Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

51° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Farmers’ Market draws patrons despite chill

The opening Saturday of the 35th season of the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market was nothing short of a family reunion. Customers asked vendors, “How are the kids?” and “How’s your bro?”

Up to 34 vendors from Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin will gather every Saturday at Illinois’ longest-running farmers’ market to sell everything from fresh arugula to Piedmontese beef. The market is located in a parking lot at the intersection of University Place and Oak Avenue.

Under a green-roofed tent with sweet-smelling flower baskets hanging from the ceiling, Evanston resident Jean Bond reconnected with longtime vendor Jon First. Bond has patronized the market for more than 30 years.

“I’ve been coming to Jon ever since I found him,” she said, remarking he hasn’t changed. “We wait for Jon all winter long.”

While Bond inspected First’s asparagus, wrapped in small bundles for a convenient sale, First said one of his favorite things about the market is the customers.

“You can’t beat the customers,” he said. “I’ve had some of the same customers for years. It’s like a family.”

The produce available changes with the season-peaches in the summer, apples in the fall-and right now, the season is asparagus. Several vendors had the vegetable on display, and First even carried a purple variety.

“Purple asparagus is sweeter, tenderer and takes half the time to cook as green asparagus,” said Michael Flug, one of First’s employees. “You can even eat it raw. I’ve been eating it raw all morning!”

In a continuing effort for the market to go completely green, the city is selling tote bags for a dollar, said Zollie Webb, a 23-year city employee and this year’s market manager.

This year is also the first the market is accepting Link cards, a special debit card issued by the state to those who qualify for food stamps.

Despite these changes, vendors and customers said the market has always been the same.

“I like the camaraderie of the farmers’ market,” said Emma Rosen, working behind loaves of sliced Apple Scrapple, a type of apple bread, at the Great Harvest Bread Co. booth. “You can trade bread for gladiolas.”

Although gray clouds and a cold wind chilled the market’s opening Saturday morning, dozens of loyal customers shopped around with eco-friendly totes and wheeled wire carts used to lug produce home. Many joked about the poor weather and one vendor laughed, “I’m trying to decide whether to drink my coffee or pour it in my shoes!”

Vanessa Vincent, an employee at Lyons Fruit Farm & Greenhouse, said she wasn’t surprised by the turnout in spite of the weather.

“People look forward to this market,” she said, behind rows of potted flowers and cacti. “They’re diehards.”

The customer base consists of not only the Evanston community, but the entire North Shore, Webb said.

“We have folks who come from Wilmette, from Chicago,” he said. “We’re the best market in town.”

The market is open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. It closes for the winter on Nov. 6.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Farmers’ Market draws patrons despite chill