and basil.
“It's fun to make recipes with ingredients that you actually grow,” Emma Paulini said. “We make a phyllo dough filled with goat cheese and leeks that is delicious.”
Katrina Manrique, a senior at Shady Side Academy, said it's important to know the origin of food. She staffed the school's booth, where fresh-picked kale and strawberries were flying off the table.
The produce is grown at “The Farm,” the on-campus gardens where students learn to grow veggies, herbs and fruits.
Manrique, 16, gave each customer a recipe for sautéed Swiss chard with Parmesan cheese.
“It's good to let people know that eating healthy can taste good,” she said.
Pat Santarcangelo of O'Hara sat nearby vending her homemade Italian sauce and meatballs.
Using her husband's family recipe, she said, she makes her sauce in a giant pot at a rented kitchen.
“I make it as if my family is coming to dinner.”
In her first round as a market vendor, the 75-year-old was thrilled with people's response to her products.
“I've always wanted to do it, and I thought, ‘Now is the time,'” she said. “I may not know what a meatball is in a few years.”
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.