The Indoor Farmers’ Market returned this winter and is underway on certain Saturdays at the Evanston Ecology Center through April 29 from 8 a.m. until noon.
Mark your calendar for Feb. 11, Feb. 25, March 11, March 25 plus four Saturdays during April which are April 8, April 15, April 22 and April 29.
“The Indoor Farmers’ Market gives Evanston residents a winter destination for delicious and local food,” said Margaret Isaacson, program coordinator at the Evanston Ecology Center.
Isaacson manages programs including the Indoor Farmers’ Market, rentals at the ecology center, summer camp and more.
This year, the market season has eight vendors along with a nonprofit organization that aligns with sustainability efforts in Evanston.
“We are thrilled that the market is back this year after a few years’ hiatus,” Isaacson said.
The last Saturday in January included items for sale such as handmade bags, wellness care products, chocolate, Wisconsin grown mushrooms and fare made to order. People were seen dining on tamales prepared by Cocina Azteca of Evanston.
It is important to support local businesses, “because we are neighbors, we’re local,” said owner Inez Torres of Evanston, owner of Cocina Azteca, a business which has appeared at the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market during the warmer season for almost a decade.
“We’ve got to support each other,” Torres said.
Patrons Barbara Butts and Jean Cunningham, both Evanston residents, visited the table of River Valley Ranch & Kitchens of Burlington, Wisconsin.
“It’s the first time I’ve been here in a long, long time,” Cunningham said. “So I just wanted to come and see what’s all here and get something different.
“I want where I live to be a good place and better support local (businesses), that’s how it happens,” Cunningham added.
“I always like supporting things in the neighborhood and when these people are at the farmers’ market (during the warmer outdoor season), I go and support them every week,” Barbara Butts said. “It’s good to come and see who’s here and also support people who are trying to feed me better.”
River Valley Ranch & Kitchens offered frozen brats and soups, popcorn kernels, granola flavors and mushroom varieties including lion’s mane, king oyster, maitake, shiitake and portabella.
Todd Allison of the North Center neighborhood of Chicago, who sold on Saturday morning on behalf of River Valley Ranch & Kitchens, wore a T-shirt that read, “Got shrooms?”
“I’m the shroom guy,” Allison said, adding that, “small businesses and local farmers allow you to basically get better eating in terms of just healthier eating.”
Wilmette resident Dilys Rana said she usually comes to the market for fresh fruits and vegetables, something she wishes there were more of in the winter market offerings.
“I want to support them but I wish there was more … It’s a limited amount of stuff to purchase,” Rana said. “All the items look really good and I really want to support this because I think it’s a really great idea.”
When told of this feedback, Isaacson replied, “At this time, we don’t have any other produce providers on the schedule but we are certainly open to other produce vendors that are interested in participating this year.
“It is an area of growth that I look forward to pursuing for future market seasons,” Isaacson said.
Dilys Rana did say, “The sweet stuff is very tempting.”
Lee and Renee Kulman of Evanston visited the table of The Naked Truffle of Evanston, a business which uses a Highland Park restaurant Pixca’s commercial kitchen to make chocolates, jams plus toffee varieties among other sweets and treats.
Stefan Markov of Evanston operates The Naked Truffle.
“I think it’s good,” Lee Kulman said of supporting Evanston entrepreneurs. “I like that we have a lot of local residents that have restaurants in town.”
Renee Kulman then said, “It’s important to support them. It kind of keeps revenue in town and makes it exciting to see all the experience.”
Markov said he is aware of businesses that started in Evanston that are now thriving.
“It’s very important to support local people that are trying to do good stuff,” Markov added. “These are the businesses that hopefully someday are going to grow and become the big businesses.”
As people walked into the market, the first table was staffed by Misala Calakovic of the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago. Calakovic’s business called Journey One Bar At A Time offers items such as soap, handmade scarves and hair accessories.
“It’s important to support local,” Calakovic said. “There’s a lot of interest in small handcrafted products.”
“It’s a good market,” Calakovic added. “I like this market.”
Save the date for May 6 when the Downtown Evanston Farmers Market returns to the great outdoors.
Karie Angell Luc is a freelance reporter with Pioneer Press.