Fresh food, locally grown

Travis Morse

For vendor Lynne Howe of Lena, the Farmer’s Market in downtown Freeport Saturday morning was a great opportunity for area residents to buy locally grown foods and support agriculture in this region.

“When people can eat fresher foods, locally grown foods, and stay in their own communities and support sustainable agriculture, I am very much a proponent of that,” said Howe, who was selling ground beef at Saturday’s market.

Howe was one of around 11 vendors selling local goods at the Farmer’s Market Saturday, which was held in the parking lot of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau in Freeport. The event drew residents from around the area who were interested in purchasing fresh food, plants, crafts, and a variety of other items.

The market is jointly sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension in Stephenson County and the Stephenson County Farm Bureau.

Vendor Marjorie Lewis said items for sale Saturday included honey, maple syrup, bread, fruits and vegetables, crafts, jams and jellies, meats, and much more. The downtown Freeport Farmer’s Market lasts from May through early October. It’s held from 8 to 11 a.m. every Saturday morning at the Farm Bureau location.

To Lewis, the Farmer’s Market offers customers a social benefit, as well as the chance to buy fresh, locally grown foods.

“A Farmer’s Market is a fundamental foundation of human culture for thousands of years,” Lewis explained. “People have gathered at the marketplace to meet each other and to get their food fresh. I think that’s why it’s so popular. People enjoy meeting the person who grew their food. They enjoy meeting each other, and having that connection with nature, as well.”

Environmental Impact

In recent times, people have become more concerned about the “environmental impact” of their purchases, and the fact that food prices are going up, Lewis said. These factors have contributed to the continuing popularity of Farmer’s Markets, she said.

“I think people are interested in buying more locally produced food,” Lewis said.

In addition to the vendors, Saturday’s market also featured a live cooking demonstration by Barb Curry, the family nutrition program coordinator of the University of Illinois Extension in Stephenson County. Using items from the vendors, Curry prepared several dishes Saturday morning, including an asparagus fratata, a strawberry rhubarb topping, and a spinach and egg stir fry.

The goal of the demonstration was to show the public how simple vegetables like rhubarb and asparagus can be easily made into creative meals, Curry said.

“Simple foods can be prepared relatively simply,” Curry said.

Betty Heim of Freeport said she came to Saturday’s market to find some fresh rhubarb and radishes. It’s important to have Farmer’s Markets, because store food prices continue to rise, she said.

“The fact that the stuff in the store is getting more expensive, and whereas this is not,” Heim said. “It’s people from the area and they’re growing it at home, and it’s not transported all over.”

Healthier Food

Brenda Harless of Freeport, a customer at Saturday’s market, said fresh, organically raised food that comes directly from the farmer is going to be healthier for consumers.

“The fewer stops, the less the processing, the healthier [it’s going to be],” Harless said. “That’s what we were made to consume. And the more artificial stuff you stick in there, the more we get screwed up.”

Vendor Ellen von Schrott of Pearl City was selling a number of items at Saturday’s market, including vegetables, free-range eggs, and raw honey. The market, she said, offers an ideal forum for vendors and consumers to come together in the name of healthy, locally produced food.

“You just build up a nice rapport with people,” von Schrott said. “You get a lot of repeat customers. This is our third year. I’ve been here all three years. And there have been people [here] from day one. And then it’s always nice to see new people, too.”

For more information on the downtown Freeport Farmer’s Market, contact Margaret Larson at (815) 235-4125.