Today’s farmers market more than just produce
By Mike Nolan email@example.com July 7, 2012 12:12AM
Martha Sydanmaa, of Oak Lawn, picks out a tickseed flower in the Van Kalker Farms & Greenhouses area at the farmers market in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Wednesday, June 6, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
If You Go ...
The Oak Lawn’s Farmers Market is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Wednesday through October 17. The market is located at 52nd Avenue and Dumke Drive.
Updated: August 9, 2012 6:01AM
On a warm Wednesday morning recently, Joe Zwick stood under a small tent at the Oak Lawn farmers market, calling to passers-by to try a taste of homemade salsa.
Nearby, Magda White, an employee at Velvet Cake Bakery in Oak Lawn, had paczki with a filling made from rose petals for sale.
A few tents away, Jodie Urbanski was offering all-natural dog treats, Bristles Biscuits, that are baked in the kitchen of her Justice home.
Don’t worry, there are still plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale at the farmers market, but like similar markets across the Southland, Oak Lawn’s weekly event has morphed well beyond the produce section.
It’s no longer unusual to find a host of food items — including fresh-baked bread, cheese and jellies — along with non-food products.
Farmers markets have become a great opportunity for operators of home-based businesses such as Avon, Pampered Chef and Tupperware to gain exposure, and they’re represented at the Oak Lawn fair, where you could also pick up a pair of sunglasses or have knives sharpened. Some vendors and patrons enjoy the variety of items for sale, saying it draws in a broader audience of potential customers for their wares.
“I definitely like the fact that you have all of the fresh produce, but I kind of like that there’s a variety” of other merchandise, Maggie Blankenship, of Oak Lawn, said while looking over the selection.
Zwick said he, too, believes having a wider selection of food and non-food items brings more people to the farmers market.
“How much fruit can you buy?” he said. “Definitely, it’s a good thing.”
Zwick is friends with Charles Deless, whose wife, Jennifer, of Homer Glen, is behind the Simply Salsa that Zwick was selling at the Oak Lawn market. According to her website, simplysalsallc.com, Deless began making salsa 20 years ago for family and friends, and it’s now sold at 10 area farmers markets.
While Velvet Cake Bakery has an established business in the village, White said that selling products at the farmers market “helps to get the name out.” Paczki are a big seller, she said, noting the rose ones “taste like a fragrant red berry.”
Nearby, Bill Johnson had a selection of his wife Theresa’s pasta sauces and salsa. The Country Club Hills resident said the mango-peach-tequila salsa is popular, although a cognac pasta sauce he and his wife tried didn’t go over with customers. His wife started making the sauces in her kitchen in the early 1990s.
Theresa’s Selections is a fixture at local farmers markets, with Bill staked out at Oak Forest on Tuesdays, Evergreen Park on Thursdays, Flossmoor on Fridays and Park Forest on Saturdays along with Wednesdays in Oak Lawn.
Asked whether the variety of goods for sale at the Oak Lawn market helped his sales, Johnson had a dour look.
“It doesn’t help at all; it hurts,” he said.
Diana Porter said she didn’t have any strong feelings either way about how the offerings at the market have grown, but her sister, Deanna Porter, felt the market may have strayed a bit from its original intent as a showcase for fruits and vegetables.
“It’s not all that bad, but it does kind of look like a flea market in some ways,” she said.