The Beautiful Bounty of Farmers' Markets

Across America, the heart of any community is its friendly farmers' market. The question is: Are you there?

| May/June 2007

When Teresa Santiago arrives at the Farmers’ Market in Evanston, Illinois, at 5 a.m. on Saturdays, she doesn’t have long to wait before she’s greeting enthusiastic customers, some of whom arrive as early as 6 a.m. There’s always an eager following to buy her fresh flowers, fruits, and dried and fresh herbs from her small farm in Eureka, Illinois. Within a few short hours she’s sold most, if not all, of her offerings to many happy customers.

On any given Saturday or weekday, the local farmers’ market is the place to be. This popular community event not only brings together farmers and shoppers, but also street musicians, bands, artisans and church bake sales. Plus, there’s always a great cup of coffee or apple cider to be found. 

Meet Your Neighbors

For recreational farmers, a farmers’ market can be an excellent way to get rid of your extra produce or any specialty item that you create on your farm, such as jellies, jams or pickles. After all, you have that extra zucchini, you might as well sell some. It would be a shame to let good food go to waste. 

Farmers’ markets are great for lifestyle farmers because you can still work full-time outside your farm or enjoy your retirement. Your livelihood may not depend on your sales, but you still can get special pleasure selling to friendly folk who truly appreciate the farm-fresh fruits of your labors.

“I enjoy working on my farm, but it wouldn’t be worth it just to sell to a wholesaler,” says Santiago, who farms 1.5 acres. “I wouldn’t get the satisfaction of selling directly to the person who’s going to eat my fruits and herbs. It’s great to receive positive feedback and get to know people.

“Over the last 10 years, I’ve talked with the same people every week and watched their kids grow up. I could go to a closer market, but I would miss everyone,” she says. 

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