Winter farmers market slated to open in December

Audrey Cheng

Local farmers market organizer Dennis Clarkson on Thursday said he is excited to finally introduce Evanston’s winter farmers market next month.

Evanston150’s final vote for the 10 best ways to improve the city included the implementation of a year-round farmers market. Clarkson, who said his market aligns with that goal, faced a roadblock early in the planning process when the building he had hoped to make the market site was held up in probate court.

Eventually, the estate’s lawyer decided the building would not be available for rent, and Clarkson was obligated to find another location. The City of Evanston suggested the Evanston Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick Blvd., as a possible site.

The new location is not as big as the original Oak Street site would have been. Whereas the original building may have hosted 40 vendors over a three-day market, the new site is large enough to accommodate about 22 vendors for one day a week.

Yet the vendors are not complaining, Clarkson said.

“They’re just happy to have a place to sell during the winter,” he said.

Most of the vendors are not from Evanston, so they may be unaware of the significance of the change, Clarkson added. He said the vendors are all people who would normally sell during the regular Chicago area farmers market season.

Joe Burns, cheese maker and marketing manager of Brunkow Cheese of Wisconsin, has been involved in Evanston’s Saturday farmers market for six years. He said he is enthusiastic about the winter farmers market and that he finds numerous advantages in it.

“We already have a great customer base and we’re already traveling from Wisconsin to the Chicago area, so it’s easy for us to double up and go to another location,” Burns said.

Burns said although he is surprised Evanston took such a long time to start a winter farmers market, its establishment is very valuable and makes perfect sense.

“It keeps our customers interested too so they don’t forget you through the long winter,” he said.

Another vendor from Wisconsin, Robin Schirmer of Tomato Mountain Farm, is a strong advocate of the winter farmers market.

“These are really ways of trying to give farmers a place to sell in the off season so that maybe eventually they could live off of farming,” Schirmer said. “But obviously it’s serving the need of the community as well.”

Schirmer also has some experience coordinating farmers markets. From 2007 to 2010, Schirmer organized 50 indoor farmers markets.

“It’s a real sacrifice for farmers to come,” she said. “Luckily it is becoming a real win-win-win situation. The farmers win, the shoppers win, and the community also wins.”

The winter farmers market will be held Saturdays from Dec. 3 through April 28, except for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

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