I love the farmers market. There… I’ve said it. My first memory of a farmers market stems from the small local market in West Allis, Wisconsin. Although, we had our own cherry trees, raspberry bushes and vegetable garden in our backyard, every summer my mother would take me and my brothers to pick pints of pickles and tomatoes from local farmers, which she would use to can pickles and salsa all summer long. And even though my most vivid memory of the market is of my brother getting stung by a bee, it was here that I began to realize the importance of the farmers and where our food comes from.
The second farmers market that played a significant role in my life, as well as many other UW-Madison students, was the Dane County Farmers Market. Every Saturday students from all over campus flocked to the capital for one of the largest farmers market in the country. Going from tent to tent we would select tomatoes, honey or cheese curds from farmers or producers who were passionate about their vegetables, bee hives, or dairy farm.
It was here that a squeaky cheese curd made an impression on me. Its almost impossible to find a squeaky cheese curd in a big box grocery store, and why is this? Because the squeak is an indicator of freshness that is lost in the time it takes to go from the farm to your grocer’s refrigerator. This was an epiphany for me, a poor college kid whose only sustenance was the processed foods of her dorm. I vowed that once I had the money and kitchen to do so, I was going organic, sustainable or the next closest thing. It took several more years and a bout of professional school until the final realization of my goal. I shopped predominately at Whole Foods for the past three years. And oh the price I paid for going organic, but I wanted to support a corporation that promoted both farmers and the environment. But when I moved to Chicago last summer, I found that there were few other places that I would rather be than the Green City Market in Lincoln Park.
The 12 year old market is a model for the sustainable food movement where local farmers and artisans share their craft every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 Am to 1 Pm from May to October. This market is a constant reminder that we as consumers have other options than our big box grocer. We can go straight to our farmers where their produce will always be ripe, seasonal and maybe even less expensive. Here all your questions about what is laid before you are easily answered. Where was this grown? When was it picked? What is in season now? When was this beef slaughtered? How are the lives of your hens? Do your pigs live a happy life? How long are these eggs good for? What is a CSA? Here you can find the pork they serve at Publican, the beef they serve at The Four Seasons Hotel, or produce used at Frontera Grill. The market operates on the premise that you should, “know your food. know your farmer”, a motto that challenges Chicago to become more aware of where our food actually comes from.
The market’s influences can be seen all over the faces of the patrons roaming through the grass, passing and stopping at each tent. We want to know our food! We want to know our farmer! We are here because sustainable practices and preservation of the environment are important to us, and we know what we do here has an impact elsewhere. With a look of content I wander the market knowing that my tiny purchases here show my support of local farmers, my daily attempt to save the earth, and my appreciation for farms that truly do have happy cows, pigs and chickens. After perusing around the market we found ourselves with bags full of spring garlic, micro greens, potatoes, Berkshire pork, goat cheese, a fig tree, and a few too many plants. When we went home, I put on my green gardening gloves, pulled out some potting soil and began to plant the lavender, chives, fig tree, sage, and grape tomato from the market. You see I have my own makeshift farm on my balcony. Hungry from all the planting, I went inside to see G had created a Green City Omelette.
Our omelette consisted of sauteed spring garlic, Fromage a Trois goat cheese from Capriole, inc. topped with onion micro greens from Tiny Greens and green garlic. And the eggs we used were from TJ’s Free Range Poultry. We liked it so much, we decided to make another!