John Brandell of Patz Maple and Honey.Photos by Anne Bodine

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For the past 16 years, volunteers at Evanston’s Immanuel Lutheran Church, 616 Lake St., have organized a Thanksgiving market. Held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, vendors from all over the Midwest head to Evanston to sell their winter produce. The success of the market inspired organizers to extend it into the winter months this year.  

Held twice a month from December through April, the Immanuel Lutheran Church Winter Market hosts approximately 22 farmers and vendors every other Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Located inside the building in Fellowship Hall, the market will occasionally trickle out into the parking lot, weather permitting.

Although not nearly as abundant with fruits and vegetables as the Evanston summer farmers markets, there are still plenty of fresh, local foods to offer shoppers.  Apples, pears, potatoes, squash, leeks, carrots, turnips are just a few examples of the winter produce available. Shoppers can also find grass-fed meats, baked goods and prepared foods from local artisans.

A portion of the proceeds is used to support the congregation’s involvement in anti-hunger issues. Chris Djuric, a parishioner and an organizer of the market said she is very pleased with the turnout.  

“We are using the farmers’ fees and other fundraising we do at the market to send money back out into the community,” said Ms. Djuric.

Preliminary recipients include Hillside Church Food Pantry, Evanston Shelter for Battered Women and their Children and World Hunger Appeal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

One of the other fundraising efforts Ms. Djuric is referring to is the sale of breakfast and lunch during the market hours. Chef Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook and Chef-turned-Farmer Tracey Vowell of Three Sisters Garden in Kankakee run the kitchen during the market time.

The menu varies weekly and the two chefs, who are long-time friends, focus on using produce from the farmers at the market. Last week’s menu included oatmeal from Three Sisters Garden with dried apples, candied pecans and chopped bacon, scrambled farm eggs with local veggies and sautéed potatoes from Nichol’s Farm and mushroom soup with goat cheese mushroom crostini.    

Ms. Vowell, who left her career as a chef several years ago to start a farm with her partner, Kathleen Roybal, said this project is an opportunity for her to get back into the kitchen and cook.

“It’s a culinary diversion for me and I get a chance to be creative,” she said. Ms. Djuric said it’s a real treat to have these fresh meals made by such talented chefs available at the market.

“The meals are priced well and taste delicious.”

A list of vendors and weekly updates can be found at evanstonfarmersmarkets.org.

The site includes information on other farmers markets in Evanston including the Ecology Center Farmer and Artisan Market, which is currently in its 5th year and operates every Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. through April 30.