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Treml: 13 secrets about farmers markets

The Sycamore Farmers Market, located at the corner of State and Sacramento streets, is open from 3 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday, June through September.
The Sycamore Farmers Market, located at the corner of State and Sacramento streets, is open from 3 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday, June through September.

Sycamore’s Farmers Market supports dozens of local and regional farmers, bakers, winemakers, artisans and more, representing multiple counties across Illinois and Wisconsin, who find success connecting their sustainable farms to the Sycamore community.

Our vendors offer fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, flowers, pastries, breads, homemade pet treats and so much more. The market also features live music and specialty dinner options.

Sycamore Farmers Market is open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Tuesday, June through September, at the corner of State and Sacramento streets.

Originally published in Reader’s Digest, here are 13 secrets about farmers markets everywhere.

1. How to save money and get the freshest food possible – from the people who grow it.

It’s best to get to our market early.

2. Many farmers depend on you to survive.

Farmers count on the income from markets to get by; nearly all who participate in open markets run very small operations, and the profit margin is slim.

3. If you spend $100 at a farmers market, $62 goes back into the local economy and $99 out of $100 stays in the state.

If you spend $100 at a grocery store, only $25 stays here. So, where do you want your money to go?

4. Not sure? Ask to taste before buying.

Almost all farmers are happy to provide a sample.

5. Please stop saying how expensive it is.

Local farm products would sell for much more in any specialty store, where there would be additional overhead costs and markups.

6. Farmers don’t do deals.

With the very thin margins, the prices are often incredibly fair and there’s no room for bargaining. The best way to get a good deal? Be a consistent customer.

7. It’s not really about retail sales.

It’s about cultivating a relationship with people who are willing to spend a little bit more for something a whole lot better.

8. Standing out in the summer sun is nice, but the job isn’t easy.

Up early, loading trucks with heavy produce, being mindful of money, home late. Plus, when it rains, customers stay away and bad weather can easily damage products.

9. Sometimes, produce vendors are only retailers, not growers.

Ask questions if you think the vendor is a vegetable wholesaler, not a local farmer.

10. Farmers care about where the products are coming from.

Larger vendors may have a retail outlet, or be part of a franchise or chain business. Ask.

11. You can’t get everything all the time.

To offer the freshest, best-tasting food at a reasonable price, you have to be patient with the farmers and their growing cycles. There are seasons when certain produce isn’t available (even in California). No peaches in January, sure, but even in some regions, no summer tomatoes until late July.

12. Watch for buzzwords: natural, specialty, estate, artisan, local and organic.

Some farmers that will say their produce is organic, but in order to say that they must be certified by an organic agency, and undergo an inspection. You can always ask to see their organic certification. Most organic farmers are proud to display organic certification.

13. The internet has changed farm life for better.

Customers from all over can keep connected to farm sites and Facebook pages, and can join mailing lists to hear about special crops, prices, CSA lists and more.

Life just plain tastes better when it’s fresh from our farmers market.

Sources: Nancy Gammons of Four Sisters Farm and Watsonville Farmers Market; Ersilia Moreno, owner of Olive Oil of the World; Adriana Silva, owner of Tomatero Organic Farm,; and Mark Santoro, owner of Gaia’s Breath Farm.

• RoseMarie Treml is executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce.

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