The last time Sara Draper-Zivetz, market manager for the Lawrenceville Farmers Market, spoke with Pittsburgh City Paper, she was facing a world of unknowns.
Draper-Zivetz was preparing to open a farmers market mid-pandemic, and, like all markets that operated during the 2020 season, was focused on creating a safe environment. Designing a low-risk market meant adopting rigorous safety measures, such as designing a one-way path, limiting the number of people entering the space, enforcing mask-wearing, and more.
“It’s been a pretty spectacular season for the market,” says Draper-Zivetz now, about four months after the market’s opening date. She explains that in a typical season, the Lawrenceville market starts strong, then sees a drop of customer and vendor attendance. This year, however, the market has only grown, retaining customers and even accruing a waitlist of vendors.
The market has seen a 600% growth in the use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Farmers Market Nutrition program, something Draper-Zivetz is particularly proud of.
“A huge part of our mission is to address food insecurity in Lawrenceville and beyond,” she says, “and I’m excited to be able to prioritize serving folks who are on those benefits.”
One of the biggest questions for many city markets going into the 2020 season was community; markets often serve as a place for the neighborhood to gather and chat. With social distancing in place, this was expected to be lost.
But Draper-Zivetz has heard the opposite from many of her market patrons. She says shoppers and staff have said the market gives them a sense of normalcy, and personally notes that every week, she’s had the chance to catch up with friends from a distance.
Comments like those paired with the market’s success, were drivers in their decision to extend the season, originally set to end Oct. 27, through mid-December.
This marks the Lawrenceville Market’s first fall and winter season. It will be operating on the same weekly schedule — Tuesdays at Arsenal Park at 250 40th St. in Lawrenceville — with adjusted hours, 3-6 p.m., through Dec. 15. Draper-Zivetz predicts that safety protocols will look similar to today’s market, with adjustments based on any updated health department guidelines.
Thanks to grant money from the PA Fresh Food Financing Initiative, Draper-Zivetz will be able to purchase lights and heaters for the market once temperatures drop. She’s stacked her vendor list with a diverse group of producers — many rolling over from the summer season — and expects that, based on the variety, plenty of fresh food will be available as harvests get smaller. But she is planning to make up for lower produce counts by switching to a holiday-themed, craft-geared market towards the end of the season.
There is a chance that the Lawrenceville Farmers Market will run further into the winter, but Draper-Zivetz isn’t announcing anything yet. Once she sees how the colder months go, she’ll explore the idea.
For more information on the extended season and a list of market vendors, visit lunited.org.