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DeKalb County farmers selling harvest at many local markets

Barb Pondelick of Sycamore plants zucchini Tuesday in a field at her parents' farm in Maple Park. Produce from the family-owned Theis Farm II is sold at a farmers market in Aurora.
Barb Pondelick of Sycamore plants zucchini Tuesday in a field at her parents' farm in Maple Park. Produce from the family-owned Theis Farm II is sold at a farmers market in Aurora.

Barb Pondelick has no problem staying busy during the summer.

While running her family’s store at Theis Farm II, 6N953 County Line Road in Maple Park, she sneaks into the fields in between customers to get planting done for the upcoming farmers markets.

The list of items Theis Farm offers continues to grow this time of year as she prepares to sell her harvest in Aurora, Genoa, DeKalb and Sycamore throughout the summer.

“It’s just a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation that people don’t necessarily think about,” she said.

Pondelick is among several local farmers, businesses and community members who will set up shop at DeKalb County’s farmers markets in the coming weeks. The three area farmers markets will host about 75 vendors combined this season.

Farmers markets have gained popularity over the years as many people are becoming more conscious of where their food comes from and just how healthy it is.

“The pendulum is kind of swinging back in favor of farm stands,” Pondelick said. “It is nice to see we are starting to be appreciated more.”

Lindsey Engelsman, who coordinates DeKalb’s annual market through Re:New DeKalb, said she also has noticed a trend of more people shopping through local farmers. With every national food recall, Engelsman said, people are becoming more aware of what they are consuming.

“Knowing what field that melon came out of and who picked it ... there’s a little bit more peace of mind when you’re going to purchase those vegetables,” she said.

DeKalb’s market will accept debit, credit and Illinois Link cards for the first time this year. The new payment program will give more community members healthy food options, Engelsman said.

Carol Wright, a Wildtree Herbs distributor from the Waukegan area, is a strong advocate for healthier eating, which is why she is excited to sell the business’ grapeseed oil at her first Sycamore farmers market this year.

Wright said the oil is her top seller because it is a healthy alternative to use when cooking. Local shoppers will be able to find something good for their diet no matter what they choose at her stand, she said.

“Part of our goal truly is to let people know there are healthy and easy and economical ways to cook,” she said.

One of the many reasons Gene Bradford has been selling produce at his stand at 622 Park Ave. in Genoa for nine years is because he enjoys offering great food at a great value.

Bradford opens his Genoa stand daily during the summer, selling corn and other produce from Yaeger’s Farm Market in DeKalb. He also works in a stand at Genoa Main Street’s monthly open-air market, which begins this weekend.

“I don’t have a lot of spare time,” he said. “But I thrive on the capabilities of being able to be a good salesman and provide the public with high-quality items at a fair price.”

Lauren Diehl, director of Discover Sycamore, which hosts the city’s weekly farmers market, said the markets benefit vendors, customers and the communities hosting them.

“It gets people shopping local and supporting local farms,” she said. “Our community is built upon farmers, so it’s important to support what we’re built upon.”

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