Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obscure Farmer's Markets of Illinois - An Ongoing Vital Information Feature

Hillside, LaGrange Park

I am an invariant picker-upper of free magazines, handouts, fliers, guides, directories, community newspapers and the what-not, as long as its (mostly) (almost always) free. My wife is forever now a believer in this practice after I grabbed a Jewish community paper once in LA and found an ad:
"To our Jewish Friends, Get 50% off admission to Universal Studios"
Or something like that. This free thing saved us nearly 100 bucks on a family outing. Some kinda local news thing introduced us to Danny's neck bones in Melrose Park and Danny's got us to Abruzzo's, and now we eat at Abruzzo's about once a week, and now my wife is picking stuff up too. The stuff she found yesterday, I cannot even remember what type of organ it was, some West Suburban version of Grit, had an ad for the Hillside Farmer's Market. And since our best attempts on Saturday and Sunday did not yield any strawberries, we decided to make the short trek from Oak Park to Hillside for the market.

Vital Information is here to report back this was not one of our area's better markets. There was one vendor. I actually know this operation, or I have seen it before at other desperate-ish suburban farmer's markets. I'm have not performed a very detailed background investigation, but there is some type enterprise that purports to sell produce from "Southern Illinois". I can recognize them by their signs. They have a range of produce that is not fully seasonal to our area, the stand in Hillside had both tomatoes and jalepenos today amongst other fruits and veg. The quality is such that it has the look of an actual, non-industrial outfit, but not the look of a farmer with a passion like Farmer Vicki of Genesis Growers. If this was not enough to scare me away, the prices were pretty high too. Want more, after all of that, they did not have strawberries either. The only selling point of this market, really, was the chance to buy food outdoors. To be nice, I did buy, a box of sugar snaps and a box of grape tomatoes, together for $5. I will not go back, but if you do want to see for yourself, the web info is here.

My wife and I were market un-sated, let alone bereft of strawberries. I grabbed the Blackberry and whipped to my handy-dandy every day a market guide. I had thought there was a market in LaGrange Park or LaGrange not too far from where we stood, and the Agrihappenings page confirmed--anyone know the qualitative difference between LaGrange and LaGrange Park? I expected a bigger market. LaGrange is an upscale, older community, kinda like Oak Park with a bit less enthusiasm for Obama. I expected a Nichol's. I did not expect a Skibbes. Or just a Skibbes. Still, if it was gonna be one farmer manning one stand, I'm glad it's Mr. Skibbe, one of my go-to guys at the Oak Park Farmer's Market. Truth be told, it was one woman manning one stand for Mr. Skibbe, but she had all of Mr. Skibbe's produce: several types of lettuces, green onions, rhubarb, asparagus and gosh darn yes, strawberries. (For the sake of completeness I will also note that they had clearly marked Kentucky tomatoes.) We purchased two quarts of strawberries.

If I was in need of Michigan fruit, as I happened to be today, and I was in LaGrange Park, as I happened to be today, I would stop by this market--location and other info here. Otherwise, there's a reason these places remain obscure.

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