Oak Park Farmers Market is opening on Saturday, May 20, and I’m beyond excited. The market, which will run through Oct. 28, is one of my favorite parts of spring, summer, and fall. The Farmers Market takes place at the Pilgrim Church parking lot at 460 Lake St., one block west of Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park each Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
As a volunteer Friend of the Market and a regular Saturday shopper, I have delighted in the intersecting connections of food, music and community that make up this weekly event. For me, it is like gathering in a town square and visiting with old friends, people watching, and buying produce that tastes so much better than anything that I can buy at the supermarket. To fall asleep, some people count the alphabet or U.S. cities and states. For me, to fall asleep at night, I sometimes count items at the Farmers Market and where they are located: asparagus/apples, berries/broccoli, corn/cauliflower, donuts/delicata squash, eggs/eggplants, flowers, and I’m off to dreamland.
In 2022 there were 25 vendors at the market. Colleen McNichols, the market manager, expects even more vendors this year.
When the Oak Park Farmers Market started in 1976, it was playfully called the Farmer Market, as there was only one vendor farmer.
The Oak Park Farmers Market is popular with people from Oak Park and nearby communities. According to Sara Semelka, public health education manager from the village of Oak Park Health Department, the “number of shoppers varies each week; the average in 2022 was about 3,700 shoppers per week, sometimes reaching as high as 5,000 at the height of the season. Using the weekly average, we would estimate about 88,800 total shoppers, though many of those, of course, were repeat customers who came multiple times throughout the season.”
During the Farmers Market season, I plan to share with you some behind-the-scenes stories about the market — how did the donut sale start and who are the donut makers, more about the bluegrass band, and of course, the vendors.
Joy Aaronson is an Oak Park resident and regular Oak Park Farmers Market shopper. She has been a Friend of the Market and looks forward to volunteering at the market this season. Joy has contributed to Chicago Parent and written the Kids’ World column for the former Logan Square Free Press.