Find new things and buy local at area farmers’ markets

By Shauna Ubersox
Staff Writer

As the weather grows increasingly warmer, farmers’ markets around the greater Rockford area are setting up shop for the season.

Farmers’ markets are known for their locally grown fresh produce, among other traditional food items; local artisans, businesses, and artists also set up shop, selling soaps, flowers, candles, jewelry, and more. This year, some area vendors have been selling their produce and products since early May.

Rockford and its neighbors are home to several perennial markets. In Beloit, Wis., the Downtown Beloit Farmers’ Market has been active for more than 30 years. Running every Friday from June through October, the Beloit market hosts more than 60 vendors weekly, and is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Edgebrook Farmers’ Market is open for business now through Oct. 31. Admission is free, and the market boasts free-range meat and poultry to order, cinnamon-roasted nuts, and many different florals and hanging baskets. On occasion, the venue hosts live music from local musicians.

In downtown Rockford, the Rockford City Market is celebrating its third year this June. On Water Street (between East State and Jefferson), this year’s market has nearly 60 vendors participating, and holds weekly demonstrations, activities for children, and provides a beer and wine garden for adults.

Cathy McDermott, of the Rock River Development Partnership, anticipates a healthy turnout for the 2012 season.

We expect that the market will grow in both attendance and number of vendors,” said McDermott.

Approximately 40,000 visitors came to the Rockford City Market in 2011, 20,000 more than the market’s first year in 2010.

This year also finds new sponsors approaching the market. Rockford Health System is the new presenting sponsor, while many other local businesses are contributing their sponsorship, including Carlyle Brewing Co., Rockford Bank & Trust, Workplace, Savant Capital Management, City Body Shop, Larson & Darby, Rockford Mass Transit District, the Rockford Register Star and Maverick Media.

The venue boasts 16 new vendors, more covered seating for patrons, Coca-Cola products, and new beverages available for sampling.

It [the market] drives people to our downtown, and creates additional traffic for the restaurants and shops,” said McDermott. “It also serves as a business incubator for market vendors, and allows them to try out products in a low-cost manner and hone their business plans. It has created a great sense of community, and we are looking forward to enhancing this experience.”

The Rockford City Market is open each Friday, rain or shine, from 3 to 8 p.m.; after Labor Day, the market will close at 7 p.m.

Supporting farmers’ markets is a great way to not only eat healthily (and be environmentally friendly), but to support the community. As more of us patronize the markets, we are putting more money back into our own neighborhoods. Money spent at farmers’ markets does not benefit corporations. Farmers’ markets are also a great place to find new things, and as the city has many different markets, there are a number of options to check out.

Produce does not need to make the trek from the South or West to our tables during summer: by buying locally, we bring the profits back to our community and support our farmers and businesses.

2012 MARKETS (according to the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau):

Farmers’ Market — Edgebrook: May 2-Oct. 31; 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; Wednesdays; 1601 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, IL 61107

Farmers’ Market — HCC Realty: May 4-Oct. 26; Fridays; 9 a.m.-1 p.m., 1240 S. Alpine Road, Rockford, IL 61108

Farmers’ Market — Winnebago: May 4-Oct. 26; Fridays; 3:30-7 p.m.; Winnebago Village Park, Main and Benton streets, Winnebago, IL 61088

Farmers’ Market — North End Commons: May 12-Oct. 27; Saturdays; 8 a.m.-noon; Parking lot behind ArtSpace West Gallery; 1416 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103

Farmers’ Market — Midtown: May 27-Sept. 30; Sundays; 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Midtown District, across from Katie’s Cup, 502 Seventh St., Rockford, IL 61104

Farmers’ Market — Perryville: July 14-Sept. 29; Saturdays; 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; Perryville Commons Shopping Center, Perryville and Fincham, south of East State Street, Rockford, IL

Rockford City Market: June 1-Oct. 12; Fridays; 3-8 p.m. before Labor Day, 3-7 p.m. after; Water Street, between East State Street and Jefferson Street.

From the June 6-12, 2012, issue

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