• Improved Market Signage Makes It Easier to Know Where Your Food Comes From

    You can count on the Evanston Farmers Market Manager, Myra Gorman, to be in step with the latest rules and regulations for best practices at the market. But here’s a case where Myra is just following what has been in our ordinance since 2011.

    This season you’ll notice more signs at the farmer stands informing consumers specifically where the produce is coming from. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING. When the Farmers Market Ordinance was rewritten in 2010, Friends did our homework and discovered that a best practice for markets allowed, actually encouraged, cooperative selling. This just means that farmers can grow and sell cooperatively with just one of the farmers bringing the produce to the market. Why do this?  There are many reasons but the primary one is to protect small farms. Also, many farmers grow wonderful food but can’t make it to markets-they’re too small to afford the time and fees required. Sometimes, one farmer, just miles away can grow a product better. Most farms can’t produce all things.

    And research is informing us that small farms are worth protecting. The Institute for Food and Development Policy (www.foodfirst.org) has reviewed many studies that conclude small farms are more productive. The trick here is in the understanding of how yields are measured. Usually we hear about how many bushels per acre are produced. But that definition suits large, monoculture farms, those with just one crop. But, in practice, small farms will have many crops in an acre. Which brings us to why that’s better for the environment. The large monoculture farms control the weeds that would occupy the bare ground between rows with pesticides and herbicides. Small farms use crop mixtures to prevent weed growth. These small farms are more likely to rotate crops and to use cover crops to nourish their family-owned land. A better comparison of small and large monoculture farms is total output-the sum of everything grown. Check out foodfirst’s report at this link.


  • The 41st Season of the Downtown Evanston Farmers Market begins on May 7

    There’s a chance of rain on Saturday, but the weather won’t deter the long-awaited start of the Downtown Evanston Farmers Market, returning for its 41st season.

    The roster of participating vendors is a little larger than last year’s. All of the nearly 60 farms, ranches and artisanal producers likely won’t be at the first few markets, but the property at University and Maple will fill up rapidly with purveyors of fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, cheese, eggs and bakery items.

    Get information on location hours and parking by clicking here. See a full list of this year’s vendors by clicking here.

    Keep visiting this site for information, recipes, links and reporting about issues that impact both the farmers who make our market so exceptional and the customers that depend on the market for fresh, local, healthy products every week.

  • Update: who’s in and who’s out at the 2016 Farmers Market

    You may have heard that a substantial change in the Downtown Farmers Market roster of vendors has taken place, with all of the non-Evanston bakers being excluded from the 2016 market.

    Well, you aren’t wrong, but you’re not right either.

    We’ll explain.

    At the Friends board meeting last week, we met the new Evanston parks and recreation director, Lawrence Hemingway. The market is under his aegis, and he visited us to get up to speed on our views about proposed changes to the market ordinances, specifically as they referred to bakers.

    After that meeting, the city had an internal discussion and the decision was made to bar bakers from the Downtown market in 2016 unless they have a brick and mortar store in Evanston, or they have an Evanston baking business using their own kitchens, or a certified Evanston kitchen.

    Friends of Evanston Farmers Markets objected. First of all, it was our belief that the parks and recreation director has acted properly the in the past, abiding by the existing ordinance in selecting vendors for the city-run markets.

    More important, Friends feels that regardless of any opinions regarding the authority to exclude vendors, different definitions of “local” for a single class of vendor or any interpretation of the ordinance, it is unfair and punitive to render such a decision mere weeks before the start of the market, when it would be difficult, if not impossible for the affected vendors to find a place in a comparable market.

    The city of Evanston was gracious in allowing Friends to express their feelings. We were able to address our concerns to the City Manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, and, later, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

    On Tuesday of this week, the City Manager posted on the city website, “Evanston Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Lawrence Hemingway has worked with the bakers and the Friends to rescind this rule change for 2016.  The 2016 market will have nine bakers included as vendors.” His full posting can be found here.

    Again, The seven out-of-town bakeries that participated in the 2015 market have been reinstated as vendors for the 2016 season. Bennison’s and Great Harvest will be back as well. We applaud the city for listening, and for reversing their ruling.

    Friends is excited to hear that the city plans to review the total composition of the downtown market throughout the course of the year. It’s their job to keep the market safe, fair and a benefit to everyone involved, vendors and customers alike, no matter where they come from. The ordinance has been revised many times to do just that.

    Friends is a little confused by the City Manager’s statement that, “Clearly the sale of baked goods other than breads are against the “rules” but wanted by the public.  City staff has been reluctant to be the “pastry and pie police.” We looked over the ordinance, and Ord. No. 34-O-11 includes the language, “Eligible vendors of bread shall be those licensed food establishments where bread and pastries are the primary items for sale, such as bakeries;”

    Clearly, the ordinance could use some more clarity. And a close look by the city management and citizens who enjoy the farmers market is more important than ever.

    A 2014 study learned that financial benefits to downtown businesses accrued by the presence of the farmer’s market and its large customer base totaled in the millions of dollars! In our opinion, an asset to the city like the market should not be significantly changed without lots of review and the input of the people who use it. That’s you, readers!

    We hope that the concern expressed by citizens about this recent situation will extend to this broader topic of what kind of market Evanston should have.

    You can examine the market ordinance in its current form on our website. The relevant section can be seen by clicking here.

  • Microgreens Power Vikki’s Crunchy Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

    We’re not sure if Vikki was cleaning out the fridge for this salad, or if she planned it in advance, but it delivers more than a satisfying crunch and potent, creamy/tangy flavor. The use of microgreens, a winter market stalwart, adds a mighty nutritional punch.

    The USDA’s Ag Research Magazine reported, in January of 2014 that, “In general, microgreens contained considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature plant counterparts, an indication that microgreens may be worth the trouble of delivering them fresh during their short lives.”

    Fresh is what Farmers Markets are all about, so you can’t build a healthier salad than the one’s you make with market produce.

    Here’s the rundown on Vikki’s buttermilk dressing.

    Simple Buttermilk Dressing

    • Combine1/4 c buttermilk ( Don’t have buttermilk? Combine 1/4 c milk with 1 tsp lemon or vinegar, and let stand 5 minutes before using. This technique also works with non-dairy milks.)
    • 1 T mayo,
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • pinch of sugar

    Whisk until combined.


  • The First Recipe of 2016 is a Hearty One: COTR Lentil Soup

    As 2015 came to an end, it was inevitable that Friends’ president Vikki Proctor would clean out her refrigerator and turn the results into a delicious dish. She has shared the ingredients she unearthed and the general method with which she produced the soup above. As always, she leaves some details to your imagination and experience. Here’s what she did:

    COTR Lentil Soup


    Saute some aromatics

    Add ONIONS, CELERY and CARROTS to a pan with a bit of oil. Saute until the onions are a bit transparent.

    Add the good stuff

    Add TOMATOES, MINCED GARLIC and 1 CUP OF LENTILS. Vikki’s tomatoes came from the market in September, when she roasted and froze them. If you weren’t that forward-thinking, use the best you can find–canned are fine, since January tomatoes are generally far from the peak of flavor. She cooks these for a minute or two, just to wake up the garlic.

    Get it all wet

    Add a QUART of VEGETABLE BROTH. Sometimes Vikki makes her own. If there’s none on hand, she’s partial to 365 brand. She brings it to a simmer, and cooks until the lentils are soft and tasty.

    Season the soup

    Vikki uses CUMIN and TURMERIC. Of course, there’s also SALT and PEPPER. Use a gentle hand, and taste, taste, taste!

    Finishing touches

    For presenting the soup, Vikki tweaks with a splash of BALSAMIC VINEGAR and then garnishes with (choose one) CREME FRAICHE, SOUR CREAM or GREEK YOGURT. The final fillip is a sprinkle of fresh herbs.