The kids are back in school. The pool is closed for the season. The weather is chillier (and in my opinion, more pleasant). But you still have the opportunity to take part in one of the best summer activities in Forest Park. Our new farmer’s market continues in the parking lot of the Howard Mohr Community Center on Sept. 24, Oct. 8 and Oct. 22 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Ever since the Saturday French Market died out, I have been bemoaning our lack of a farmer’s market. Kim Zandstra – fellow fan of locally produced food and supporter of small businesses – missed it, too. Lucky for us, she actually decided to do something about it. She approached vendors at other markets and worked with Karen Dylewski at the Community Center to bring Forest Parkers their own market.

I’m already a diehard regular. When Anne Kostroski of Crumb bread company didn’t have the olive loaf I usually buy because it’s not as popular at our market as others, she promised to bring me a bunch next time that I could freeze. This cheered me up, as did the latest hot sauce from Mike Bancroft at Co-Op Sauces. My husband and I love our spicy food, so our pantry is stocked with homemade sauces from Co-Op. Not only are they delicious, the sales fund Co-Op Image’s free youth art education and entrepreneurship programs on Chicago’s West Side. Try the Local Sauces done in partnership with another vendor, Piedt Farms. Mike uses produce grown on Ryan Piedt’s family farm in Michigan, which started in 1835 when Michigan was still a territory, making Ryan a sixth generation farmer.

Ryan said that his collaboration with Mike is “how our whole community works together back home. It’s not a competition. We help each other. And I wanted to bring that here.” He also added that selling produce to Mike for his sauces helps pay his way to come to Forest Park since our market is a little slower than others.

Every vendor I spoke with mentioned that farmer’s markets across the board had lower attendance this year and the weather was to blame. The combination of flooding and oppressive heat this summer has made it very hard to be a producer in the Midwest this year. All the more reason to show up to the last few markets to support these small businesses, many of whom count on income from farmer’s markets to stay afloat. Our farmer’s market directly supports our community, too – vendors are required to donate ten dollars worth of product to the Forest Park Food Pantry each week.

If you need more incentive to go, one of Team Blonde’s stylists will be doing quick haircuts, polish changes, and hand massages at the Oct. 8 market, complimentary with a donation to the Animal Care League. Also on Oct. 8, Industrial Harvest will be doing a flour giveaway. There will be cooking demos by Chef Denise Norton, owner of Flavour Cooking School, on Sept. 24 and by Chef Dave Knickelbein of Al Dente Pasta on Oct. 22.

One reason that our market has trouble generating regular traffic is the biweekly schedule. Many vendors expressed interest in moving to a weekly schedule next year and Kim Zandstra hopes to work this out. She also is searching for a space to host a winter market in Forest Park. Kim, who works full-time in addition to running the market as an unpaid volunteer, could use a team of volunteers to help her out. Contact her through the Forest Park Farmer’s Market Facebook page or at Farmersmarket@forestpark.net.

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.