You could say that Evanston was doing farmer’s markets back before farmers markets were cool. This year theDowntown Evanston Farmer’s Market will celebrate its 40th year serving the area on Saturdays, starting this season on May 9.
David Cleverdon, the owner of theKinnikinnick Farm in Caledonia, Ill., has been making the drive to Evanston since 1995.
“ (It has) loyal customers and loyal vendors,” Cleverdon said. “The management has been relaxed enough over the years to let it evolve as the farmers/vendors pushed themselves as the demand for local and sustainable food grew. The result is a great bustling market with a wide selection.”
The market now attracts more than 50 vendors each week to its location at University Place and Oak Avenue at the municipal parking lot behind the Hilton Garden Inn.
“When we started at the Evanston Farmers’ Market, it was a great fruit and flower market,” said Cleverdon, whose farm specializes in organic vegetables and pasteurized pork and poultry. “Then it developed into a great vegetable market. Now it has a wide selection of meat and bakery products as well.”
Some of those baked goods come from Evanston-basedSweety Pies, which will be participated for the fourth time this year.
“The large amount of vendors draw crowds from the whole Chicagoland area with some of the finest produce, baked goods, coffee, and specialty items you will find anywhere in Chicago,” said Sweety Pies business manager Jason Davidson. “We have been able to connect to new clients and promote our store and to showcase the quality of our goods that are all made from scratch with no preservatives.”
The market features a festival atmosphere, with prepared foods as well as fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, cheese and eggs. Vendors likeFoodie Bites feature small tastes like empanadas and meatballs, and you can’t miss the English-style cheddar cheese offerings from Wisconsin-basedBrunkow Cheese orSheekar Delights, which usually offers a unique baklava, such bacon and bourbon.
Parking is free at the garage at 1800 Maple, just get your ticket validated at the City of Evanston Tent.
Most weeks the nonprofitFriends of the Evanston Farmer’s Market features some kind of educational program, in accordance with its mission to the “benefits of eating fresh, locally grown foods.” You’ll find often find cooking demonstrations, art displays and kids activities.
Cleverdon, whose tent has the most success with arugula and other salad greens, eggs, pork sausage and chops, and tomatoes, attributes the Evanston Farmers’ Market with helping his farm grow.
“We started out as small organic produce growers and are now a widely diversified farm,” he said. “Through it all the Evanston market and its customers have been there for us, receptive to new products that we have brought to the market.”