Mauricio Avila of Flossmoor, right, chooses a loaf of bread from artisan baker Michael Browne of Bee Bread Baking. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
Local News

Farmers’ market opens to blue skies and happy vibes

Janet Hernandez, in orange shirt, chooses produce at the Six Generations Farm stand as her daughter Sonia watches over her shoulder. (Randall Weissman/H-F Chronicle)
Janet Hernandez, in orange shirt, chooses produce at the Six Generations Farm stand as her daughter Sonia watches over her shoulder. (Randall Weissman/H-F Chronicle)

The energy generated by happy anticipation of the opening day of any event never gets old, and for the 41st time, Homewood’s Summer Farmer’s Market didn’t disappoint. It opened its 2023 season on Saturday, May 27, to perfect weather, enthusiastic shoppers, and a welcoming community vibe. 

Janet Hernandez of Homewood and her daughter Sonia, who was visiting from Louisville, Kentucky, were among the first customers in the market.

“I’m so excited about the market reopening for the season,” Hernandez said after buying fruit from Luccio del Gado at the Six Generations Farm kiosk. “It means I’m going to get great, fresh produce for the rest of the summer.”

Displays of everything from vibrantly fresh vegetables to mouth watering baked goods to silver jewelry lined both sides of the Martin Avenue market space, enticing shoppers to linger.

  • Morgan Snedden and her husband Josh produce gorgeous greens at their farm, Fox at the Fork, in Monee. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
    Morgan Snedden and her husband Josh produce gorgeous greens at their farm, Fox at the Fork, in Monee. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)

At one station, first-time vendor Jonnie Barnes Sanford was putting out her colorful display of creatively designed aprons, pet neckerchiefs, and bow ties — each with a whimsical design and each made by hand. Barnes said her sewing business started during the COVID pandemic when she used her skills to make facemasks. 

“As that wound down, I was looking for something to keep the business going,” she said, “and I tried making aprons. That turned out to be the answer.” 

In fact, the first apron she sold Saturday was a Chicago Bears design.

“Organic” seemed to be the operative word of the day with several vendors displaying produce grown without pesticides, sourdough bread baked by hand, honey from backyard hives, candles made at home from soy and natural fragrances, hand-pressed juice blends, and cookies from home ovens.

At the Fox at the Fork Farm stand, “Farmer Morgan” explained how she and husband Josh Snedden, a Homewood native and Homewood-Flossmoor High School alum, ditched their post-college careers to start an organic farm in Monee. 

“It feels like a full circle for Josh,” Morgan said. “This is our third season in business, and we love it.”

In the adjacent space, Veronica Tortorello of Taproot Farms explained that the broccoli and other microgreens they grow in Tinley Park via a vertical growing system pack 40 times the nutrients of a mature vegetable. 

Michael Browne, an engineer and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, moonlights as a baker/beekeeper. The proprietor of Bee Bread Baking, Browne said he has been baking bread since 2018. 

When he opened his stand Saturday, he had been up since 4 a.m. baking loaves for the market.  Despite the early hours, he said he loves baking because “There is something mechanical about it. There is a science to it.”

Meanwhile, market-goers were treated to music by guitarist Dominic Ruffalo, whose dad is from Homewood. Ruffalo said he enjoys playing at farmers’ markets, but that his real passion is restoring and repairing guitars. 

“Anything with strings, actually,” he said. He said he acquired his skills at the Galloup School of Lutherie in Big Rapids, Michigan, and that it is a trade he loves and one that allows him to “just enjoy life.” 

While all the vendors who participated in Saturday’s market clearly enjoy and believe in their crafts, it was two workplace friends whose start-up story epitomized the joy of taking the big leap to do what you love.     

Wendy Jacob and Rachel Bauer of Joliet work in recreation and fitness in Mokena and making natural, soy-based candles is their “side job.” 

Rachel said it all started when “One day Wendy came to me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to start a candle company?’” They did, and 40life Candles was born. Today the co-workers make candles in their kitchens and think up names for the candles based on natural scents they use in the process. “It’s just so much fun,” Wendy said.

News by email

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name

Free weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name
Most read stories this week