Hidden Gems: Farmer’s Markets Found

By Brenna O’Dea

One of my all time favorite memories from my childhood is spending Saturday morning at the farmer’s market. My tiny feet dangling from the stroller as my mom rolled me up and down the street, surrounded by more fruits and vegetables than I had ever seen before. I ate fresh blueberries until my lips turned purple and I had never been happier. Today, I still LOVE spending time at the farmer’s markets every chance I get, but I find myself growing a bit bored of my usual spots. I still crave buckets of blueberries, but I also crave excitement, variety, a change of pace, and something new in my Saturday morning routine. Here are some fun, family friendly, and affordable farmer’s market finds for every day of the week that you may have missed:

Before we kick off the week, in just a few days on Saturday July 16th, Pilot Light will be at the 61st Street Market at 6100 South Blackstone Avenue! We will be hosting a food education activity at the Market School from 11am-1pm! Bring your littlest foodies for a taste of knowledge!

Monday: Loyola University Chicago Farmer’s Market

Moping around on Monday? Still recovering from the weekend? And the absolute LAST thing you want to do is shuffle your feet up and down the aisles of the supermarket? Forget about monotonous Monday grocery store runs and avoid the toddler tantrums as you wait in the ENDLESS checkout line. Instead, pull out the stroller, scooter, skateboard, or whatever mode of transportation you little ones prefer and head to the Loyola University Chicago Farmer’s Market! Located in the beautiful Loyola Plaza (right off the red line), this afternoon and evening farmer’s market offers loads of freshly grown produce and freshly baked pastries at affordable prices. A fun fact about this fresh find – it was started in 2009 by a group of Loyola students in their course called Loyola’s Solutions to Environmental Problems, or STEP, for short.

Tuesday: SOAR Farmer’s Market

Congratulations! You survived the Monday madness…but NOW what? You look wearily into your fridge, disappointed to realize you are all out of leftover Pad Thai AND Pizza from the weekend. DON’T STRESS. This farmer’s market find will give you your daily dose of Vitamin D and a taste of culture and creativity all in one trip. The SOAR (Streeterville Organization of Active Residents) Farmer’s Market, located at the Plaza of the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), brings you fresh and local produce with the added bonus of plenty of space for your kids to run and play (there is even a playground right around the corner!) Encourage your little ones to taste a new fruit or veggie fresh from the market. They might be more open to the idea of tasting that funny looking berry when they are out in the sunshine and surrounded by the farmers who grew them.

Wednesday: Growing Home Night Market at Kusanya Café

Hump day has arrived. You make it through the day subsisting on the office supply of day old donuts and coffee, and the half eaten bag of trail mix you gleefully discovered on the car floor on the commute home (OKAY, it was more than half eaten, only the gross golden raisins were left). This hidden gem, from 4-6 pm at the corner of Green St. and 69th, will give you a nice midweek break from all the chaos. Cool off and chill out with an iced coffee inside the quaint Kusanya Café (maybe go for the decaf, your kindergartner has enough energy for the both of you). Then step right outside for a taste of the GOOD, FRESH, LOCAL life. Growing Home has been providing jobs to unemployed Englewood residents for over 10 years. The produce found at this market is always grown with such heart and hard work, you won’t want to miss it.

Thursday: Argyle Night Market

The weekend is almost here…ALMOST. You are not quite ready to dive into a full on feast tonight, but you are certainly ready to TREAT YOURSELF for surviving most of the week. ADDED BONUS…the kids are at a friend’s for a sleepover and you are itching to go grab a bite somewhere that does not have a “12 and under” section on the menu. The Argyle Night Market from 5-9 pm right between Sheridan and Kenmore is the place you want to be.Chinese BBQsmall batch non-GMO tofuPRETZEL CROISSANTS? Whatever you and the kids are craving on Thursday evening, you can find it here…I’m just going to say it one more time…PRETZEL CROISSANTS.

Friday: IMAN Fresh Beats and Eats Farmer’s Market

OH HAPPY DAY. It is FINALLY FRIDAY, there is just one problem…your fridge is looking sparse and you are not looking forward to the weekend ahead full of an Annie’s Mac n Cheese overload. Don’t fret. From 10am-2pm the Fresh Beats and Eats Farmer’s Market of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network will be fun for the whole family. With live music and cooking demonstrations, everyone can find something to enjoy and start the weekend off right. Fresh Beats and Eats packs an extra kid friendly PUNCH by making food and cooking seem FUN and approachable. Combining something fun and familiar like music and dancing, with something that might seem scary at first, trying new foods, is a great way to help your little ones step out of their comfort zone and expand their palates.

Saturday: Back of the Yards Community Market at the Plant

Sweet Saturday. You squint your eyes open in the morning…bed…bliss…BREAKFAST. The first thing on your mind. Don’t hesitate. Kick off the slippers and slide on the flip flops. The Back of the Yards Community Market at the Plant will brighten your Saturday (even if it is already sunny and 90 degrees out there), and kids and adults alike will bask in the sun and the ABUNDANCE of fresher than fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere you turn. Grown right there in the moist soil of The Plant, a non-profit started in 2011, the produce you find here will leave your taste buds tingling and pockets still half full from the family friendly, affordable prices.

Sunday: Bronzeville Community Market

Sunday bloody Sunday. Maybe if I just stay in bed all day I won’t notice my stomach growling…THINK AGAIN. Grab your tote bags and picnic baskets, DON’T WORRY, I won’t make you change out of your sweatpants. In fact, loosen those drawstrings because soon your baskets and bellies will be full of delight after spending Sunday morning…or realistically Sunday afternoon…at the Bronzeville Community Market. The kids have been up since the crack of dawn and by 10am you are ready to get out of the house and burn off some energy (and CHUG coffee like there is no tomorrow). This market offers fresh produce in one of the many food deserts of Chicago. Vibrant green veggies and juicy red fruits line the stands along the streets and attract residents of all ages to fill up their bags and baskets with fabulous freshness for the whole week.

Stomach still growling? Look no further. Here are even MORE farmer’s market finds to explore. With the weekend right around the corner, here is some food for thought: Skip the stale supermarket. Toss the takeout. Hop on your bikes and trikes and breathe in the FRESH AIR. Family time at the farmer’s market is the perfect opportunity to teach your little ones about where their food comes from. Your kids will thank you later…after they’ve had a donut or two.

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