Shopping at a farmer's market is a socially and environmentally responsible act.
It's also just one heckuva good time.
This form of direct marketing goes way back - the weekly market where farmers gather to sell their products has been a staple of village life throughout history. It's huge: the modern locavore movement has driven a 400% increase in the number of farmer's markets since the mid-90s, according to the US Dept of Agriculture.
As the public has embraced the eco-logic of small sustainable organic farming operations selling their wares directly to consumers in large urban areas, farmer's markets have expanded to include all kinds of products, services and entertainment. They're a blast! The season is now in full swing, with many markets continuing well into the fall.
Visiting a farmer's market is one of our treasured weekend rituals. Therefore, here’s our roundup of 5 markets that justify carving some precious time out of your summer off-hours:
- Green City Market The original and still champion of Chicago area markets, the Green City offers a unique uber-hip county fair vibe. A favorite field-trip destination of school groups and senior community centers and scene of many a top-rated chef demo, the Green City market takes place in Lincoln Park every Saturday, appropriately sited in the shadow of the Farm in the Zoo. The best way to arrive is on foot or by public transport, as parking is hard to come by in this ‘hood, though discounted parking is available at the Chicago Historical Society. Bring your own shopping bag and plan to spend lots of time browsing stall after stall of produce, flowers and plants, spices, condiments, baked goods, homemade jewelry and art objects and special interest groups looking for a bully pulpit.
This is our town’s only market that runs all year: in late October it moves in doors to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
- Dates/hours: Wednesdays and Saturdays, 7AM-1PM
- Location: South end of Lincoln Park, approximately 1790 N. Clark
- More info: Green City Market; 773/880-1266
- Downtown Evanston Farmer's Market Now in its 37th year, the Evanston market is second only to the original Green City Market in size, attendance and longevity. A foodie's haven, this market enjoys significant participation from the Evanston culinary community, with restaurants and cooking schools offering demos. This year fifty-one vendors will sell a wide variety of goods, including fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, cheese, milk, eggs and bakery items. This market will also appeal to your inner activist. Causes of all sorts find a home and sympathetic audience here. Throngs of people attend weekly to sample all the edibles, along with specialty items, the Homegrown Artists fair, jewelry, clothing and live acoustic music. It’s a happening, occupying a city block just steps from the Purple Line tracks.
- Dates/hours: May 5- November 3, 2012 Saturdays 7:30AM-1PM
- Location: Intersection of University Place and Oak Ave. (behind Hilton Garden
Inn; free parking at Maple Ave Garage
- More info: Downtown Evanston Farmers' Market; 847/448-8045
- Northfield Farmer's Market This market is a top choice among North Suburban offerings. Conveniently staged adjacent to the New Trier west parking lot, Northfield presents a nice selection of organic produce, plants and flowers, along with purveyors of all sorts of baked and small batch condiments, ethically and eco-conciously raised meats, poultry and eggs. Sellers of fine oil and cheeses make this a must for the weekend gourmet; you'll also visit stalls hawking pet products, art wearables and crafts.
- Dates/hours: May 26 - October 20, 2012 Saturdays 7:30AM-12:30PM
- Location: 6 Happ Road, across from New Trier West
- More info: Northfield Farmers' Market; 847/446-4451
- Glenview Farmer's Market Tomorrow is opening day at this long-established market, held in the parking lot of historic Wagner Farm within earshot of the mooing cows that call this 18.6 acre Glenview Park District facility home. The vendors are very supportive of the Northfield Township Food Pantry, making weekly donations of their fresh produce. There's also a Chef's Table featuring local chefs doing cooking demonstrations using produce purchased at the market.
Once you’ve toured the produce, sweet tables and artisan crafts stalls and tipped the musicians you can cross the street to tour Wagner Farm. Volunteers are on hand in the 1920s farmhouse, in the barns and on the grounds to bring the area’s agrarian past to life. The kids can get up close and personal with lambs and goats, or maybe hitch a ride on the vintage John Deere tractor.
- Dates/ Hours: June 23-October 13, 2012; Saturdays from 8AM - 12 Noon
- Location: Directly across from Wagner Farm, 1510 Wagner Road, Glenview
- More info: Glenview Farmer's Market 847/657-1506
- Skokie Farmers Market Held every Sunday on the Village Green, between the Village Hall and Skokie Public Library, this popular, well-attended market has brought vendors and farmers together from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan since 1975. Along with farm market staples like just-picked fruits and vegetables, fresh cut flowers and perennials, it features gourmet food items like fresh made salsas, pickled mushrooms, fresh-baked breads and scones; you'll also find bottled spices, fresh pasta and seasonal beverages such as cider and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
We also enjoy the vendors from more colorful walks of life, like the Old World knife sharpener pumping the foot petal of his antique wheel-powered equipment, or the beekeeper who sells all manner of honey-based products while regaling customer with tales of life among the bees.
- Dates/Hours: June 10 through October 28, 2012. Sundays 7:30AM- 12:45PM
- Location: 5127 Oakton St. Skokie, IL
- More info: Skokie Farmer's Market 847/673-0500