Facts:

General:

When I walked up to the market, my first thought was, “This is it?”  The market is very small: one tent.  There are roughly 2 small aisles worth of produce, with an endcap of shelving.

Pros:

There are a few things that I liked about this market.  The main one being that they are open multiple days, and are open both Saturday and Sunday.  Most markets are on weekdays and I work full-time.  And the few that are open on the weekend are not convenient are too far away to make the drive worth it.

The other thing that this market had going for it was that what organic produce they did have was very well priced.

Cons:

Maybe I had very high expectations for this market, but I left quite disappointed.  First, the Size.  This market is very, VERY small compared to others I have visited. They look to only have the one vendor, which obviously will cut down on selection.

Which brings me to my next point, the Selection.  Most of these varieties and products were not from local farms (and by local, I mean 150 mile radius). This is one of the main reasons I like Farmers Markets: supporting local agriculture and knowing that it didn’t have to travel far to make it to my table. What I saw at this market were varieties as you would find in your local supermarket, including brand names like Driscoll and Dole. There were also very few organic varieties. Those that were available were the brand names (I purchased organic & conventional, because I had planned to make this my main produce shopping this week and conventional is better than none at all).  There are several local farms that would be able to provide organic produce to them.  This honestly appeared to be the produce section of a grocery store.  I kept looking to see if maybe there was a store in the mall that I had missed somewhere. One that had this tent as an outdoor section, like a greenhouse. I can usually count on seeing and trying new varieties that I haven’t seen before, or being able to ask the farmer about growing practices, best ways to prepare a new item, etc.  Also, their “special items” shelving included processed foods with high fructose corn syrup and refined flours.  Not what I’ve seen at other spots.

Lastly, the Prices.  Overall the prices were fairly comparable to what you would see at your local Dominick’s or Jewel.  Usually at markets I will see things marked a little bit higher, but their selection is different. For what organic produce they had, the prices were very competitive.  You can see what I spent here.  If the mainstream stores had their organic produce marked at these prices, 1) more people would be buying organic and 2) I wouldn’t have to write this blog!

Last Thoughts:

While I did like the price of their organics, the selection overall was so poor that I am not planning on making a special weekly trip there. But if I am already at the mall, I will definitely stop by.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, are local farmers who sell “shares” or memberships to public consumers.  These shares result in a weekly box, bag, or basket of (usually) vegetables or other seasonal produce. Sometimes it will include other goods as well. This depends on the CSA and how their crop is doing.

This is a great way for you, the consumer, to get:

  • Fresh, locally-grown produce
  • Learn about new vegetables
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows YOUR food.

Doing a search for my own area on the Local Harvest site returns 63 listings of nearby CSA farms. Most have a growing season from June to October. Most have weekly delivery, but some offer weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly delivery. They also usually will offer a full share or half share. Half shares seem to start between $250-$350, depending on the CSA. Full shares average $500-$600 (feeds a family of four).  This may seem like a lot, but this is for weekly produce for 5 months, or 20 weeks.  So, say you do a full share at $600. This is $30/week.  That is pretty good for enough produce for the week for 4 people. I know I’ve spent that at the grocery store when I really concentrate on buying fresh produce. And this is locally grown. Many of the farms are even certified organic.

So, think about becoming a member with your local CSA.  Here are some tips to consider.

It is the season for farmer’s market around here, so this edition of Whole Wednesday is going to focus on where they are available, when they operate, and what you might find. To find farmer’s markets in your area, check out Local Harvest.

The trick to saving when buying produce is to buy it when it is in season.  Most school children don’t realize that vegetables aren’t made in stores.  By buying produce when it is best harvested, you get the best produce, at the best prices.  For example: strawberries are coming into season now, so they are on sale EVERYWHERE.  Squashes and pumpkins will go on sale in September/October.  If you buy things out of season, you do pay a premium.

At farmers’ markets you can find almost anything.  Of course, there is locally-grown produce, but you may also see dairy products, including eggs and cheese, homemade wines, homemade pastas, and I have even seen homemade salsas, honeys, and hummus!  Baked goods are generally prevalent, as are homemade soaps and candles.  Some farmers markets have activities for children and entertainment throughout the day.  It is a great outing for the family, it’s FREE (unless you’re buying!), and a great way to support local farms. The vendors can tell you how to choose the best item, how to cook with it, and even give you some recipes! Most will let you sample the different varieties to find one you like.

Olde Schaumburg Centre Farmers Market

  • Fridays June 11-October 29 7am-1pm
  • Trickster Gallery parking lot; 190 S Roselle Road.
  • Nearest intersection: Roselle/Schaumburg Rd.
  • In the same area as Dominick’s and the Schaumburg Township Public Library.

Barlett Farmers Market

  • Fridays June 4-September 30 2-6pm
  • Bartlett Town Center, intersection of Main St/Railroad Ave

Elk Grove Village Farmers Market

  • Wednesdays June 2-September 29 7a-1p
  • Pavilion, intersection of Wellington/Biesterfield

Palatine Farmers Market

  • Saturdays May-October 7a-1p
  • Intersection of Wood St/Smith St

Elgin Harvest Market

  • Thursdays June-October 10a-4p
  • Civic Center parking lot, intersection of East Highland Ave/Douglas Ave

Barrington Farmers Market

  • Thursdays June 17-October 14 2-7p
  • Intersection of Park Ave/Cook ST.

South Barrington Arboretum – Seasons produce & specialty market

  • Friday 9a-5p, Saturday-Sunday 9a-4p
  • Arboretum shopping center, intersection of Higgins Rd/Rt-59

Goebberts Farm

  • June-October, M-F 9a-7p, Sat-Sun 9a-6p
  • 40 W Higgins Rd; South Barrington IL
  • This place is known for their pumpkins in the fall, but they have EVERYTHING and they are open from April-October with produce, plants, flowers, and everything else you might need.