Last week it took an hour to put together my grocery list. I wasn’t planning a huge shindig; I simply didn’t know what I wanted to eat. I have a hectic schedule, but healthy eating is a top priority, so I always cook fresh, vegan meals rather than buying frozen or ordering in. I have a ton of cookbooks, but I was still stuck on what I should make, and, as a result, what ingredients I needed. I’ve spent the past six months cooking soups and casseroles in order to keep me and the house warm, so I’ve forgotten what I like to make in the summer.
If you too are in a seasonal food funk, prepare to be inspired and invigorated by the fresh fruits, veggies, baked goods, meats and dairy (the last two aren’t for me, but I know they’re on others’ menus) that will be available when the Forest Park Farmer’s Market returns on Friday
We also have twice as many opportunities to visit the market this year: Instead of alternating weeks, it will be open every Friday between June 10 and Oct. 14 (except on Sept. 9, because of Rib Fest) from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Our market also has a new home: it’s moving from the community center’s parking lot to The Grove, at 7824 Madison St. Although the community center is closer to my home, and I’ll miss that convenience, The Grove is a much more suitable location for the farmer’s market.
Farm-fresh products are better suited in The Grove’s green space, than in the Howard Mohr parking lot, organizer Denise Murray pointed out. In addition to a better atmosphere, The Grove also has electricity, there are restrooms, and there is plenty of parking. Denise hopes this will prompt people to come to the market regularly to shop, but also to stay and hang out.
On opening day, for example, there will be a lot going on; special events include: pet adoption from the Animal Care League, face painting by About Faces, a wine tasting by Famous Liquors, and a moon jump. The vendors are the primary draw, but plenty more of these activities are scheduled throughout the market season.
Because of skyrocketing gas prices, many farms had to cut back on staff and the number of markets they attend; so, unfortunately, we lost a few of last year’s vendors. Fortunately, Denise is willing to work with vendors to make their attendance affordable and practical: if, say, a vendor needs two spaces to sell his or her wares, but can only afford one, Denise will only charge for one. She is confident in the approach and said she expects 20 vendors when the market is in full swing – that’s two more than last year.
Among the returning crowd-pleasers is Twin Garden, which sells the best sweet corn I’ve ever tasted! There are also many new vendors to get excited about, like Seguin Greenhouse (a sect of the nonprofit Seguin Services, which provides services for adults with developmental disabilities). In addition to produce, Seguin will also be selling plants for Forest Parkers who want to do their own sustainable growing.
The Community Garden will also be on hand for anyone interested in learning more about growing his or her own food. Visit the Food Pantry Grille for recipe ideas and to learn what to do with the produce you buy at the market. The proceeds from the food you buy at the Grille benefit Forest Park Food Pantry, which will receive more fresh-food donations from this market throughout the year.
The Forest Park Farmer’s Market supports struggling Midwestern farmers and Forest Park families with limited resources and it brings healthy, and it brings fun foods to your family’s table. That said, I think it’s important to support our market. I’ll be there this Friday, on opening day, so if you see a woman with pink bangs and an armload of veggies, say hi.
–nStephanie 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.
Although the weather’s heating up there are plenty of cool activities happening around town.