Temperatures have been rising, and the local landscape is beginning to look suspiciously green. It can only mean one thing: summer is almost here. With better weather and longer days, local farmers' markets are readying for opening day. In Oak Park, Riverside, and Forest Park, residents will soon be abandoning the frozen food aisle and buying their produce fresh from the farm.
In Riverside, the word is expansion as the farmers' market committee works on providing a larger market this year. The market will take place on Wednesday afternoons from 2:30 – 7 p.m in the parking lot adjacent to the Riverside Public Library and Town Hall. The market opens June 5 and runs through October 2, closing on July 3 for the Fourth of July Holiday.
Committee member Kathy Alexander is excited about the changes to this year's market. "The biggest news is that we're growing. We're going to have a lot more vendors this year, with plenty of returning favorites. We worked hard to find a knife sharpener to come once a month, and we've probably doubled our fruit and vegetable vendors."
Shoppers looking for a familiar face will welcome back Lyons and Yoder produce vendors, Primo Pizza, Carl's Craft Soups, Jake's Country Meats and Chocolate Twist. A nursery will offer plants for gardeners, and several bake-good options will be available, including a gluten-free bakery. The library will provide children's programs, and music will be a regular feature of the market.
Alexander thinks the Wednesday afternoon timing is great for the community. "We are so easy to stop by on your way home from the pool or work. This is really a community-minded event every week where you can shop locally for groceries and have a good time."
The Oak Park Farmers' Market's return marks its 38th season. Jessica Rink, manager of the market says the market is a long-standing presence in Oak Park. "It's a really unique thing to have a farmers' market with such a long history."
The market opens in the Pilgrim Congregational Church Parking lot on Saturday May 18 and runs through October 26. The market is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. If the fresh donuts and coffee don't get you moving in the morning, maybe the local blue grass band will get your weekend off to a good start.
Favorite vendors are returning to offer produce, flowers, and locally-sourced goods. Rink notes it's a testament to the market's strength that so many vendors want to return each year. "We only have space for two new vendors this year: Three Queens who will sell organic maple syrup, and Penny Pasty, a bakery."
This year's special events include the May 18 and 25 Go Green days in which different environmental groups will provide information about their activities. The corn roast day takes place from 9 a.m. until noon on August 17, and stone soup will be offered from 9-10 a.m. on October 26, the final day of the season for the market.
Rink notes that the one logistical change should make things easier for customers using LINK payments. "We are moving the commissioners' tent closet to the church to gain computer access and make the system more efficient for everyone."
The Forest Park Farmers' Market returns to the Grove at 7824 Madison Street every Friday from June 21 to October 4 from 3:30 – 7 p.m. Director Karen Dylewski is hard at work bringing the market back to life for another season. Dylewski says the market will continue to offer the same produce, meat, flowers and baked goods that have drawn members of the community for the past several years. As in previous years, there will be musical guests and community events. Facebook friends of the market can like the market to receive regular updates on vendors and events.
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