FROM MAY TO NOVEMBER, PITTSBURGH BECOMES HOME TO OVER A DOZEN FARMER’S MARKETS, ALL DOLING OUT FRESH, LOCAL PRODUCE AND OTHER PROVISIONS TO RESIDENTS AND VISITORS TO THE CITY. WEEKENDS MAY BE RESERVED FOR THE FAMOUSLY LONG LINE-INDUCING BLOOMFIELD AND SQUIRREL HILL MARKETS, BUT ON ANY GIVEN DAY OF THE WEEK, THERE ARE FARMER’S MARKETS ACROSS THE CITY, WAITING FOR YOUR PERUSAL. ON TUESDAY AFTERNOONS, IN ITS NEW LOCATION ON 41ST AND WILLOW STREET, LAWRENCEVILLE IS HOME TO A SMALL, BUT MIGHTY, FARMER’S MARKET.
“Let me just count really quick to make sure I get this right.” Lawrenceville Farmer’s Market manager Bryanna Johnson puts down her water bottle, holds out her fingers, and starts counting forwards from the year 2011, the market’s inaugural summer. “…10, 11, 12. We are in our 12th season” says Johnson, celebratorily, who has led the market since 2021. Born and raised in New Jersey, Johnson graduated college and found herself ping ponging between jobs at non-profits, in restaurants, marketing agencies, and even collegiate athletics. When Johnson saw that Lawrenceville United had posted an application for Farmer’s Market manager, something clicked, as if she had found a way to combine all the things she liked about her past work experiences into just one job.
Now over a year into her role, and five as a Pittsburgh resident, Johnson works hard to make the market a community hub. “Over the past couple of years, especially with COVID, the farmer’s market has become this place where people come for a social experience” says Johnson, who on top of everything else plans for each market to feature a different community partnership with a Pittsburgh-serving organization. State representative Sara Innamorato is at the market each week answering questions and sharing information about state programs and benefits. Come the Fall, skip the line at CVS and get your flu shot at the market. (Okay, so you might still have to wait in a line, but at least you’ll be surrounded by those spicy and sweet autumnal aromas).
Community organizing is just the beginning of a long list of skills Johnson uses to keep the Lawrenceville Farmer’s Market a happenin’ place. As she lists them, I begin to lose track of just how many duties she, as the Market Manager, is responsible for. Vendor procurement and vetting, market setup and breakdown, managing social media, and volunteer coordinator are just a few of the big ones. “That’s so many hats!”, I say. Johnson snaps the air with her fingers and laughs. “Thank goodness I have such a big market bag.”
Johnson and I spoke in mid-July when her market bag in question was filling up with dark red, juicy cherries, and blushing peaches. “I have been eating so many cherries,” she admits. “I have not baked with them; I have not done anything but eat my way through pints and pints of fresh cherries for the past few weeks. They are amazing. I did however bake with my peaches. I made a sesame peach crisp with tahini, and it was so good.”
But on a day Johnson would call a success, she only has a moment to spare on her own rounds of buying stone fruit, a weekly fix of kale, and a very special Ube tart. From the moment the 3 PM cowbell clangs, signifying that the market is open, ‘til the very last tent is stowed away at market’s end, Johnson will have spent the market assisting customers as they navigate their way from stall to stall, and checking in on vendors, volunteers, and community partners. She likes to see that even if people are doing most of their grocery shopping elsewhere, they are coming to the market to meet people who are growing food locally, and maybe even try something new, something that reminds them of home, or something that they love coming back for each week.
The Lawrenceville Farmer’s Market is a program of Lawrenceville United. It takes place every Tuesday, rain or shine, from 3-7pm, May 17 through November 22 at Bay 41, 115 41st Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY NINA KATZ
Whip up some something delicious with your farmer’s market finds: