There are many things that make me question our choice to live in Chicago during the winter months. Obviously, the cold is at the top of the list, but lately I’m more likely to be found complaining about the lack of fresh in-season vegetables that are grown locally. And I miss having a Farmer’s Market.
Like a lot of other people, the more aware I’ve become of food chain issues in our country, the more determined I am to stop shopping at my big, chain grocery stores. I know I can’t completely avoid it, but I’m trying pretty hard. This is not easy in Chicago’s winter months. I’ve started to focus on more root vegetables, lettuces, apples, and pears, rather than the out of season items shipped in from South America.
I was glancing through our local paper (a poorly written paper which I usually recycle without bothering to skim) and I saw something in the events listing that brightened my day: Indoor Farmer’s Market at a local church… I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I felt like I opened that newspaper for a reason. Serendipity.
I kept my expectations low, but hoped I’d walk away with a few root vegetables, bread, and some cheese. I mentioned it to one of my sisters, who told the other sister, who called my parents, and suddenly it was a family affair. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who thought this was awesome.
This Farmer’s Market did not disappoint. There were a number of vendors there, all with really nice products. We scored a couple bags of spinach, beets, celery root, two types of potatoes, parsnips, mushrooms, and apples. All fresh, mostly organic. I also found organic duck eggs, organic grass-fed beef, homemade pistachio pesto, organic wheat bread, organic salsa, organic mushroom pasta sauce, veggie patties, and a heavenly garlic spread. All handmade. All natural. All local.
It was a breath of fresh air on a mild winter day. Have you noticed that everyone seems to be a little nicer at the Farmer’s Market? People have a smile on their face, strike up conversation, and seem to savor their time looking over fresh produce while asking the vendors what part of Illinois or Wisconsin or Michigan they’re from. It feels good to take part in a Farmer’s Market, to feel like shopping for the things that nourish your family is an event, rather than a chore. At least it does for me. And doing it in winter was even better. The crowd was thin, which allowed us to take our time and keep our three year old (wearing his Batman costume) on a longer leash than we normally would.
Customers, like me, weren’t the only grateful participants. The vendors all seemed genuinely happy to be there. These Farmer’s Markets are run by Faith In Place (an organization to which I have no ties) that helps congregations in Chicago bring local, sustainable foods to their communities through the winter. According to their website, these markets provide additional income for the farmers over the winter months and 10% of proceeds support The Illinois Farmer Crisis Fund (rather than requiring the farmers to pay a fee to participate). It really is a great situation for the farmers and the consumers, if you ask me.
My only disappointment? It’s a traveling Farmer’s Market and won’t be in my area next week. But, they might be in yours! Lucky you… Check out their schedule here.
What do you miss most about Farmer’s Markets? Do you know of any other indoor Farmer’s Markets in the Chicago-area this winter?
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