It’s canning time at the Evanston Farmers Market this Saturday, June 8. Come learn to make tasty jam with Myra Gorman, market manager. Myra will lead canning lessons throughout the market season. “Putting by’ lets us enjoy the market wonders all year long! Canning time is at 9 and 11.
And just in case you can’t wait, the New York Times just published an article called, “Decoding Strawberry Jam.” Learn how to guarantee a good ‘set’ right here.
Jessica Soto is a naturalist from Highland Park District’s Heller Nature Center. She is bringing Bee-Wise, her traveling bee exhibit to our market on June 8 and August 17. DEC (District 65) teachers will assist in this wonderful and educational event. Jessica shared this tidbit to whet appetites.
“Honey bees play a huge role in our ecosystem, did you know that they help pollinate 1/3 of our food? Visit us to learn about the different roles of honey bees, how bees live, where honey comes from and to look up close at our portable observation hive to see all the bees hard at work. Stay after to talk with a Heller Beekeeper about questions you may have regarding honey bees or beekeeping and to take a look at our bee display.”
This weekend, May 11, Friends held their first tent event. The new (but not improved) tent put in a brief appearance but had to be removed due to winds threatening to lift the tent into celestial territory. Betz Vancrey and Amy Dale, of GreenEdens Designs, and Teresa Brockman, herb grower, braved the elements to answer questions about growing and using herbs.
We’re all familiar with Teresa Brockman of Sunny Lane Farm in Eureka, Il. Although Teresa was introduced to the growing world at a very young age, it was after living abroad that she returned to Illinois pursuing a passion for growing sustainably. She specializes in zone 5 fruit and herbs. No trip to the market is complete without a stop at her tent.
Betty, a horticulturist, has a long list of certifications (www.greenedens.com). Most interesting to Friends is her knowledge of the culinary and medicinal uses of herbs. During her career, she has installed 21 herbal gardens and has been a freelance teacher for the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Amy, Betty’s partner in Green Edens, has her Master Gardener Certificate from the Chicago Botanic Garden and is currently pursuing a degree in Horticulture with a focus on Sustainable Energy Design. Amy has a passion for health-ours and the earth! Our downtown Saturday market isn’t their only stop in Evanston. Amy and Betty have been teaching classes at Ridgeville and helping to install edible gardens there. Check out their work if you are at the Ridgeville midweek market.
Our own research certainly supports the many health benefits of using herbs. Thyme seems to be a cure for anything and who knew that rosemary is revered as an aphrodisiac-actually, one broadly smiling friend must have known because he was slipping away with an enormous pot of that love(ly) herb! We’re lucky to have so many sources at the market for herbs so make this your summer to discover the many uses of these workhorse plants.
Myra Gorman, recently promoted to Senior Program Manager, has been part of the City of Evanston staff for the last 21 years as the Inclusion Coordinator. Effective January 1st Myra will be responsible for the downtown Evanston Farmers Market and the summer Community Picnic — in addition to her primary responsibility, which is to assist families with special needs children to use and benefit from the federally mandated American Disability Act. Myra’s professional background is as a certified Recreational Therapist. Over these years her job keeps her fulfilled and busy as an advocate for the many Evanston families and children whom she has helped and continues to assist. It is a vocation that has brought her joy and great satisfaction. Myra is married with two grown children, Jessica (a special ed teacher at Chute) and Corey (a U of I sports management student).
FOEM: Effective January 1, 2012 you were named the Market Manager of the downtown Evanston Farmers Market. How has your current position prepared you for this new role?
MG: The other day one of the farmers called and asked me if I am up to the on-the-ground drama of the Farmers Market. I laughed and said that there is no stronger advocate than a parent with a special needs child. I have experience working with emotional situations. I get it — and what I do is to gather up my boots and work on their behalf. The Farmers Market will certainly present some challenges but I think that my background has prepared me for some of it. Also my position as inclusion specialist requires extreme organization, a skill that I bring to the Market. For example, the City’s summer camp program runs for 3 months and includes 140 special needs children and 45 inclusion staff members, all these activities and people require precise orchestration. My basic nature is organization, open-mindedness and compassion. The sign in my office says is best, “Inclusion Specialists Do It with Everyone.” Inclusion is my job.
There is much interest in what you know about farming.
I know nothing about agriculture. Last summer I had my first garden where I grew vegetables and herbs. My tomatoes never turned red (so I cooked up lots of green tomato dishes); my corn was tiny (although at least my corn grew). Also I grew green peppers, basil and rosemary. This summer I have plans to improve my garden output. I loved doing it. I am up to the challenge of learning so much more about farming.
How do you plan on learning more from the farmers?
I plan to ask a lot of questions – never embarrassed to ask what I don’t know! And I am a good listener. Through being responsive to their requests I hope that this exchange will lead to open learning discussions with the farmers. In addition I will be attending council meetings, farmers’ market association meetings, etc. to gain more knowledge about how to run a great market.
How do you envision your role as the downtown Market Manager?
On March 7th I look forward to attending a market managers conference at Wagner Farms in Glenview where I will meet many local market managers and learn more about best market practices as well as tap into their creative ideas. I see myself as a facilitator who wants to make the downtown market better through improved efficiency and accessibility. The Evanston Farmers Market has a broad appeal for many local farmers and vendors who simply want a booth within the market — and there is a dedicated customer base that supports the Market each summer. My intention is to make the Saturday morning Farmers Market even more of a destination, providing a special experience for all who are part of and support the market. Sometimes ideas simply come to me in the middle of the night for improvements and expansions.
Concerns have been raised about changes to the Market?
First, let me tell you that I intend to make no big changes the first year so that I can see for myself how the Market operates. There have been inquiries by farmers as to whether prior assigned booth spaces will be changed. The answer is no. I want to reassure everyone that things will stay as is for the coming 27 weeks.
Second, market applications went out late to reduce the financial pain during the holidays for fees. However, these did go out together with the Farmers’ Market Ordinance (3-25) and were due back February 1st. There are many pieces to the market that require different applications for completion by regular vendors, home grown artists, musicians, not-for-profits and the day event for not-for-profits. My work will be cut out for me in the next weeks.
One thing to emphasize is that we will continue to balance the content of the Market, looking to diversify from the perspective of what is missing. There is no intention to duplicate the vendors now in place. As far as other farmers coming into the Market, the over-riding question that I ask is Will these farmers enhance the market? First we need to see what applications come in.
As Market Manger I review and approve all market applications while the Health Department continues the role to issue permits.
Now, share with us some of your middle-of-the-night ideas for the Market?
One small change that will take place this summer will be to increase the number of vendor spaces. Currently one space equals four parking spots, i.e., 8”X 20” times 4 or 32” X 20”. I had noticed that not all the vendors need a spot that wide. This has caused some areas in the Market to look vacant and less appealing. We are now offering 2 parking spots (16’ X 20’). This will reduce the fees for some current vendors and open up additional space to new vendors. We hope to make the overall market more inviting and vibrant, a win-win.
Also we will be opening another row, just east of the Market, along the driveway into the parking garage, creating another 4 to 8 new vendor spaces. Currently we have a waiting list of at least thirty vendors who want to join the Market. The Evanston Farmers Market is one of the most popular in the area.
Bike racks, recycling bins and signage will be added to support the market area.
Under consideration is to extend the Home Grown Artists booth area to all 27 weeks of the Market. It would be a way to use the existing space more effectively as well as to accommodate the local artists in the area.
Another thought is to move the Food Demo space to the southwest corner of the marketplace. Enriching that part of the Market would make it more of a go-to area. We are considering adding tables and chairs in that area for customers to relax and enjoy some of their purchases. This may open up other opportunities as for musicians.
My emphasis is always about children and finding ways to include them into the local activities. I want to create events that will encourage family participation. Currently we have the Fall Festivals for the kids. Why not create food activities where kids are shown how to prepare recipes (perhaps recipes donated by the farmers) at the Food Demo space where they can learn to make dishes like blueberry smoothies and applesauce. And how about showing our children how plants grow. In the spring the City could provide the little pots while the farmers sell the seedlings. Then the little ones can take their little seedling home, plant, tend and water it while they watch it grow on the kitchen window ledge.
I love all these creative ideas!
Oh, I still wake up in the middle of the night with more but realize that we can only do so many at a time.
What plans does the city have to advertise the Market?
Signage will be placed weekly downtown around the Market. We will continue to advertise on the City of Evanston website as well as the Arts and Recreation magazine that goes into all Evanston homes. A line will be included on both media sites regarding the Link card to alert qualified citizens that the Market is an affordable and healthy food source for all.
What can the Friends of the Evanston Farmers Markets do to help you?
The Market needs more signage throughout the Evanston community as a reminder of the day and time. Since the physical marketplace is located in such a hidden area, new customers need to know exactly where to find it. The Friends could help by putting lawn signs out every week, reminding neighbors that the Saturday market is open.
Also should any of my above ideas for new or expanded events happen, the Friends could play an important role to make them successful.
Please share some words you live by.
“Less is more.”
“It’s never a mistake if you learn from it; it then becomes a life lesson.”
This interview conducted, and the article written by Kitty Nagler, a longtime Evanstonian. She is a writer and editor of books and articles on spirituality and personal memoir. Her greatest joys are working the soil, walking with Nature and leading workshops/retreats into The Universe Story. How does she change the world? She votes with her money and the Farmers Market gets one of those votes. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Homegrown Artists began in 2005 as a showcase for Evanston artists and their work at the busy and thriving downtown Farmers Market. In order to avoid competition with the existing art fairs, participation is limited to Evanston residents, employees of Evanston businesses and participants at Evanston studios and galleries. The artists sell their own work.
Homegrown Artists displayed and sold their artwork on six consecutive Saturdays last year, but they plan an extended schedule in 2012.
Artists interested in getting a space should contact Myra Gorman at firstname.lastname@example.org.