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Market fresh: Farmers markets up and running

For a listing of farmers markets throughout the state, go to: http://www.agr.state.il.us/agrihappenings/farmlist.php

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Updated: July 12, 2013 6:36AM



It’s that time of year when seekers of fresh and unique foods head for farmers markets.

Diane Scarpaci of Lockport on Sunday picked up guinea chicken eggs at the farmers market outside of the Louis Joliet Mall

“We’re going to try some goose eggs the next time around,” said Scarpaci, who is allergic to regular chicken eggs. She got her eggs from Dickman’s, a family farm from Herscher that was also selling beef, chicken, turkey and elk.

The Sunday farmers market outside of the Joliet mall is in its second year. Elsewhere in town, Joliet Junior College has a market on Thursdays, and the farmers’ market downtown starts on Friday.

There are plenty of farmers’ markets to keep a farmer busy.

Asked how many markets he goes to, farmer Bob Blain answered, “Too many.”

Blain, owner of Riverfront Berry Farm in Martinton, was at Louis Joliet Mall on Sunday. He would be in Lockport on Monday, in Alsip and Bourbonnais on Tuesday, in Cullom on Wednesday, in Manteno on Thursday, and in Kankakee on Saturday. Friday is his one day off.

He’s busy enough that Blain hires people to do the actual farming.

“I market, spray, and attempt to manage,” Blain said. “All the production is done by my help.”

Which suits Blain fine, since he left the family farm as a youth convinced that he didn’t want the kind of toil that comes with such tasks as “walking beans,” the farmer’s phrase for the back-wrenching work of weeding acres of soybean fields manually. Instead, Blain became a teacher and later principal in Orland Park schools before returning to the family farm in his retirement.

Scarpaci calls Blain “my favorite guy. He has the best vegetables.”

Blain also fits the mold of what Scarpaci seeks at a farmer’s market: “I want an actual farmer.”

But you don’t have to be a farmer to be a hit at a farmers’ market.

Parmesans Wood Stone Pizza from Frankfort attracted a lot of attention with its Italian breads and rolls.

The restaurant appears at 17 farmers’ markets from Downers Grove to St. John’s, Ind. They pick their spots strategically, looking for areas that might also bring business to the restaurant, said Amanda Skoff.

“It definitely gets our name out there,” Skoff said. She also feels the baked goods make a good contribution to the market atmoshphere. “It’s all about being fresh. All of our bread is freshly made in the morning.”

One thing that sometimes is lacking at a farmers’ market is farmers.

“We need some more vendors with fresh fruit and vegetables,” Laurey Chuporak of Joliet said while strolling through the mall market.

Unfortunately, two farmers had canceled that day, said Paul Ward, who runs the market for the Senior Services Center of Will County. The organization uses the market to raise money.

“We do try to get local farmers and handmade goods as much as we can,” Ward said. “You want to focus on famers and handmade goods. It’s always an evolving thing. Once the farmers’ market gets going, there’s more interest (from farm vendors). The good thing about our market is each farmer is unique.”

Offering something not found at the supermarket surely helps.

“We look for unusual things,” said Brenda Giocolo of Joliet. She was at the mall market Sunday with her husband Fred.

Helping make the mall market unique is Rainbow Harvest, a hydroponoic greenhouse and farm from Channahon.

“That’s what we specialize in -- exotic stuff,” said owner Kevin McDonald. “I grow almost everything except iceberg lettuce.”

Since he grows indoors, McDonald had a plentiful supply of tomatoes, green peppers and other vegetables.

“It’s all grown inside in water,” McDonald said. “No bugs, no dirt, no pesticides.”

Rainbow Harvest also visits several farmers’ markets, including the Chicago market at Daley Plaza.

At Dickman’s, JoAnn Dickman said she loves bringing her food to the farmers markets. If nothing else, it makes for an interesting cross-section of town and country.

“I’ve found a lot of people have misconceptions about chickens,” Dickman said. “They think you need to have a brown chicken to have a brown egg. No, you don’t. I spend a lot of time educating. I like it. We like meeting people.”



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