Ahern: Beverly Farmers Market offers treasure trove of goods
By Patti Ahern Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org June 28, 2012 12:34PM
Chicago resident Debra Brown buys bread from Frank Damiano of Breadman Baking Company during a visit to a Farmers Market in Chicago’s Beverly community. The market is located at 95th Street and Longwood Drive and is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays until Oct. 28. | Supplied Photo
Updated: August 2, 2012 6:08AM
A butcher, a baker and a salsa dip maker.
With apologies to those who love children’s rhymes, this Mother Goose reference is just a hint of the businesses that sell their wares at the Farmers Market in Chicago’s Beverly community.
The market is located at 95th Street and Longwood Drive and is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays until Oct. 28.
Some of the vendors have been coming to the market for more than 20 years, while others are new to the scene. Crystal Nells, of C&D Family Farms, is one of the “regulars” who for the past five years stays beyond the closing date of the summer market to sell meat even in the coldest of winters.
“I will do the same number of sales in the worst weather,” said Nells, who has a 15-acre organic farm in Indiana. “This year we are selling Hoosier Mama Pie. It has everything in there — fruit, vegetables and meat. It’s all there, and it’s very good.”
Shannon Condery of Brunkow Cheese of Wisconsin is selling for a seventh year. Condery said a new item worth buying this year is the garlic scape butter. Scapes are the stems on garlic and are just as edible as garlic bulbs.
“Garlic scape butter has a very fresh garlicky taste that is different from the garlic clove,” Condery said. “It is great for pasta or for garlic bread. What we are known for, though, is baked cheese. We’re also known for our cheese curds.”
A new vendor this year is Karen Beecher of Just Dogs Gourmet Treats. Beecher gave up her career as a nurse and started “a whole new ball game” when she, her husband and sister opened their gourmet dog food business in 2008. Beecher said she has no regrets about her decision.
“In this economy, only the pet industry has survived and grown,” Beecher said. “People pamper their pets, so we have clothes, collars, treats and one whole section of birthday stuff,” Beecher said of her store in Orland Square Mall. “Our treats are all natural, and we do all the decorating.”
Paul Thelan, of Hillside Orchards, displayed many fruits for sale but said his crops this year were badly damaged by a late April freeze. While he had many items to sell, he said that his business plan is very much dependent upon the success of next year’s crop.
“We are a victim of the weather,” Thelan said. “We have to wait a whole year for the crops to come back. You try to keep money in reserve, and I have chestnuts (as a crop), which adds some cash flow, but this is a sob story.”
Thelan, who was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1998, farms with attention to detail for conserving soil and providing a haven for wildlife.
Don Blankenship of Blankenship Farms in Michigan said it was his 30th year as a vendor at the Beverly market. He also spoke of his farm’s weather-related losses.
“We lost all the apples, 80 percent of the grapes and all the plums,” Blankenship said. “You just look at it this way: You don’t have to work as hard,” he said jokingly.
Despite the losses of his fruit crop, Blankenship brought flowers to sell and said that despite Mother Nature’s sometimes cruel ways, he will keep farming “until they put me in a chair.”
Tim Shore, of River Valley Ranch, is a 20-year vendor. He said River Valley generally sells mushrooms at the markets and, because mushrooms are grown indoors on his 20-acre farm, the weather did not factor into the harvest.
“We do very well,” Shore said. “We primarily do mushrooms — white buttons, shiitake and Portobello — and this year is quite good.”
Eliza Roussis represented her family’s Salsa Vallarta business at the market with many salsa and hummus dips on display for taste tests.
“We sell salsa, hummus, guacamole and gazpacho soup,” Roussis said. “We do lots of (recipe) experiments at home, and a lot of recipes were passed on from my grandmother and great-grandmother. We make these recipes with pride, and we give the clients what they want.”
Frank Damiano of Breadman Baking Company said he makes bread courtesy of a friend’s restaurant, where he rents oven space. On display were many breads, focaccia and large cookies for those whose sweet tooth cannot be answered by a slice of bread.
“I have three little grocery stores that I bake for and distribute bread to all year long,” Damiano said. “This has sustained me so that I didn’t have to paint houses (during the off season).”
Damiano said his bread is made from all natural ingredients with no preservatives, artificial flavors or colorings.
David Baer, representing Twin Garden Farms in Michigan, sells a variety of vegetables at the market. He said it was his fifth year selling in Beverly.
“This market is my most successful, rain or shine,” Baer said. “Our veggies are pesticide free, and these are cancer-fighting veggies. If you want to build wellness, there is no way to do it outside of buying greens.”
In addition to the greens, Twin Garden Farms sells Mirai corn, which is a special corn that is famous around the world, according to Baer.
Shannon Sunnarborg is a first-year vendor who represented Frank Farms. A wide variety of strawberries, red raspberries, cucumbers, zucchini and onions were available at the market, but Frank Farms also offers a “U-pick” opportunity at their farm in southwest Michigan.