I began slinging curds for longtime Chicago area cheese monger Omer Reese in 1995, selling at Chicagoland farmers markets the great local cheeses he had discovered and helped nurture. In 2002, he retired and my bride and I took over his 25-year old retail business that I had managed by then for several years.
Each year since, we’ve created new cheeses unique to us to bring to farmers markets. We’ve also continued to taste our “whey” back and forth through local cheese country in search of anything we think our customers should know about. In 2010, we established a second warehouse and retail shop (in downtown Beloit) out of which to run markets in the Rockford/Beloit area. My brother-in-law, Darren, and his wife, Judith, and their family live a few minutes from Beloit on the IL side and heft the wheels at those markets for us. Our family, friends, and friends of friends are our cheese mongers – many of them students, teachers, and/or artists that dig having a seasonal gig to come back to and one that allows them to nibble freely.
The cheeses we retail come to us at varying stages of development. Some fully formed and ready to sell. Others come young and we age them out to fully realize their potential. Still others are made for us to our spec by different cheese makers – we send them fresh herbs or various sauces that we make for them to use, and we then get the full wheels/blocks back and age them out. We also take cheeses from different producers to a small family-owned smokehouse near Rockford and there the cheeses are smoked to our spec with various woods we provide. Lastly, we experiment with layering different cheeses into each other and with layering/sprinkling different ingredients into/on top of the cheeses. All in all, we work with around a dozen Wisconsin cheese makers.
One of our cheese mongers (our dear friend Dan whom I have known since kindergarten) is currently apprenticing as a cheese maker up at UW Madison and we will be making several of our own cheeses starting this spring. We’ve got some exciting ideas to implement, so please look forward to more yummy things soon!
Our customers know that our table at the farmers markets is the only place to find many of these lovely logs and wheels, which we insist on cutting to order, as folks come up to get a sample and take home a hunk. We believe getting the actual cheeses in their full form in front of our customers is a big part of what farmers markets are about – education through the taste and touch of food in its purest form. Plus, it is always exciting to take a knife that looks more like a short sword and plunge it into, say, a 2-year old wheel of Silvan Blum’s Nut Sweet Swiss. The juice from the eyes of the wheels “weeps” out onto the cutting board and the little bits that crumble off are tasted by all present.
We moved our young family from Chicago down to Quincy in the spring of 2005. With the seasonal nature of our business, we get to have the best of the big city but then retreat to the quiet dream of small town life. I grew up in a small town in northeast Wisconsin and we’re glad to give Evalina (12), Sonia (10), Gabriella (7), Ezra (3) and Simeon (8 months) that sort of room to roam. It also turns out that my family traces some of its roots to this area – without knowing it at first, our kids have become friends with some of their third cousins! My wife’s family is from Lombard, IL and so with the summer season comes many visits to her folks.
Bringing our favorite cheeses to local farmers markets is our vocation. We’re blessed to be able to work with so many wonderful producers that have expanded our knowledge as to how beautiful milk can be when spoiled in a loving way.
Hi Deerfield! My farm land has been in the family for a very long time – since 1925. It was not until 2011 that I decided to quit my other job and start my farming endeavor. This will be my third full season farming and wow, it has been amazing thus far!
My 8-acre operation is located in unincorporated Prairie View (next to Lincolnshire, IL) and is expanding every year. I am what many consider to be a small “specialty farmer” only growing the best of the best in heirloom produce, eggs, and honey. I grow all naturally, using row covers and organic sprays to bring my crops to high end Chicago restaurants and a few farmers market in the area. My products have been featured on former presidents’ plates and on the menus of some of the best rated chefs in the world!
My customers are absolutely in love with my produce. I pride myself on being one of the closet farms (if not the closest farm to the Chicago land area). Being so close gives customers peace of mind knowing they are getting a fresh, sustainably raised product produced from a truly LOCAL farmer! Our philosophy is to grow crops the way they should be grown starting from the seed. Our NON-GMO (Genetic Modification) line is pretty extensive and as natural as it gets. I pride myself on the fact that I am doing my part to grow healthy, local food using no deadly chemicals, unlike conventional farming methods.
For those who are chicken enthusiasts… look no further. We take pride in our feed ratios, giving our hens exactly what they need in their diet. Given plenty of fresh air, room to roam, and sunflower seeds, our girls live a spoiled life. We don’t believe in clipping wings or trimming beaks…. Happy hens make for some amazing eggs! With over 160 girls on the farm, we have the ability to sell over 100 dozen eggs per week… now that is something to cluck about!
So whether you’re interested in our fresh honey, amazing eggs, or our impressive variety of heirloom vegetables, we hope that we can shine at your farmers market! Feel free to stop by, say hello, and get to know your farmer! If you want transparency in your food, it can’t get much clearer than Frillman Farms. We make sure to put the customer before the chicken or the egg!
See you down on the farm!
Gimmee Granola LLC has been delivering delicious granola products to its customers since the spring of 2012.
As with many small businesses my granola business was born in my home kitchen. I could not find a granola that satisfied my cravings, so I decided to create my own and then began sharing with family and friends. As the requests for refills came in, I wondered if this would be a viable small business and decided to "test the market" at local farmers markets. We produced our products on-site at Graffiti Grille after hours and in the Summer of 2012 we participated in two farmers markets and soon had a devoted following.
In October 2013 we moved into our own state-certified kitchen facility in Wadsworth and this year we will be participating in four farmers markets throughout Lake County. We are also currently on the shelf at Sunset Foods in both their Northbrook and Lake Forest locations, and although I am still working in the finance industry, as time allows will add other Sunset locations throughout 2014.
At Golden Rise Bakery, we strive to bring our customers fresh and delicious baked goods to enjoy.
Red Barn Farm Market was started with a truck parked on the side of Route 47 south of Woodstock in 1962 as a way for Susan and John Skerke to earn college money. The original building was erected in 1969 and has been added on to many times since then. The last addition was in 2009 when a separate "Spooky House" barn was built to add to the fun at the annual Pumpkin Festival.
John and Sue's parents grew wholesale vegetables through the 1950s and began direct sales to the public in 1962. That business has grown to include 10 community farm markets a week through the growing season. At the Red Barn in Woodstock, the season starts in April with bedding plants and goes through October with a huge Pumpkin Festival.
During the season, we can be reached at (815) 338-4343.
Glen Oosterhoff is a third generation flower farmer at Richard Oosterhoff & Son. Along with his children Erica, John and Rachel (representing the fourth generation of their family at the farm) the family grows about 40 acres of flowers in the field and another 20,000 square feet in greenhouses and shade houses. The Oosterhoff's only grow flowers and sell their plants and flowers weekly at nine farmers' markets from spring through fall. They also provide plants and fresh flowers to garden centers, florists and wholesale florists throughout Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
Varieties of products include: potted annuals and perennials, Gladiolus, Lilies, tuberoses, mixed bouquets, Lisianthus, Asters, Zinnias, Sunflowers, Celosia, Eucalyptus and more. Some of the most popular items the Oosterhoff's sell include Gladiolus and both potted and cut Lilies (fragrant and fragrance-free!). Market patrons also enjoy Fragrant Mexican Tuberoses (in season from July through frost), and in the spring, an excellent variety of assorted perennials.
More than 10 years of experience have honed Dave Nells’ sharpening skills. He took up the craft at the suggestion of a family member who thought he could maintain her shears better than other people she had tried, and that he could even make a career of it. Dave has done so and now just about anything with a blade can be improved by his talent. He and his wife, Amanda, are fixtures at many Chicago area farmers markets. Home cooks and personal chefs bring their knives to him regularly. In addition, Dave and Amanda sharpen equipment for stylists, pet groomers, landscapers and Amanda is especially “a pro at gardening tools.”
Z Baking baked its first loaf of bread on May 1, 2008. We have over 80 years of experience. Our bread is the result of our commitment to making the highest quality bread with the most reliable service. The gentle shaping of each of our loaves, long periods for fermentation, and an artisan deck oven, all work to create outstanding breads. We use only the best, all-natural ingredients, with no preservatives. In May, 2010, we received our AIB certification.
Z Bakery decided to join the Deerfield Farmers Market for fun, enjoyment, and to provide our local community with the best bread. We come to the farmers market with smiles on our faces and are surrounded by friends and family that come back week after week to see us. Z Baking is a wholesale distribution company so being at farmers markets provides the public with an opportunity to buy the bread that they love and enjoy at their favorite restaurants.