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Sneak Peek ~ Week 2

Posted 1/27/2013 10:36pm by Robin.
Find us indoors every weekend!

With our array of jarred products capturing the harvest at its peak, Tomato Mountain is a natural fit for indoor winter farmers markets, and at one time or another we've been in nearly all of them in the greater Chicago area. While you might have come to take indoor winter
winter market, Evanston Jan 09
A winter market in Evanston '09
markets for granted (if you've discovered them at all), the concept of farmers markets beyond the growing season is relatively new to the Chicago area and most of the Midwest.

I have a particular soft spot for the church-based markets now operated byFaith In Place that pop up on a one-time basis from November through March. Some of you might know that I used to coordinate these markets, beginning in the 2007-2008 winter season. This was back when Green City Market extended only through December, and the many winter markets now available (Logan Square, Glenwood, Evanston, and more) were a few years away.

These church markets were the brainchild of Tony Ends from Scotch Hill Farm; he and his wife Dela were among the first in the Midwest to turn their goats' milk into
winter market, Vera and yarn
A winter market in Deerfield, '10
goats' milk soap. The markets were born in 2005 in both Wisconsin and Illinois in large part from Tony's desire to create a market for their (and others') non-perishable farmstead goods to help small farmers realize year-round income from farming and maybe be able to survive without having to take off-farm jobs. It was a struggle to find farmers who were willing to make the trek in the off-season for a fledgling market that was anything but a sure thing.

I joined this effort in fall of 2007 and with an "if we build it, they will come" spirit, we grew the Chicago winter markets to a viable 20- to 30-market schedule over the next two seasons. It was through these markets that I became familiar with Tomato Mountain, and I'm starting my 5th season here. As you can imagine, offerings of fresh produce were scarce, but there was a surprising amount of farmstead goods available: cheese, yogurt, meat and poultry, yarn, honey, storage apples, soaps, mushrooms, eggs, dried fruit, syrup, cider, flour, herbed vinegar and, of course, salsa, soup, jam, pasta sauce and more. Vendors came, customers followed, and more winter markets joined the scene. 

We'll be at one of these markets on Saturday in Park Ridge. The beauty of these church markets is that, where they used to be the only ones around, now they fill in the gaps in areas that aren't otherwise served by a weekly or monthly winter market: Oak Park, Park Ridge, Deerfield, Beverly, Bolingbrook, Palatine, Hyde Park and other South Side locations, and more. There's always a link in the left-hand column to find us at markets, so check it out. When you come, be sure to say hi, and be sure to thank every farmer you see for being there.

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