Robin was nice enough to provide a little insider report from last Saturday's Winter Market
The Winter Farmers Market at Epiphany Episcopal Church this past Saturday was quite lively. Epiphany is, to say the least, off the beaten path. It's located near a gentrifying area, and is neighbors with several union halls. There's nothing going on for several blocks on a weekend day; very little foot traffic. It's a beautiful church with a progressive and innovative minister (Rev. Meigan Cameron), but a very small congregation, so not a large built-in constituency for the markets. Markets there have tended to be small (number of customers), and this one was no exception, but as our word has spread and our range of products has widened, I'm finding that those who do attend this market at Epiphany have made the trip there from all over Chicago--sometimes through snowstorms and freezing weather--specifically to support the farmers, to buy locally, to find organic and other sustainably grown foods.
We generally have anywhere from two to eight growers/producers in attendance at our markets with their products. But in recent weeks, I've realized that some vendors can't or won't make the trip to the market (for a lot of understandable reasons), so in order to provide a wide variety of products and in particular to get fresh, local produce to meet the growing demand, I've been making connections with local growers and cooperatives and have been procuring their products (tilapia, fresh lettuce and herbs, mushrooms, cheeses, etc.) and bringing them to market--to a very appreciative clientele. Though I've educated myself as much as possible about the products I bring, the savvy shoppers at these markets have questions about the growing and processing methods, and it's frustrating that I can't always answer to their satisfaction.
There's no substitute for having the grower there to respond directly, but it's just not always possible. My hope is that the success of these Winter Farmers Markets this season will encourage other growers and producers to plan for an extended season and participate next season. I hope you'll consider attending one or more of the remaining markets this season (ending March 30). Let's get the word out that "if we build it, they (the customers) will come" to encourage more vendors to sign on for next year. Be sure to let the vendors who do come know how much you appreciate their presence. And buy generously! For a list of the remaining markets this season, go to www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/M 19510. If you have any questions or would like to be put on my email list for reminders of the markets with pre-ordering info and a list of products represented that week, email me robininwinter AT aol.com. I look forward to seeing you there!--Robin Schirmer, Chicago Area Market Coordinator for Churches' Center for Land & People