Roadtrippin’ For Local Food

January 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Update: Another market added.  See below

Yes, it may seem the most oxymoronic idea yet, but sometimes we need to travel to find our local food.  We travel for  more food than found in our Chicago area markets, and we travel for foods not found in our markets at all.  It is especially fruitful to travel in the winter because, well, there are some pretty good winter markets out there. For instance, some of these winter markets still have supplies of root vegetables.  You should be able to find apples, potatoes, onions and garlic.  There could be indoor grown greens and lettuces.  Look especially for products not prevalent in Chicago markets

  • Dried beans
  • Grains
  • Nuts – If you head north you may find butternuts and hickory nuts; south it may be walnuts including English walnuts if you go far enough south
  • Booze – Just think New Glarus
  • Cheese – Think Fantome Farm goat cheese
  • Sorghum

We always enjoy getting out and about anyways.  Why not make it a roadtrip for local food.  You owe to your pantry.

Since I gave away one of my wife’s prized heirloom squash at the LTHForum Holiday party (getting Russian Lawry’s type salt in return, yes!), I’ve owed my wife a trip to South Bend.  We were thinking this forthcoming weekend would still yield excellent winter squash and other cold weather produce, as well as smoked pork chops.  Yet, in researching this post, I’ve come across a winter market in Milwaukee that seems incredible.   How come nobody’s told me about this one before?  In fact, I want, nay need to go to all of the places listed below.  Soon.

Here are some places within driving distance where you find winter markets/year round markets, listed roughly in order of distance from downtown Chicago:

Chicagoland, IL – There are times in the winter when a trip down the driveway is a roadtrip.  Still, visiting the various area winter markets qualifies as drives for most, and a few of the markets, like Elgin and Geneva are probably schleps anyways.  Our Local Calendar has the most complete listing of Chicago area winter markets. 

Kenosha, WI - Hardly a roadtrip, but if your wife’s like my wife, Kenosha’s a full day with the outlet malls and all.  Find some time for the year round, Saturday HarborMarket.

Elburn, IL – Depending where you live in the Chicago area, the Heritage Prairie Market in Elburn is hardly a roadtrip either.  Still, for me, once you cross Randall Road, you’re in the country, and that makes an outing here a road trip.  Farm market open daily.

Milwaukee, WI – Man, I’ve been salivating since reading the list of vendors at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmer’s Market.  How ’bout some Wisconsin guancialeUPDATE: Always wondering where to find local oats for local oatmeal.  Here ya go.  Saturdays 8 – 12 (No market April 3)

Milwaukee, WI – Another winter market option in Milwaukee is the Westown Indoor Market, in downtown Milwaukee.  First and Third Wednesday’s through February 17.

South Bend, IN – In the stack of Local Beet articles to be posted, is our compare and contrast between the South Bend Farmer’s Market and the American Countryside Market nearby in Elkhart, Indiana.  For now, we’ll tell you that one of these is roadtrip worthy and the other one is in Elkhart.  When you visit the South Bend market, make sure to save tummy room for the in-market diner.  The South Bend market is currently open Saturdays from 7 am to 3 pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 am to 2 pm.

Madison, WI – The Dane County Farmer’s Market has moved to the smallest of its three incarnations, the Madison Senior Center until April.  Of course what you lose in vendor space, you gain in market breakfast.  If nothing else, there is cheese.  Saturdays – 8 – 12

Sterling, IL – If it’s snowing too much on the way to the Quad Cities (see below), you can find a year round market in Sterling, Illinois a/k/a Illinois’s Twin Cities (twinned with Rock Falls).  Saturday’s 8 – 12.

Viroqua, WI – A center of organic farming, Viroqua hosts a year round farmer’s market.  Saturdays 8 AM – Noon

New!Sheboygan, WI – Go for award winning brats and a winter market held on various dates

Kalamazoo, MI – Roadfooders go to Kalamazoo for donuts and beer.  You cam also find an indoor winter market.  Wednesdays through April 28 and Saturdays January 16, March 13 and April 3 – 7 – 1 PM

Davenport, IA – The Freight House Farmer’s Market indicates many vendors.  I had thought our family had our fill of the Quad Cities, but now it seems we have a new reason to venture west.  Tuesdays from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm AND Saturdays from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm

Dubuque, IA – It’s been even longer since I’ve been to another Iowa river town, Dubuque.  If I want to visit there again, I have a winter market to try. Of note, this market has local wines and grape juices, and a vendor with a good range of local nuts. Saturdays -9 – 12

Eau Claire, WI – If you are going to Dubuque, might as well visit Eau Claire too, right?  They have a winter market on Saturday’s once a month through April.  The next market is January 9. 9 – 1 PM

Detroit, MI – The whole Local Family finds Detroit surprisingly attractive to visit.  There is the time machine quality to the place, and there is the entire Eastern Market complex.  They are now promising a bigger and better winter experience.  Added bonuses include low cost hotels (try Priceline) and some of the best Arabian food in the US.  There’s even casinos.  Saturday – 7 AM – 4 PM

Ann Arbor, MI – When we think foodie roadtrip, we think Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor.  Do the Tour de Zing–visit the Roadhouse, Bakery, Creamery and Deli over the course of a day and you also get a T shirt.  If you cannot bring home thousands of dollars worth of local goodies, you are not trying.  Go also for Michigan grown dried beans.   A good selection can be found at the Sparrow Market just around the bend from Zingermans.  In the winter, the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market runs Saturdays 8 AM – 3 PM.

Indianapolis, IN – The Indianapolis Winter Market is in its second year, and has been on my to-do list both years.  Saturdays 9 – 1230 PM

Zionsville, IN – Near Indy is a winter market at Trader’s Point Creamery.  Brad can vouch for the trip-worthyness of this place.  Saturday’s 9 – 12

Two Rivers, WI – Local locavores should head here to see first hand, the operations filmed by MikeG’s SkyFullofBacon productions and get themselves some lake fish.  They’ll also find a winter market on Saturdays. 9 – 2PM

Toledo, OH – Stretching the definition of roadtrip, Toledo has Tony Packo’s dogs and pickles and a year round Saturday market. 9 – 1 PM

Maplewood, MO – Is Missouri within roadtrip distance?  In the St. Louis area, the well regarded Schlafly Brewery has a winter market once a month through March.  Saturdays – 9 – 1 PM

St. Louis, MO – And St. Louis has one of those damn authentic permanent markets, Soulard, that kills us here in Chicago.  Open all winter Wednesday through Saturday.

Bloomington, IN – Pretty much beyond the reach of a daytrip, but a weekend roadtrip to Bloomington has been calling to me both for the winter market and the FARMBloomington Resturant.  Market is on Saturday 9 – 12

Traverse City, MI – Maybe not a drive, but if you fly here for “local” skiing, you will also find a winter market on Saturdays.

We believe we have supplied the largest listing of Midwestern winter markets around.  Note, we’ve pretty much limited the markets to places within a day’s drive, so we have no included markets in Minnesota and Ohio (excepting Toledo).  We would love to know of any winter markets we have missed.  Likewise, we’d love for you to share your winter market experiences with us.


One Comment

  1. Robin says:

    Rob, you have outdone yourself! I’ve got whiplash from all the back and forth, but it’s exciting to see that winter markets are going viral. One addition: the same organization (CCLP) that started the winter farmers markets in churches down this way has for years had a more modest offering of markets in Southern/Southeast Wisconsin. Two more remain: January 30 in Madison, February 14 in Milwaukee. For details, go to

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