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Posted on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

'OccuPIE Wednesdays' effort spreads message of sharing and deliciousness at Liberty Plaza

By Bob Needham

A movement has to start somewhere. Why not with pie?

Free pie, in fact. Handed out each Wednesday in downtown Ann Arbor's Liberty Plaza. With no demands or expectations, just a message of sharing. And a hope that the revolution catches on.

Sarah Fertig’s movement already has all the ingredients in place: Catchy slogans, dedication to the cause, grounding in a definite philosophical outlook, and even a manifesto. Except hers is a "maniFEASTo." Because of the pie.

Although good humor and bad puns flavor all her efforts, Fertig's clearly not kidding about any of this. Her weekly pie giveaways—dubbed "OccuPIE Wednesdays," of course—stem from a real desire to make a difference.

It all started cooking with Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's "factory speech" and President Obama's similar remarks, including the "you didn't build that" comment that became a flash point.

Getting her fill of disputes on social media, Fertig—a 27-year-old Ypsilanti resident originally from Brighton—decided to do something.

"“I wasn’t satisfied with just arguing with people on the Internet,” Fertig said while dishing up slices during last week's OccuPIE.


"I have a pie. I just baked it and I'm really proud of it. It looks delicious. But even though I bought the ingredients and baked it myself, I don't really consider it "my" pie.

"You see, I wasn't born knowing how to bake pies — someone had to teach me. I didn't make the pie out of my own apples or wheat or butter. Someone had to plant a tree, sow a field, milk a cow. Someone had to harvest the crops and process the milk. Someone had to transport the crops to a grocery store so I could buy them. And someone had to lay the roads and maintain the trucks and build the grocery store and operate the cash register. Someone had to install wires so I could have electricity in my house to see the ingredients and bake the pie.

"So even though I put the final product together, untold millions of people have helped make this pie possible. That's why I'm happy to share it with ANYONE who has less pie or no pie. And all I ask in return is that if I'm sharing the pie I made with you, please try to learn how to bake pies yourself, so that someday you too may share pie with someone who has less."

- Sarah Fertig

Find more on the OccuPIE Facebook page

The pie theme arose naturally as she thought about how often pie metaphors get baked into political discourse — "a slice of the pie," "a bigger piece of the pie" and so on. And it proved to be a rather perfect illustration of her outlook: She makes pies, but she couldn't do it without lots of help — from those who provide the ingredients, those who make the baking possible, those who teach how it's done.

"Success or failure do not exist in a vacuum,” she said.

With some help from her boyfriend and baking parner, Chris K., Fertig found a recipe on the Internet and taught herself how to make an apple pie. She baked three the first week.

She wanted to give the pies away in Ann Arbor, where she works part-time at the Delonis Center. She thought about doing it on campus, but settled on Liberty Plaza at Division and Liberty streets, which tends to be a gathering place for some down-on-their-luck residents (as well as the former site of Occupy Ann Arbor, to which Fertig's effort has no connection).

"I just figured the need was much greater at Liberty Plaza," Fertig said. “It’s not just about the message. It’s also about feeding people who are really hungry but also need the encouragement.”

OccuPIE started in July, during the Ann Arbor Art Fair, and has been continuing each Wednesday since. Now Fertig's known as the "Pie Lady," serving up her creations to Liberty Plaza regulars as well as the occasional curious passer-by.

Fertig and her boyfriend start setting up around 5:30 each Wednesday. Last week, Fertig's three homemade pies were gone inside a half-hour, so she went over to the nearby Grand Traverse Pie Co. and bought three reinforcements. Those only lasted about another half-hour.

Sarah Fertig's OccuPIE recipe

Pre-heat oven to 350

Peel and slice 7 apples (a mixture of Granny Smith and Fuji or another sweet apple). Mix apples with 1/4 cup of sugar and place in a colander over a large bowl. Let the apples drain for an hour or longer.

Place homemade or pre-made pie crust in 9 inch pie plate. Layer apple slices and dust with a mixture of 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Reserve the sugar-apple syrup.

Top with a second pie crust and crimp closed. Cut slits in crust to let steam escape. If desired, reduce the sugar-apple syrup over a low flame and use to brush the crust.

Bake for one hour.

Serve to 8 good friends, or 8 total strangers who will become good friends!

“I think this is great. I love it,” a woman named Madeleine said Wednesday in between bites. “If you don’t like pie, there’s something wrong with you.”

For pie customer Todd Eaton, last week's OccuPIE served as an opportunity to think a bit about the concept of freedom. “America stands for freedom,” he said. “This is truly free ... I’m thankful for this. Anyone who comes here and does this — wow.”

Although Fertig initially declined monetary donations, a couple of weeks ago she decided to accept them if offered; she's been spending around $20 a week on the pies she makes, and more if she buys some. Wednesday, several appreciative pie lovers pressed money on her — coins and an occasional folded-up single — even with the donation can nearly hidden behind a table.

As the weather gets colder, Fertig may try to bring a slow cooker for apple cider or cocoa to OccuPIE Wednesdays. She doesn't expect to keep going all winter, but “I'm going to do it as long as it's feasible.”

What Fertig really would like to see is other people taking up the cause — making their own pies and handing out pieces, either here or elsewhere.

“I tell people I’m trying to lead by example,” she said. “It’s really easy to be indignant about the state of the world ... but that doesn’t help anything.”

She noted that she lives on a modest salary, without insurance. “If I can share my pie ... surely the people further up on the scale can share their pie too,” she said. “That’s our revolution, one slice at a time.”

For more on OccuPIE Wednesdays, check out the movement's Facebook page.

Some scenes from OccuPIE Wednesday last week:

Bob Needham is director of entertainment content for Reach him at or 734-623-2541, and follow him on Twitter @bobneedham.



Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

Sarah, thank you for doing this. you are an incredibly sweet lady who is doing this out of the goodness of her heart, and i applaud you for it. as for all the complainers, do us all a favor and keep your bad vibes away. sign me...a grateful pie lover... Madeleine, aka "mady"

Linda Peck

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

How truly sweet!


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

How cool is this? Maybe I'll donate a pumpkin pie next week--those are easy for me to make.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

Sure looks like pie from the Grand Traverse Pie Company to me - not homemade.


Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

More of you can keep voting down....


Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 12:01 a.m.

More of can keep voting down bakerman's comment. But bakerman only speaks the truth. The photo of the pie with the heart is Mountain Berry Pie from Grand Traverse Pie Company. It's an incredible tasting pie made of four different berries and it cost almost $15.

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

Comment 1st later

Bob Needham

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

As the story says, last week she went through three homemade pies so quickly she bought an additional three from Grand Traverse.

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

Great idea........ but I'm sure the "city" will shut them down. After all these pies are made at home where there are no health standards. "Think of the Children"


Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

then keep your ungrateful self away!!!

Angry Moderate

Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 3:13 a.m.

Yeah, just like they shut down Selma Cafe.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

I was thinking the same thing. Health Dept anyone?


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 6:29 p.m.

Making homemade pie takes a lot of work; hats off to the bakers.

Ron Granger

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

Great story. I notice all the folks who regularly post about how fearful they are of the park, how they don't even feel safe walking by, how they incessantly complain that the park should be closed, etc - are absent.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Uh, what does this post mean? That someone being nice proved everyone wrong about how unpleasant this park usually is to be in or by? What is this post, a "take that, you realists?" Can you explain this?


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Who will bring the wine?

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

aabikes, don't look now, but you're on the forum.


Wed, Oct 24, 2012 : 12:27 a.m.

HELLO!!! there are signs conspicuously posted that advise against alcohol....not that it's stopped most people who want to drink down there....


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

certainly somebody on the forum..


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Jessica, You are in inspiration to us least you are to me!


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Alas: someone not complaining endlessly about Liberty plaza and the folks there, but instead using that energy and actually trying to make just a bit of a difference.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

Well, I DO like arguing with people on the Internet. But I also like pie.