Farmers markets

Heirloom cherry tomatoes at the Market Square farmers market, August 28, 2014. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)

Heirloom cherry tomatoes at the Market Square farmers market, August 28, 2014. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)

You might be surprised how much agriculture there is not far from Downtown. You might be surprised by how much agriculture there is right Downtown and at farmers markets in 120-some other places in season. And the season is longer than you might think, too, as some markets open before all the snow melts and continue right up to Thanksgiving (Beaver’s goes into December). One of my favorites is open year-’round. Find them all on the annually updated list at Here are some of my picks.

Market Square Farmers Market

This is THE place to be Downtown from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays, mid-May through October. Framed by the tall buildings around it, and ringed by the vibrant Market Square food-and-drinks scene, the square fills with vendors and customers and live music and other entertainment. If you’re early, you might see chefs and cooks at Downtown restaurants shopping there. The longest lines form at vendors selling food to eat right now.

Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty

This is the region’s oldest continuously operating market, having opened on July 5, 1941. It’s open year around, from 5 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, so it’s a great way to get your farmers market fix in the dead of winter. “Cooperative” means its owned by some of the farmers, but they also bring in a number of other vendors each week. The old market building is across North Sheridan Avenue from the Home Depot.

Farmers at Phipps

This Wednesday afternoon market sets up on the sustainably-managed lawn at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens on Schenley Drive in Oakland, June through October. The market distinguishes itself by focusing on organic and certified naturally grown fruits, vegetables and more. After the market, you can visit the gardens and Phipps’ cafe.

My farmers market

I call the Mt. Lebanon Lions Farmers Market “my” market because it’s one close to where I live. All season long — June through October — I rarely miss a Wednesday market night, and several of the vendors have become my friends. You’re welcome to come, too. Or you can find your own.

Original Farmers Market

A popular market located just off Route 50 in South Fayette near the coal patch of Cecil, just west of Bridgeville and about a 15-mile drive from Downtown. They call it the original going back to when it was located on the city’s North Side in the 1930s (it actually started years before that, on the Monongahela Wharf). Later the market moved out to the old Heidelberg Raceway. Beneath an open-sided structure, it’s a great country experience, especially in the late summer and fall when farmers put out bushel baskets of tomatoes and hot peppers for “putting up.” It typically starts slow — open Friday evenings in May — and then builds to where it’s open Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings June through October. Just don’t try to buy anything before the market officially opens with the ringing of the old electric “bell.”