Everything you need to know about the Bloomfield farmers market. We’ve got an insiders look at the 40-plus vendors and the best breakfast options.
It’s 6 AM on a Saturday in May. A sticky heat creeps in, reminding us that summer is imminent, and also that the earth is dying. That one tenacious chickadee who thinks it’s in a Disney movie has been chirping since 4 AM, but you’re unconcerned—you’re fast asleep, staving off a hangover with a few more hours of unconsciousness. You won’t be up for a bit—unless, of course, you’re one of the 40-plus vendors hurriedly setting up shop in the parking lot at 5050 Liberty Ave for the Bloomfield Saturday Market.
The Bloomfield Saturday Market is a kind of juggernaut. Situated between S. Winebiddle and Gross streets, the Market is a true modern agora; a locus of diversity. Service industry notables, crust punks and anarchists, queer Pittsburghers (who will run into no fewer than eight of their exes or Tinder matches), tech-bros, new parents with babies named Atticus, crusty elder-Yinzers, and more come together harmoniously to browse the selection of some of the most knowledgeable and passionate farmers, bakers, butchers and makers in the region.
For the past two years, I’ve been one of the dedicated 40-plus vendors, fighting with a tent in the Saturday morning hours when most people are realizing they got in the wrong Uber. You may know me by one of my market pseudonyms such as “Coffee Girl,” “Oh! Coffee,” “That Girl,” “That…Girl?” or “Girl Who Screams That Getting an Advanced Degree in English Only Brings Misery.” In my two years of over-caffeinating everyone at the Bloomfield Saturday Market to the point of renal failure, I’ve witnessed Bloomfield Saturday Market quietly turn into the hottest ticket in town.
Improving the farmers market to build community
Bloomfield Saturday Market, which launched in 2014 by the Bloomfield Development Corporation (helmed by devoted and unflappable Executive Director Christina Howell), was designed to strengthen the Bloomfield community. Proximity to two major bus stops and bike lanes, handicap accessibility, and neighborhood input were key facets to the Market’s desirability. Additionally, partnerships with Allegheny Health and Just Harvest’s Fresh Access program—which gives food-stamp shoppers $2 for fruit and vegetables for every $5 spent with Fresh Access tokens—promoted ecumenical, affordable wellness that would benefit lower-income demographics often alienated by prices at notoriously bougie farmer’s markets.
The explosive growth that has taken place in the past two years has “astounded” former Market Manager Sarah Loser. Loser, who is passing the market manager baton to Abi Gildea after their stellar tenure, noted that in 2016, average attendance was 800 visitors; by 2018 that average had shot up to 1,800-2,200, with vendor numbers shooting from 30 to more than 40. Maintaining momentum and a consistent standard of excellence is key, and Loser stated “we are making sure all of the growth we’re experiencing is sustainable… we pride ourselves on being a well-managed market, [so] we take time to make sure our best practices match growth.”
Over 40 vendors from Pittsburgh & Western Pennsylvania
The diligence and care exercised by the Market staff is evident in the unwavering commitment to and excitement for the market on behalf of the vendors. While many are Pittsburgh-based, a significant number of vendors make literal pilgrimages every Saturday morning just for the chance to participate in such a blissful and profitable market.
Regional Vendors at the Bloomfield Saturday Market
- Who Cooks For You Farm (60 mi)
- Woolf Farms (62 mi), Old Time Farm (56 miles)
- Mill Creek Trout Farm (61 miles)
- Grateful Life Farm (91 mi)
- and Paul Family Farms (140 miles)
Hellish hours and commutes cannot alter the indefatigable vibrancy and enthusiasm the vendors have that is shaped as much by prosperity as it is by an authentic sense of community. “Our first market day at Bloomfield 2018 was revelation…there were so many people…it felt like a festival,” Todd Wilson, founder of Tiny Seed Farm, remarked, adding “[the Market] has given us more exposure. I would say that is one of, if not the biggest benefits of the market…in a close second…[is] just getting to interact with so many people, customers and vendors alike.”
Similarly, Emma Honcharski—a Bloomfielder who works with the dynamic Schmear team at Pigeon Bagel—stressed the spirit of community that makes the Bloomfield Saturday Market unique. “I feel like Bloomfield is always bustling and has this energy of people coming together and supporting local farmers or people making food, but also are there to be a part of a community that exists all the time but really comes alive when everyone (and their dogs and their moms and their babies) are in one place.”
Vendors (and Market Staff) have a dynamic camaraderie, and we often drink together, swap recipes and gardening tips, and collaborate on business ideas together. We’ve seen each other at our most haggard, but we still have spreadsheets of our Market Crushes (if you’ve been, you understand). They’re people who can tell you the story of each radish they grow, and make a functional sling out of a scarf for someone with a broken elbow too stubborn to go to the hospital (that’s not a story about me, to be clear).
The Bloomfield Saturday Market offers the best of the best—so since you know you can’t resist visiting us, here’s a little guide so you don’t get overwhelmed on your first, second, or third visit.
Priority One: Breakfast of Literal Champions
Look, I won’t sugarcoat it. Getting breakfast at the Market is a blood-sport (and getting lunch is… not a thing). The Bloomfield Saturday Market has always set imperiously high standards for food, boasting a lineup that for a while featured Culinary Rockstar and Exemplary Human Becca Hagerty, and this year is no exception. So, you and I both know you want Pigeon. You’ll get here at 8:40 to get a bagel from Pigeon (and that is a unique choice). If you’re ordering your whitefish on everything, lox on salt, or buying in bulk, get here between 9:30 and 10:30 to beat the insurgence of woefully hungover 20-somethings and soccer families. Oh, and don’t tell them you really wish their store was open.
Add some rural flair to your breakfast. Near and dear to my displaced Virginian heart is Wise County Biscuits. After surviving the ghoulish D.C. restaurant scene, James Wolfe and Lena Laskaris relocated to share the Appalachian-style cooking of Lena’s grandmother with you pitifully uninitiated folk. A wildly popular stint at the Bloomfield Winter Market last year fortuitously turned into a regular spot at the main Market. Do you want chow-chow and egg on a flaky biscuit smothered in pimento? Of course you do. Do you deserve it? You certainly do not. So count your blessings.
While you’re waiting for your food, you can get a nitro cold brew from Zeke’s Coffee (occasionally served by yours truly) or if a probiotic hair-of-the-dog is more your flavor, get a cup (or a whole growler) of Red Star Kombucha, made and served with love (and a little delightful snark) by owner Naomi Auth. If you’re looking for a zesty gut-purifier, go for the Spicy Turmeric; if you want to accidentally start your day-drinking at 9 AM (no judgement), try the delectable Clover Queen Ale that clocks in at 4.5 ABV.
I Got Beans, Greens, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Lamb, Rams, Hogs, Dogs…You Name It
Shopping for produce at the Market can feel like you’re Shirley Ceasar doing the #UNameIt Challenge. The place is a damn cornucopia. Don’t shop for produce before you eat, don’t go into it without some semblance of a plan, but DO visit every produce stand, because you’re going to get a something wonderfully different at each stop.
Who Cooks for Your Farm is sort of the Big Daddy, offering multiple tents of organic veggies, herbs and spices. Owner Aeros Lillstrom, who possesses a thoughtful calm that I would not be able to achieve unless I was on horse sedatives, is always on site to make the best recommendations based on your specific needs. They have the best summer squash and Swiss chard I’ve had in awhile. Tiny Seed Farm and be.wild.er farm are smaller-scale, but provide an impressive array of veggies grown ethically and sustainably in Pittsburgh’s backyard. For fruit, I cannot impress on you enough how adorable and charming the Woolf Farm family is. And what’s more, their product puts the peach in unimpeachable. Be sure to not miss Woolf farm’s superb selection apples and their homemade cider.
After you’ve properly mourned Freedom Farms’ infamous Meat Bus, (don’t worry, those handsome brothers are still selling top-notch produce all year–their berries are the best things going) go see Shelly Osborne, co-owner of Old Time Farm, who is basically your rad family friend who taught you how to drive a tractor when you were a kid if you promised not to tell your parents. An ebullient pistol, Shelly is a go-to for grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, heart-stopping cheese and about 15 recipe ideas she can think of on the fly to go with anything she sells. Shelly and the beef-aficionados at Pittsburgh Highland Farm are both purveyors of prime cuts and quality information on the mental and physical benefits of consuming grass-fed, ethically-raised beef.
Make time for #selfcare (and donuts)
The Saturday Market isn’t just for ambitiously over-buying produce like you’re preparing for a cook-off with the Barefoot Contessa, it’s also for taking time for #selfcare. Visit my best friend Tony, who hustles on behalf of his wife’s shop, Lawrenceville’s beloved City Grows. Tony has a slew of seed varieties, house plants, succulents, cacti, aloe and more to augment your home garden, and Tony is the nicest man in the world, and how dare you deny him the simple joy of selling you an adorable succulent (that you can then name Sampson the Succulent)??
Michelle Soto is a resplendent beacon of nurturing self-care, and everything she creates and sells at Cutting Root Farm & Apothecary—whether it’s salves, oils, herbs, edible flowers, botanicals, etc—is cultivated with the revitalization of the earth and the body in mind. Soto had a self-described prolific period of traveling and “bumming” around, and “as I was doing that bumming around, I was going to herb schools and studying plants and making a lot of medicine and working with a group in Arizona who provided free holistic health care to Dinè (Navajo) elders… so I just started making more medicine for that project.” Selling leftover herbs turned into urban farming, which eventually evolved into Cutting Root. Check out her goods, (tip: her syrup designed specifically to mitigate period cramps). And say hi to her dog, the actual ruler of the market, ultra-chill, super-relaxed Alvie (so relaxed, you have to check if they’re still breathing sometimes).
And resolving to buy the flowers herself isn’t just for Mrs. Dalloway anymore. Make your day brighter (and taunt your cat) with flower arrangements from be.wild.er, Cutting Root, City Grows AND Sol Patch Garden, who will feature a “build-your-own-bouquet” situation.
Finally, did you know Onion Maiden is at the Market, and that they sell gourmet Donuts? Go get a donut (or some vegan to-go spreads’n’at) from Brooks, the sweetest, gentlest metal-head there ever was. And for all of you spitefully saying “Donuts aren’t self-care,” I say, “that’s my donut-filled-purse, I don’t know you!”
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Save Time for Hidden Gems
Pup Pup PGH: Co-opting the familiar branding (at least to sad-kids like me and Gen-Xers) of Sub-Pop like good Pacific-Northwesterners, the family-run crew of Pup Pup brought unspeakable heaven to the Bloomfield Winter Market with their Sonoran-style Hot Dogs. They’ll be back full time for the main Market with a tweaked menu AND POPSICLES FOR YOUR DOGS. GET OUT OF HERE. IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER?
Fallen Aspen: Fallen Aspen farm co-founders Jake and Desiree look cooler than you because they are, in fact, cooler than you–but they’re also lovely humans getting piggy with it with their exquisite, ethically-raised pork products. Desiree is also an exceptional artist, and her hand-carved utensils, etc. can be purchased at the Market.
Hello Hummus: Steeped in the life-long tradition of using markets for community and sustenance, Hello Hummus has the most delicious, expansive selection of hummus, dips, salads and more. Will affable owner Zuhair ever remove his sunglasses? You’ll have to visit to find out (he won’t, it’s amazing, visit regardless).
Know before you go…
Water (for humans and puppers), shade and seating are made available by the Market Staff, but it’s never a terrible idea to bring your own water.
Check the Bloomfield Development Corporation’s calendar for events to look forward to like Kid’s Day (lots of babies in suspenders!), Dog Day, and Bike Day.
Parking and towing: Oh, and please, if you anticipate getting into a shot-for-shot showdown at Lou’s or Silky’s on Friday night that will result in you abandoning your car and taking an Uber, DO NOT leave it in the Market lot. You will get towed Saturday morning. Yes, even if you’re a doctor. It’s happening.
Bloomfield Saturday Market 2019 Season Info
Every Saturday from May 18 to November 2, 2019
Time: 9 am to 1 pm
Location: Liberty Ave, across from West Penn Hospital Parking Garage
- Bloomfield Saturday Market Website
- Facebook Pages: the Bloomfield Saturday Market has a dedicated Facebook page, you also might want to follow the Facebook page for Bloomfield Development Corporation, the https://www.facebook.com/bloomfieldmarket/non-profit who runs the market.
- Twitter: @BloomfieldMrkt & @BloomfieldPgh
- Instagram: @BloomfieldPGH