Fresh to Market
Lauren Linhard & Allie Howard
Almost every day of the week, city-dwellers can find a little
taste of country among the busy streets of Chicago at one of the many
farmers’ markets. With fresh fruits, local produce, and delectable
baked goods, these markets offer high quality selections at reasonable
As newcomers to Chicago’s farmers’ markets, we set out to learn the
ins-and-outs of this cultural experience. By visiting several markets,
we came to learn that every market has its own story, as do the people
who work there.
We started with the Willis Tower Plaza Farmer’s Market. Everything
from pizza to chocolate croissants to juicy fresh fruits can be found
below the famous landmark, including Paul Friday’s Flamin’ Fury Peaches
from nearby Michigan.
The Willis Tower Market caters to those with a sweet tooth, though
Katherine Anne Confections brings an entirely new twist to the world of
chocolate truffles. Here you can find flavors of cherry, blueberry,
java, caramel, and citrus mixed with the traditional milk or dark
chocolate. “Depending where the citrus truffle hits your palate first,”
said assistant Maureen Foody, “you can taste lime, orange, or
chocolate.” To create these intense flavors, Katherine Anne Confections
uses local and organic ingredients.
However, more than food can be found at this market. Shirlnise
Blanchard and Vicqui Washington tell the story of inspiration behind
their products. The Enterprising Kitchen, a non-profit group that
raises funds to provide underprivileged women with support services,
sells handmade soaps, lotions, and candles. The women participating in
the program make the products that are sold at the market, with all
profits going back into the foundation. By purchasing their lavender,
tea tree, lemon sage, white chocolate or other scented products, you
are helping disadvantaged women become self-sufficient.
Our journey continued with the Green City Market in Lincoln Park.
Open every Wednesday and Saturday, this market includes produce from
the area as well as samples from local restaurants. While shopping for
fresh veggies, fruits, eggs, and meat, you can also enjoy burgers from
Sunday Dinner, desserts from Hossier Mamma, and lunch from Zullo’s. The
park provides shaded
picnic tables to enjoy your fare.
One of the greener lunch choices can be found at the Tiny Green
Kitchen which offers vegetarian sandwiches and wraps as well as fresh
tofu. They also sell herbs such as basil, cilantro, rosemary, and
chives. All of their herbs and vegetables are grown using eco-friendly
methods. Certified by the Global Organic Alliance, the company owns six
different buildings that use solar-electric and wind energy systems.
A rather unusual addition at this particular market is the tent
housing Sharpening by Dave. A new vendor at Green City Market, David
Nells is an artisan skilled in the craft of knife sharpening. From
lawnmower blades to kitchen knives, Nells can sharpen your tools on the
spot. Nells also offers watch repair, battery installation and band
Just a few blocks from the Gold Coast, we walked to the Division
Street Market. Clearly a dog-friendly environment, owners shopped with
their pets up and down the two blocks of vendors. Though this market
includes all the basics, they featured a large number of flower tents
with Oriental Lilies, Giant Sunflowers, and Mini Glads.
You’ll also find beautiful candles, handmade from local honey and
wax. Using molds and her own ingredients, Darlene Kress creates her
candles from her own bee farm. She has also developed her own soaps and
hand creams. “I helped my Grandpa with his bees,” said Kress. “My
husband did the same. We decided to get some bees for our garden and
our business grew from there.” Her husband collects and makes the jars
of honey as well as different honey-flavored straws.
Another family business at Division Street Market, Rock’n Roll Noodle
Company, makes “authentic ethnic gourmet food with an attitude.” The
brainchild of Anna Abby, the company uses all organic and sustainable
ingredients to create seasonal delicious dishes like Vegetable Pad
Thai, Vegetarian Spring Rolls, and Basil Chicken Noodle. Look for
Anna’s daughters— Sophia, Lena, Cali, and Alex—running the stand.
All of these markets are unique in their own way; however, they all
share one factor: they are located outdoors in the scorching summer
heat. If you are looking for air-conditioned comfort, then the Chicago
French Market is the place for you.
Fresh and local meats and seafood are provided in abundance at the
Chicago French Market. Fumare Meats offers cured and smoked meats from
local sources. They also sell sandwiches if you are shopping at lunch
time. Another vendor, City Fresh Market, also has a large selection of
seafood and meats. You can also find fresh fruits, vegetables, juices,
and other foods.
A mong the fresh, organic, and local offerings at this market is
RAW, a vegan-themed lunch spot dedicated to “raising awareness
worldwide.” Though only located in the Chicago French Market, RAW is
focused on teaching the public about healthy eating and nutritional
benefits of organic raw vegan food through health awareness classes.
There are also handmade baskets on sale to support The Blessing Basket
Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that supports artisans
from poor developing countries. The weavers receive Prosperity
Wages®—significantly higher than normal—which help them feed their
families and create other entrepreneurial activities, lifting them out
Our farmer’s market experience continued with the Museum of
Contemporary Art Market. This is really the market for fresh berries,
including cherries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
Berries from Lehman’s Orchard, Nichols Farm and Orchard, and Ellis Farm
can all be found in one place every Tuesday morning. This market is
also the perfect place to go with the family. A fun and interactive
environment, the event includes a “Summer Creation Station” with museum
representatives guiding children’s activities. Each week, the museum
offers a different hands-on art experience focused around a specific
theme. From floating to flying, flat to form, or mechanics, families
can create and bring home their own work of art.
Our final adventure took us to the Andersonville Farmer’s Market. This
area of the city exudes small town charm. The market embodies a
combination of the old and the new, with contrasts of vintage clothing
and vegan food. Traditional American music plays in the square as you
Kombucha, a fermented tea used for medicinal purposes, is not
usually found at your common farmer’s market, but here you can try
samples and purchase jugs from the Nessalla dealer. Tomato Mountain,
traveling all the way from Brooklyn, Wisconsin, specializes in homemade
salsa, preserves, soups, sauces, and other products in jars. The
Breadman Baking Company came in from Naperville to sell their healthy
all-natural breads and baked goods.
Another unique aspect of this market is the spotlight booth
featuring different shops in Andersonville. We visited Mr. and Mrs.
Digz, a clothing store located just a few blocks north, which had a
wide selection of vintage clothing and jewelry. You can find new,
gently used, and designer vintage such as Gucci, Chanel, and Ferragamo
from the 20s to present day. Owner Emilia Dluglecka also showcases
candles, home goods, furniture, and the diverse work of 20 local
There’s more to each market than the edibles they have to offer.
Take some time and talk to the vendors. Ask them about what they are
selling, learn their stories. Most of these markets continue into the
fall, so you have plenty of time to create your own farmer’s market
experience. Tips and Tricks forNavigating Your Local Farmer’s Market
• Go Early or Go Late. For the best selection, get there early.
Popular-but-limited items may sell out before the day is over. Late in
the day, farmers and other vendors usually prefer to discount products
instead of loading them back up and bringing them home.
• Bring Small Bills and Change. Purchases will go easier and faster if
you have exact change. Larger urban areas tend to sell products in
dollar or fifty-cent increments.
• Come Prepared. If you tend to buy alot, consider bringing a wheeled
cart or wagon to get your farmers market goods home in one trip. The
next best thing is a backpack.
• Ask Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about
unfamiliar produce or the best way to prepare something. You might just find a new favorite food or ingredient.
• Educate Yourself. Take some time before you go to the market to learn
about what foods and produce are in season. Some markets will have
information booths where you can get a crop calendar listing.
• Go with an Open Mind. Be open to try something new. The farmer’s
market provides many interesting items you won’t find at the grocery
To find out more about farmers markets in your neighborhood go to www.chicagofarmersmarkets.us
Published: August 08, 2010
Issue: Fall 2010 Issue