Farmers' Market is a ministry for Sewickley

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - Updated: 2:46 pm

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

Deacon Bob Jancart stands out at the St. James Farmers’ Market in Sewickley. It isn’t because of his prominent beard, it’s the way he engages himself with the farmers and merchants. He has come to know many of them, and to care for them. For him, the event is more than a market, it’s a ministry.

At virtually every booth he can tell you about the merchant and the history of what they sell. He can tell you how their meat is aged, or give tips on how the fruit is kept fresh. 

“We’re bringing the community together in one place,” he said. “People are beginning to call this ‘Little Sewickley.’”

The goods offered are impressive. In addition to the normal fruits and vegetables, there is fresh trout harvested the day before, fresh salmon flown in from Alaska and chicken so fresh that it hasn’t been frozen. The Mediterra Bakehouse offers some 20 different European breads and the Cherish Creamery sells artisan type cheeses.

There are also homemade Ukranian pierogies, specialty cookies, Zeke’s Coffee, which features 32 varieties of exotic coffee, honey from local apiaries, free range eggs and goat meat. The fare changes with the season. Corn and peaches will soon be available, as will pumpkins and gourds in the fall.

“There’s such a wide assortment,” Deacon Jancart said.

The market has a strong reputation among farmers and merchants. “They really do put on a great market,” said Jeremiah Seltzer of the Mill Creek Trout Farm. “It’s one of the best in Pittsburgh.”

The farmers’ market is held the first Saturday in April through the last Saturday before Thanksgiving, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the St.James parking lot. It averages between 40-42 farmers and merchants each week. There is no cost for the booths, but a $5 donation is requested for the St. James vocations ministry.

Deacon Jancart ministers at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Moon Township and the West Hills Health and Rehabilitation Center. He founded the market 14 years ago. He pointed out that part of a deacon’s role is to reach deep into family life and build relationships. The market, he noted, has been a learning experience for him in that it has taught him to be more sensitive to people’s needs and attitudes. 

He has attended the funerals of family members of farmers and merchants and has visited them when they have been hospitalized. It goes hand in hand with his profession as a doctor who specializes in anatomic pathology at the Grove City Medical Center.

“Anytime you enter into a person’s life with the word of God that’s ministry,” he said.

The market, he added, also helps break down barriers in the community. When the St. James community faced an unfortunate issue several years ago, he noted, the farmers and merchants looked past protesters and still supported the market. He spoke of the presence of protestant ministers throughout the years who have congratulated the market for building community.

“We learn to be tolerant and understanding of each other,” he said. “We learn to drop our guard and share our troubles.” It’s allowed people, he added, to see a Church that is very much alive.

He noted people enjoying coffee on the lawn of the adjoining convent. As he spoke, a young boy ran up to him and showed him an apple that he was eating.

The ecumenical nature of the market is seen in the Latin American Children’s Fund booth, which supports survivors of human trafficking.

Deacon Jancart pointed out that there is such a demand for the market that the parish is forced to turn away farmers and merchants. More and more, he noted, it is looking to include local people just starting businesses. Through their association with the market, both the Mediterra Bakehouse and Najet’s Cuisine have expanded to Sewickley.

The deacon noted two phrases that sum up the market. “Think global, act local” and “If you don’t make it, you don’t grow it, we don’t want it.”

The St. James market will run through Nov. 17. Vendor information is available through Deacon Jancart at 412-262-4839. Information is also available by calling the parish at 412-741-6650, or on Facebook — Sewickley Farmers’ Market.

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