Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don't Stop Now

After dropping off several bags of product (and some yogurt) in our car, my wife and I returned for a second round of the final Oak Park Farmer's market of the season. I reminded my wife that at one time, the final weeks of the market consisted mostly of gourds and bales of hay (it seemed). Today, well there was so much food, it took us two good laps. Moreover, there were so many people, the line at Farmer Vicki's Genesis Grower's was out the door. With this much product, really, should the market shut down today?

There are certain reasons the market's gone into hibernation. Said Farmer Vicki's got a great guy that works for her, although he's one of the few non-gregarious farmers I know. He did reveal much, however, in his laughing reaction to my comment today to him, "glad to be done." Farming and especially market farming, and even more especially organic/sustainable farming like Genesis Growers is incredibly difficult work. The hours on the field are many. Then vending requires very early rising and very full days. I can see why these guys are ready to get some good rest. For some, inventory is dwindling. One of the Michigan fruit guys said that with the two downtown markets they will be at next week, they will have effectively sold all of their crops for the year. One of the Oak Park vendors was plum our of potatoes, to my chagrin as I had planned on buying. At another vendor, all of the tomatoes left were green. Things could be wrapping up.

Or should they? I am bothered by two things. First, I want the pro's to store the crops. Probably 2/3rds of the stuff for sale today could be for sale in a few months, the beets and celery root and parsnips and squash and onions and potatoes and most of the apples, and a few of the pears. These things would last so much better in good cold, conditions, with the proper humidity, moist for most, dry for some, conditions hard to replicate in a suburban home and even harder in an apartment. Kept well, they could be divvied out to aspiring locavores for a good period. Second, there can be robust late season farming. At the Thursday Eli's Cheesecake Factory market, Chad Nichol's was marveling at all of the cold weather crops. Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach all come out better after some frost. Beets and carrots and parsnips can stick around until the hardest frosts, and even those frosts can be put at bay with a bit of tech. A bit more tech, of course, allows for winter farming of lettuces, herbs, arugula and other items.

I've said this before, but the opportunities are wide in this area. There are farmers in the Northeast who do not begin their season until now. Snug Haven Farm in Wisconsin also operates on this schedule. There should be guys who pick up the slack when the hard working market farmer's take a snooze. There are outlets for winter produce. Robin's got her markets, Cassie's got her Green Grocer and Irv and Shelly have their delivery service. Plus, there's the Vie's and Mado's and Lula's serving market driven menu's. Cannot someone jump into this demand?

There is really no reason that the markets need to wrap up now...except for the farmer's who need a well deserved rest.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Looking Ahead

On, I listed all of the good local food recently gotten, both via CSA and through deals offered at the markets. I'll update the inventory here soon. For now, I want to remind you, firstly do hit the markets this weekend. Most Chicago area markets will close shop after this weekend. As I have reported, now is the time to wheel and deal. Then, after your area markets have closed, get ready to hit the winter markets organized by my friend Robin and Tony of Scotch Hill Organic Farm. They have a full schedule planned from November through March. Robin wants me to remind you, to ask ask your favorite growers if they’ll be participating in markets. The first winter market will be on November 8, a Saturday, 9 - 1, at the Church of the Holy Nativity, 9300 S. Pleasant St., Chicago. The following day, Sunday, there's a market at Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin, 39W830 Highland Ave, Elgin. The latest schedule of markets can be found here.

In addition to Robin and Tony's markets, Geneva will be throwing up a winter market again at the Inglenook, 11 North State. This year the markets will be on Saturday's instead of Thursdays--here's a report from last year. I cannot speak to the contents of the market yet, but I will say that any trip to the Inglenook is worth it for the cheese selections of Curds and Whey.

Chicago's Green City Market will be around for several more weeks, going indoors in November, but meeting mostly twice a week. I am not sure where stand, rumblings of market hours in the other winter months. News on Green City's hours as well as other continuing markets, can be found on the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Agrihappening's site.

Don't let anyone tell you, you cannot continue to eat local in the Chicago area after October.