Morton Grove Update

July 28, 2010 at 8:39 am

My family held a garage sale in Morton Grove last weekend. One of the bonuses of a garage sale (in addition to turning our useless crap into cash) is getting to chat with neighbors we might otherwise never meet (which is also a bonus of attending your local farmers’ market). A local restaurant owner bought the receiver I used in high school and told us his plans for expanding his business; a Korean war vet bought a dartboard and printer and gave his opinion on current events in the DMZ; mom’s browsed through our knickknacks, books and clothes while my wife entertained their kids.

When I talked with each visitor, I casually inquired if they’d been to the Farmers’ Market yet. Some had while others hadn’t even known about it (shame on our publicity chairman for his laziness!). This led to some polite, yet opinionated discussions as to how early we should have started the Market, who should participate, where it should be held, etc. My goal was to spread the word about the Market, what with me being the publicity chairman and all (Drat! I let it slip! Shame on me!).

Publicity and visibility are the two biggest challenges (and lousy weather) we’ve faced this season. While we’ve enjoyed some sizable crowds, some people have complained that they passed by the market several times without knowing it because we are concealed by a nondescript office building on Waukegan Road. The signage (banners, posters) don’t seem to make a difference. I think passers-by are looking for activity, humans, tents and movement rather than static signs. Some of the better markets we’ve had are due to one of our volunteers dressing up in overalls and a straw hat and waving at drivers. Attempts to hire a dedicated person to fill this role have failed and we’re considering employing a robot rather than a human for this job. More on that in a future post.

Favorable newspaper articles have helped create awareness, but the biggest draws seem to be word of mouth and the doorknob hanger fliers we passed out in late winter. As a result, we’ve kept the vendors happy and well paid, created a following of regular customers, attracted more volunteers, sponsors and entertainers and turned an otherwise vacant parking lot into a thriving communal event each week.

Of course, we’re not the only farmer’s market in the area, and when people compare us to other markets (so and so has more produce, this one sells this product, etc.) , I honestly reply that I don’t feel like we’re in competition with them. I’ve personally met several managers of neighboring markets, and they’ve all been generous and helpful with their advice. Each village’s market has its own personality. Some feature artisans and craftsmen, others have a particular ethnic flair. Our Market looks and feels pretty much how we envisioned it a year ago when we first started planning it; a weekly communal event where neighbors come to buy fresh local food, enjoy free entertainment and learn more about gardening, ecology and agriculture. So far it’s been a rewarding experience for all of us on the committee, and I hope to meet LocalBeet readers at our Welcome booth in weeks to come.