Farmer’s Market season is upon us, and local organizers want you to know there’s much more to the markets than your standard fruit and veggie offerings.
In Aurora, you can enjoy live music, eat a bison burger you grabbed off a food truck, and take home a new best friend, who you happened to meet walking the grounds with their Aurora Animal Control Shelter volunteers.
Last season, nearly 60 dogs were adopted after they met their forever friends at the Aurora Farmer’s Market.
“It’s a community event,” said Aurora’s Market Manager Dale Hazelwood. From children’s activities to cooking and canning demonstrations, the 104-year-old market offers something for everybody, Hazelwood said. And, it’s his mission to get the word out about just that.
In October, the market was awarded the USDA Farmers Market Promotional Program grant, which brought in just under $100,000. The money will go toward building a new website and putting together promotions to get people to the market.
Hazelwood said the new site will be available in English and Spanish, a move he hopes will bolster attendance at the market.
“It’s something we’re trying really hard to do,” he said about inclusion. “Aurora has a 43 percent Hispanic population, and they are not that well represented at our market. We’re trying hard to get them here and shopping for local produce.”
To further get people buying locally, the Aurora Market offers patrons the ability to use their SNAP cards to purchase local good. Anyone who spends $25 on their SNAP cards will be granted a free $25 to spend at the market.
“We want to double their value,” Hazelwood said.
In Oswego, at the Village’s Country Market, big things are also happening, said Market Manager Cori Veverka.
“We’re excited as always,” Veverka said. “We have about six or seven new vendors this year.”
Those vendors A Naturally Balanced Dog, American Pride Microfarm, Great Harvest Bread, The Olive Gallery, PKC Nubians, Sweet P’s Homemade Cookies, & The Tea House.
With the addition of each vendor, Veverka’s dream market is one step closer to becoming a reality, she said.
“We’ve grown a lot over the last decade and a half,” Veverka said. “My personal goal is to have such a wide variety of vendors that we can replace a grocery shopping trip for families. If people want to shop on Sundays, we can be their only stop.”
From breads to eggs to fruits and veggies and cheeses, there is no shortage of items to choose from.
“We’re always looking for new, high quality vendors to help with that (dream),” Veverka said.
This year, the market is rolling out a new program aimed at keeping the market’s shopping simple.
The Market Muscle program is soliciting volunteers to help shoppers carry their grocery items to their vehicles when they’re ready to leave the market.
“People come and except to get one or two things, and before they know it they have four bags full and just two hands,” Veverka said. The new program will allow patrons to grab that extra large watermelon on their way out, without worrying how they’ll get it back to their vehicles.
New seating will be added at the Oswego Market, where patrons can grab a bite to eat and relax. Educational outreach also remains a large component of Veverka’s market mission, she said.
“It’s all about creating opportunities for a healthy community,” she said. “One of my favorite things is seeing the regulars that come out every week. They meet up and take their dogs for walks. People of all ages — from babies in strollers to older community members — are getting out.
“It’s a wonderful tradition and it supports our local businesses. It’s absolutely about the community’s support. We want people to shop from their neighbors,” Veverka said.
The Oswego Country Market
Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Downtown Oswego. It runs from June 5 to Sept. 25.
Aurora’s Farmers Market Downtown
Aurora Transportation Center, 233 N. Broadway, Aurora, IL 60505
Saturdays, June 11 through October 15 from 8:00 a.m. until Noon.
Aurora’s Farmers Market West
West Aurora Plaza, 1901 W. Galena Blvd, Aurora, IL 60506
Wednesdays, July 6 through September 28 from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Aurora’s Farmers Market East
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 701 S. Eola Road, Aurora, IL 60504
Thursdays, July 7 through August 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Farmers Market at St. John’s
St. John’s Episcopal Church parking lot
750 Aurora Ave.
Wednesdays, June 8 through September 21 (closed July 1), 3-7 p.m.
Located at the intersection of Aurora Avenue and West Street. In addition to fresh produce and fine foods, the market features French linens, soaps and skin care, freshly made empanadas and other fine offerings from local vendors. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stjohns-episcopal.com.
Naperville Farmer’s Market Association
Fifth Avenue Station Parking Lot
Saturdays, June 6 through October 31, 7 a.m. – noon
For more information, call (630) 369-5638
Sugar Grove Farmers Market
Village of Sugar Grove Municipal Center Parking Lot
10 Municipal Drive, Sugar Grove,
Saturdays, June 4 through Sept. 24
8 a.m. until Noon
— Local farmers markets shop the idea of community —