‘See what smaller vendors have to show’: Evanston indoor farmers market offers mushrooms, vegan soaps


Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern

The Evanston indoor farmers’ market. Stefan Markov of The Naked Truffle and Todd Allison of River Valley Ranch are regular vendors at the farmers’ market.

Divya Bhardwaj, Assistant City Editor

Despite wintry weather, local vendors converge at the Evanston Ecology Center on select Saturday mornings for the city’s indoor farmers market. 

“We as small businesses are always looking to promote our products, and in-person is the way to do that,” said Misala Calakovic, owner of vegan cosmetics company Journey: One Bar at a Time

For a total of 10 dates between January and April, residents can shop for baked goods, handmade skin care products and more at the Ecology Center’s 2024 McCormick Blvd. location.

The indoor market — which first started in 2011 — finally returned for the 2023 season after being canceled midway through the 2020 season, inviting businesses based across the Midwest to share their wares with Evanston residents.

Applications are open to any vendor interested,” said Margaret Isaacson (Weinberg ‘15), program coordinator at the Ecology Center, who reached out to “as many folks as (she) could” from markets in the area. 

Local food vendors make up the majority of Evanston Indoor Farmers’ Market’s options, which include traditional Mexican fare from Cocina Azteca; handmade pies, cookies and cinnamon rolls from Dottie’s Kitchen’s; and mushrooms, sauces and soups from River Valley Ranch, the oldest mushroom farm in the Midwest.

Multiple baskets of mushrooms sit on a table
Baskets of mushrooms. River Valley Ranch is the oldest mushroom farm in the Midwest. (Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern)

Calakovic, who participated in the market before its COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, said she decided to return for every date of this year’s market because of the welcoming environment and customers’ interest in her artisan soap bars, lotions, crossbody bags and accessories. 

“My favorite part is seeing customers happy with my products,” Calakovic said. 

She values in-person interactions with shoppers more than selling online, which she said feels impersonal.

The market also featured several booths that specialized in alternative foods like vegan products. 

The Eating Well, a food company specializing in locally grown products, offers vegan and gluten-free options like its veggie burgers. Mindful Baking, a pastry shop specializing in custom cakes, goes a step further with an entirely vegan and gluten-free menu.

In addition to creating a platform for Evanston residents to support local vendors, the farmer’s market also features a not-for-profit table, providing residents the opportunity to learn about organizations they could volunteer for. 

The Evanston Environmental Association, which helped build the section of the Ecological Center where the market is held,

Mini sweet treats sit on a tray on a red tablecloth.
Dulce Caramel Co. The booth offered alfajores at the Saturday market. (Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern)

is featured at the not-for-profit table once a month. Pat Broughton (Medill ‘76, ‘78), an EEA board member, said the market opens doors for more residents to join the EEA’s cause of environmental education and awareness.

Aside from supporting the farmers market, the EEA also hosts community events including the Wild & Scenic Film Fest and the Evanston Garden Walk, which patrons of the farmers’ market were invited to join. 

“There’s been a steady flow of traffic and lots of people interested in the work that we’re doing,” Broughton said. 

Once the indoor market concludes in April, the outdoor Downtown Farmers’ Market will similarly allow vendors to share their products with the Evanston community. 

Until then, the Indoor Market is one of the only opportunities for local businesses to increase traffic during the colder months. 

“It’s fantastic that the Ecology Center supports local vendors,” Broughton said. 

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