Why Can’t We Have Public Markets/Plant the Winter Market Crew

March 3, 2009 at 9:05 am

Rob Gardner

I told you last week, in the middle of our other key causes, composting, the Illinois Food and Farms Task Force, I was taking up the cause of public markets.  We are all causes/all the time at the Local Beet.  Nothing brought home to me more, the need for a public market than visiting the weekly itinerant market put together by Robin “Winter” Schirmer and the Church’s Center for Land and People.  Don’t we want a home for this bad of mavens, merrymen, troubadours and roustabouts present when I visited the market last Saturday in Oak Park?

  • Ropp’s Jersey Cheese – Much dairy has gone strictly Holstein.  These Holstein ladies produce the most milk, but some farmers still like the ladies that taste best.  The Ropp’s use Jersey cows, known for their rich and sweet output.  The Ropp’s use this good milk in traditional American style cheeses, cheddars, cheddar-blue, curds.  Try especially their raw milk cheddar.
  • Jim “The Vinegar Guy” Vitalo – Jim’s got enough Chicago in him to tell you all the good ways “yuze guys” can use his stuff and enough artisan in him that Slow Food sent him to Terra Madre 2006.
  • The French Nuns – The hands of authenticity.  They bake up tarts and baguettes and other items that look and taste as you remember from your backpacking days.  (Proceeds go to a good cause too)
  • Nice Cream – I love the story of Chris and Nice Cream.  It also involves another eat local friend, Cassie.  See, Chris wandered into Cassie’s Green Grocer soon after it opened.  She decided to make ice creams from the products Cassie sold.  One thing led to another, and now we have Nice Cream.
  • River Valley Kitchen – This Southern Wisconsin outfit fills an array of winter needs, from a Rick Bayless recipe salsa made from heirloom tomatoes (and so far better than anything under the Frontera label) to pickles to mushrooms.  They have also taken to baking heavy, quality loaves of bread.
  • Heritage Prairie Kitchen – Another multi-dimensional outfit.  The have sprouts from indoor, including new this week (to me), pea shoots; black radishes from outdoor; honeys in several varieties, preserves, candies; plus several baked goods.
  • Tony and Scotch Hill Farm – Tony raises goats and at times his stand is all goat butters and goat milk hand creams but he is also WI potatoes, and at various times this winter he has had carrots and spinach.  Expect an indoor crop of spinach again.
  • The Beet’s own Farmer Vera who pickles peppers and makes ajvar but also patiently explains how to spin wool to my daughter.
  • Ms. All Everything, Robin S, who mans a stand with various finds including local grains, sorghum syruped popcorn, yogurt from WI’s Sugar River and whatever indoor produce she can drum up.  I picked up some lettuce this week.
  • The Fair Trade people – There is always a place in my diet for coffee and chocolate, and I like getting them Fair Trade.
  • The bread woman who’s name I did not identify – Another stand carried delicious looking breads and pastries, but after sampling Ropp’s cheesespread, sorghum carmel corn, Nice Cream ice cream, Heritage Prairie sunflower seed brittle, and a bite of my daughter’s French Nun pastry, I could barely look in the direction of this stand.  Much sorry.

And we wonder who would vend at a public market?