Zoe Malin/Daily Senior Staffer
Last Saturday, people milling about at the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market peered at tables filled with bursts of color — pumpkin orange, chocolate brown, tomato red. Many paused to look closer, burying their hands deeper in their pockets first from the chill, then shelling out cash for cookies, fruit, and more.
Located at University Place and Oak Street, the farmers market runs on Saturdays through Nov. 2. For customers, the market begins at 7:30 a.m., but for some vendors, the process starts much earlier. Lyons Fruit Farm, a farm based in South Haven, Michigan, arrived in Evanston at 3:15 a.m. to set up, said Grace Lyons, employee and daughter of the owner of Lyons Fruit Farm.
“In the fall, it’s always dark in the morning so we have to have our lamps up,” Lyons said. “This morning it was pretty windy so it was kind of hard with the tents.”
Lyons said her family’s farm has been coming to this farmers market for about 30 years.
Starting three generations back, the Lyons family started making the drive, which lasts more than two hours.
“I think it’s definitely on my dad’s part,” Lyons said. “He likes that when he was a kid he’d come to Evanston with his parents, and then it’s pretty much just the tradition of coming here.”
Other vendors are completely new to the farmers market. Not Just Cookies, a bakery in Chicago, joined the market this year. Founder Johnathon Bush said he’s excited to be at the market and they’ve attracted new customers in Evanston.
The bakery sells pies and cookies, adding variety to the food customers can find at the farmers market, Bush said.
“We bring lots of smiles to people’s faces,” Bush said. “We’re really baking happiness — that’s our thing — we’re baking happiness because everyone that comes to get cookies and pies, they love it.”
Bush started NJC when he was 13 as a hobby because he loved desserts, and then it developed into a full business.
He plans to shift the focus of NJC from only selling retail to also adding wholesale. But no matter how much the business grows, he remembers how he started.
“I think one of our things that really sets us apart is our story, that I started young with this passion,” Bush said. “So everything we make is with passion and it’s one of a kind.”
Bush is also proud NJC is a natural, non-GMO bakery. Other vendors emphasize similar environmental ties; Green Fire Farm, which sells meat and eggs, prides itself on conservation.
Jacob Marty, owner of Green Fire Farm, said he grew up on his family’s farm but left to earn a wildlife and ecology degree. He’s a sixth generation farmer and wants to use “sustainable, regenerative types of practices”
Marty said he was drawn back to the farm because he realized the worth in a community that really cares, and he wanted to contribute to it again.
“At certain times, I didn’t want to be on the farm and didn’t see myself ever coming back to the farm, and moving on to greener pastures in other parts of the world or the country,” Marty said. “But eventually I learned that there’s a lot to come from the farm and what it can contribute to the community, to my lifestyle, and I really value some of the things it provides for me.”
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