Farmers market brings an array of locally grown produce to the city of Evanston
A balding man speaks with gray-haired Sally Stover about the mounds of fresh, green asparagus covering a long fold-out table, while a man and his young son peruse stacks of jewel-colored fruit salsa jars.
Family-operated Stover’s Farm sells its freshly picked and prepared food on Saturdays at the Downtown Evanston Farmers Market. Stover has been coming to the market for over 30 years.
Rather than being transported from thousands of miles away, goods sold at a farmers market are locally grown and produced.
Located behind the Hilton Garden Inn at the intersection of University Place and Oak Ave., the Downtown Evanston Farmers Market vendors provide people with a variety of items such as fruit, vegetables, meat, baked goods, flowers, cheese, milk and eggs. The only vendor that provides a service is the knife sharpener.
The official market terms require that a vendor resides or operates locally, and sells items that are either “of the vendor’s own growing, cultivation, creation, production, or preparation,” or originating from another producer that gives explicit written permission to the vendor to sell on its behalf.
“It’s freshly picked,” says Stover. “We pick everything the day before we come to market, and so it’s nice and fresh for the people. It has a better flavor.”
Eating local food allows for face-to-face communication between producer and consumer as well as support by residents for local businesses.
“You know the farmer that planted, grew and picked that produce,” said Myra Gorman, Senior Program Coordinator for the City of Evanston.
Gorman is responsible for managing the downtown farmers market. The market provides customers with literature about what produce is in season for the locale and recipes using produce that is currently available in the market.
The produce available at Stover’s Farm’s booth shifts with the seasons. Romanesco cauliflower and Honeycrisp apples are popular in the fall, while Red Haven peaches fill customers’ bags in the summer. Dried cherries are the gem of the dried fruit selection. Right now, asparagus is the primary crop sold.
Although the availability of produce changes throughout the year, vendors establish consistent relationships with their customers. Many market visitors know that they will be able to find and purchase from a particular vendor every Saturday during the farmers market’s season.
“Most vendors do not like change! They don’t want their space moved because customers will not be able to find them,” said Gorman.
Friends of Evanston Farmers Market is an organization that exists to educate the public about the benefits of eating fresh, locally grown food and advocate greater access to healthy food for all community members. They organize demonstrations such as a workshop about growing herbs and an activity session for kids about bees.
“You can come to the market and shop, have breakfast or lunch and take in a demonstration while you are there,” said Gorman.
With diverse vendors and loyal customers, the farmers market is both a haven and a resource for the residents and visitor of Evanston.
The market takes place on every Saturday from May 4 through November 2, 2013. It opens at 7:30am and closes at 1:00pm.
Started in 1938, Bennison’s Bakery has provided the city with high-quality European-style pastries, cookies and cakes for many decades. Today, the bakery enhances its customer service by having a booth at the market to showcase its breads.
Lucas Hopkins, 22, and Chet Bauman, 23, play saxophone duets for the market’s visitors. As friends, roommates and fellow music students at Northwestern University, the duo enjoys practicing their craft, entertaining crowds and maybe even making a little money.
Former chefs Joe and Shannon Schmidt run To The Point Onsite Sharpening Service, which serves customers who need their knives and other tools sharpened. Their booth at the market draws in loyal customers as well as interested spectators.
The Downtown Evanston Farmers Market is accompanied by thousands of other farmers markets across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the popularity of farmers markets is increasing, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm and developing personal relationships with the farmers who grow the food they eat.