The Forest Park Farmers’ Market opened its second season in the Grove at 7824 Madison St. Friday with music, a moon walk, tasty vegetables cooked at the onsite grill and removable tattoos Ð even Mayor Anthony Calderone got one. Mild weather helped make the first market a success, as temperatures which had been in the 90s all week suddenly dropped to pleasant mid-70s with breezes by 4 p.m.
Denise Murray – chef, teacher, market coordinator and volunteer extraordinaire – was behind the grill, spatula-in-hand, ready to create treats from produce purchased at the market. These included brats from Jake’s Country meats and grilled vegetables from vendors.
“My biggest desire is getting people to understand the difference between fresh and processed food,” said Murray. “I only do fresh fruit snow cones at the grille, we had pear and peach. They have real fruit. People can tell, and they’re surprised.”
Whitey O’Day played guitar and sang songs of our American past, including “San Antonio Rose” and “Istanbul and Constantinople” as shoppers mingled, snacked at picnic tables and loaded up with bags of produce.
Jessica Rinks, Community Garden founder and proprietor of Purple Leaf Minifarm, located only yards away on the Altenheim property, was selling “a few greens” and flowers. She started her growing season a little late after waiting for the village to approve her farmette. Bright sunflowers grown in her Forest Park yard were the centerpieces of her stand.
Pink and white and polka-dotted, the Sugarpie Caf cupcake truck was parked at the far end of the Grove space. Proprietress Eunice Jackson, also in pink and white, creates her baked delectables in a community 24-hour industrial rental kitchen in Chicago, she said.
“I’m also a nurse,” said Jackson, who was accompanied by her parents. “I sell at the Riveredge Hospital (in Forest Park) where I work.” Cupcake flavors included Snickers and red velvet as well as “seduction brownies” and peach cobbler Ðboth sold out at the market before 5 p.m.
Mathew Dallman of Jake’s Country Meats didn’t just sell bacon. He sold “Uncured Cottage Bacon” or Irish bacon, as well as other pork products, including chops, cutlets and steaks, ribs of the St. Louis, spare and country-style varieties and encased meats such as brats, kielbasa and Italian sausage. The sixth-generation Dutch farmers at Jake’s, located in Cassopolis, Mich., formerly managed 50,000 hogs for Whole Foods.
“They learned how to streamline the processing of natural raised heritage breeds who are humanely treated animals,” said Dallman. The family operation now has downsized to 1,100 hogs, “naturally raised in pastures.” He said customers also sometimes buy pigs feet and fat for cooking lard. “We have people buy bacon to make bacon flavored beer and scotch ale,” he said.
The meat company also sells fresh caught fish, thanks to a relationship with the Chippewa Nation (which is the only organization allowed to commercially fish the Great Lakes). “We’ve got white fish, lake trout, perch, walleye and salmon. They’re sustainably caught in nets and the water is checked for pollutants,” said Dallman.
Tommy Grubbe of Middlebury Farms in Harvard, Illinois was glad the weather had cooled because picking his family’s organic certified greens last week in 93 degree weather was “really hot.” Grubbe sold lemony-tasting sorrel, pea tendrils, peppery Asian mizura, astro arugula, Swiss chard and heritage red turnips.
Old school buses are the dwellings for the bees that create the honey for Patz Maple and Honey products, sold monthly at the market by John Brandwell of Frosty Productions.
“The buses protect the bees from bears Ð and vandals,” said Brandwell. “The bees live in the buses and the field is planted all around the bus with the clover, buckwheat or wildflowers” that give the raw honey its flavors.
The company owns 350 hives in Pound, Wisc., and also sells bee by-products such as beeswax, candles, bee pollen and propolis, that Brandwell sells in powder and tincture forms. “Propolis is a resinous by-product bees make from tree bark. It’s an old-school medicinal antibiotic going back thousands of years.”
The Prchals who operate Trogg’s Hollow “natural sustainable local farm” in Elgin are a modern day farming family, with their four small children who attend the market with mom and dad. Parents Marcy and Chris spent many years romping around the British Isles studying Viking archaeological sites, so their logo is reproduced in English and “Nordic Ruins,” says Marcy. At the inaugural market, they were selling heirloom tomato seedlings as well as red Russian kale “which is really juicy,” other greens, beets and radishes. Later in the season, the homeschooling family will bring tomato varieties, other vegetables and sugar baby watermelons, they said.
“Monkey fart” soap was flying off the shelf at Patti Kreschmer’s homemade soap stand Friday. The soap smelled sweet and had an angelic monkey face carved in each bar. Kreschmer calls herself “the kitchen chemist” who mixes scents and oils from scratch at home. She also makes bath balms, soap bars with toys embedded inside (to encourage children to bathe more), bug repellant soap and beer or wine soap. “Instead of water I use beer or wine for the liquid.”
“I loved the feel of having a market again,” said Murray later. “Moving it to the Grove just fits so well. [from its first location at the Howard Mohr Community Center parking lot in 2010]. It’s a friendly lingering place with bathrooms with running water and electricity. It’s a win-win for the vendors.”