Here comes spring. Farmers Market opens Saturday

Wild Alaska fish, knife sharpening and free rides for seniors new this year

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Spring has sprung! OK, maybe not so much, but the onset of (somewhat occasional) warmer weather means good news for lovers of locally grown, fresh produce and other delectables.

That's right, villagers, it's time again for the Oak Farmers Market.

The first farmers market of the year kicks off at the same time and same place as last year ­– Saturday, May 18, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pilgrim Congregational Church parking lot, 460 Lake St.

Farmers market enthusiasts can expect to see their favorite vendors return, but the market will be even better this year with new merchants and services, according to Farmers Market Manager Colleen McNichols.

The 44th season launches with Go Green Days – May 18 and 25 – where organizations will provide information about sustainability. Members of the Oak Park Board of Trustees and the village Environment & Energy Commission also will be available to discuss local initiatives. Go Green Days also will feature seed potting activities for children, according to a press release from the village.

This year's market also marks the first time fish will be available. Sitka Salmon Shares, which offers fresh Alaska salmon and other fish, will have a stand at the market. And on-site knife sharpening by American Pride Microfarm also will be an Oak Park Farmers Market first.

More information about the vendors is available at www.oak-park.us/farmersmarket.

Also new at the farmers market this year – free rides for seniors from Oak Park Township. The township is suggesting a one-dollar donation for the ride, but has partnered with the farmers market to help anyone get to the weekly event.

McNichols said in an email that she is "on a mission to save our small family farms from extinction."

She said that two of the vendors are "in dire financial circumstances" due in part to inclement weather this season.

"If they do not have a strong market and CSA season this year, I fear they will not be around next season," McNichols said. "If Oak Parkers step up and buy directly from them, their whole extended families can be supported and continue to farm."

She shared an oft-told story by one of the vendors, noting that a $5 watermelon purchase at a grocery store sends about $1.20 to a non-local vendor in another part of the country.

"If the person buys a much fresher $5 watermelon from the grower at our market in season, the farmer pockets the entire $5," she said.

McNichols said in the email that she wants to "appeal to the highest being" in Oak Park area shoppers to buy local.

"Please show up," she said. "Please consider a CSA share from one of these farmers. Please support an entire family.

"Buy from someone you can look in the eye and ask about recipes, or storage or new preparation ideas to try at home."

Most vendors at the market accept credit/debit cards, along with WIC and senior coupons. LINK cards are accepted by all vendors and cardholders who purchase up to $25 can double their purchase through the Double Value Coupon program.

tim@oakpark.com

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