Evanston competes in farmers market contest

Ariel Rothfield

Every Saturday morning Jeff Morlock and his daughters drive two and a half hours in order to get to the Evanston Farmers’ Market. When they arrive they unpack the truck, load fresh produce onto tables and wait for the crowd to arrive.

Morlock has been doing this for more than 20 years.

“We make the drive every Saturday because this is a nice market,” the J.W. Morlock and Girls farm owner said.

This year the Evanston Farmers’ Market is competing in the American Farmland Trust’s annual America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest.

According to the competition website, the purpose is to “raise awareness about the importance of buying fresh food from local farms and saving the farmland where it’s grown.”

Morlock said he could not agree more with this purpose, and that he believes the Evanston Farmers’ Market has a good chance of winning.

“This is really hard to beat because it has so many vendors and you can actually talk to the farmers and the owners,” Morlock said.

Like Morlock, Danika Murray of Lake Breeze Organics commutes from southwest Michigan to participate in the Evanston Farmers’ Market.

“The two-hour commute is worth it because the Evanston market has a good clientele basis,” she said. “People know about us and our produce, just like we know them.”

Murray said she knows more than 200 customer names and what food they like.

This is Murray’s fourth season at the market. Her booth started in a corner but has graduated to one of the more central locations.

“Location definitely matters,” Murray said. “Since we moved here, we have seen a lot more foot traffic. Part of it is a rise in attendance and another part is because of our location.”

The Evanston Farmers’ Market first opened July 12, 1975. At first there were 24 farmers, but now there are more than 36 vendors selling a variety of goods including fruits, vegetables, meat, breads, olive oils, baked goods, artwork and jewelry.

“I like the Evanston market because it has a good variety of entertainment and produce,” Erin Paul said. “It has gotten a lot better. There is now more entertainment, and the options of produce and vendors have also grown.”

Paul has attended the Evanston Farmers’ Market sporadically over the past three years.

Although she said the market has improved, she does not think it will win America’s Favorite Farmers Market competition.

“I’ve been to the farmers markets in San Francisco and Madison, and it just does not compare,” she said, referring to their sizes.

But the size of a farmers market does not necessarily determine if it wins or loses the competition. The contest is broken up into four categories: large, medium, small and boutique, which is determined by the total number of vendors for the season.

According to the America’s Favorite Farmers Market website, “the size is based on maximum number of vendors selling at the market in a given week” during the farmers market season.

The Evanston Farmers’ Market is competing in the medium market size category.

Each winning market will receive a shipment of No Farms No Food tote bags and be featured in an article on Epicurious.com, a food website.

According to the American Farmland Trust’s website, participants can vote for as many participating farmers as they choose, but can only vote for each market once. The competition ends at midnight Aug. 31.

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