Chicago may not be farmland, but farmers far and wide from Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan travel to the windy city to sell their produce at the Lincoln Square Farmers Market. Located on Chicago’s north side, the market is known for vegan empanadas and offers a sizeable plant-based influence. Two times a week, market-goers flock to and fill up vendor tents finding nutritious and quality foods. The market is open Tuesday mornings May through November and Thursday evenings May through October.
Joey Thurman: Light sprinkle. Heavy pour. Rain fuels the earth. We're here today in Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois at a farmers market, and how fitting is it that, without the rain, we wouldn't have all these amazing plants? And there's an evolution going on at the farmer's market with the types of vendors. Let's check them out.
I'm Joey Thurman at the Lincoln square farmer's market. I'm here with Nicole Benjamin and Nicole, what is it that you do for Lincoln square?
Nicole Benjamin: I'm the director of special events here at the Lincoln Square Ravenswood chamber of commerce and part of that is we host two farmer's markets from May through November and I oversee that. I have our contracted market manager who basically tackles all the day to day and creates our lineup of amazing farms and vendors.
Joey Thurman: We have breads, tomatoes, I mean, there's honey. There's all sorts of things and it's amazing how people will show up even in the rain, because they must love the farmer's markets.
Nicole Benjamin: Sour cherries, blueberries, and black raspberries are new today.
Joey Thurman: I hear black raspberries are a hot commodity.
Nicole Benjamin: Yes, yes they are.
Joey Thurman: How many vendors do you normally have in a typical day?
Nicole Benjamin: We typically have between both markets about 40, but our market manager, Elsa does a great job with filling in gaps with some great pop-up vendors. We have a new one on the other side today, so knew that he doesn't have any social media, but he has some great fermented mustards and vinegars.
Joey Thurman: I see a lot of plant-based companies here and it's really nice to have that option of being able to eat plants, whether you're vegan or thinking about just adding more plants into your life.
Nicole Benjamin: Truly. Yeah. We have some plant-based focused vendors like Fonz Empanadas, all they do are plant-based empanadas, but we also have some vendors who have value added stuff. The urban canopy works with river valley ranch who provides them with meatless burgers, mushrooms.
Joey Thurman: Plant-based empanadas. That's something that you generally don't hear. Of what stands out with your product?
Daniel Briceno: It's been a great journey since we started cause the plant-based empanada as there is something that I wanted to create. I'm from South America, Venezuela. So we just wanted to bring these in a different way nowadays. I've been vegetarian since I was born. So the plant-based stuff here you get so many options where you can get textures and flavors out of natural sources. So that's mainly our focus. Then besides that, we went into focus on the diversity, that includes different cultural flavors from around the world. So we did a patchwork of all of them and they are all naturally colored as well. That's our mission to make people aware that they can get great textures and flavors just eating plant based and natural sources are lined up with that assumption.
Joey Thurman: Are you noticing more and more people coming to it as the word gets out about your product?
Daniel Briceno: Yes. Thank God. He's just been super amazing every day. We're getting busier and also other people that are used to hearing on social media or some TV shows or things that are happening in storefront, and they started coming and once they try them, they become regulars, which is super nice too.
Joey Thurman: Amazing. What's your favorite, your go-to, your number one seller?
Daniel Briceno: Well, we do have, as I said, a patchwork of different cultural flavors. So we do have 90 friends and I feel like the one that it stopped will be the smokiness corn and garlic mushrooms. It is made in this finished dough. And ain't tall so the Tinga is the Mexican culture is very relevant here. So the Tinga is a Mexican flavor. It's made of jackfruit instead of the chicken and it's the regular Tinga. And that one is one of the top as well.
Joey Thurman: We're at the farmer's market. I'm here with Kyle Jacobson of Jacobson farms county. Thanks for being here.
Kyle Jacobson: Of course. Thanks for having me now.
Joey Thurman: What makes your farm stand apart?
Kyle Jacobson: Yeah, I mean, I think it's all about the soil at Jacobson family farms. Last year I think we brought in about 25 semi-truck loads of organic compost. So we're coming in, putting in, you know, a good six to eight inches of compost on top of all of our permanent raised beds. That does a couple of things, adds a lot of fertility because we don't do any deep tillage, where we're a no till farm, right? So deep tillage, inverts soil layers, destroys soil ecology. And that's what allows us to grow very nutrient dense produce and products for our customers.
Joey Thurman: How many different products do you have at any given time?
Kyle Jacobson: Well, we grow about 75 different varieties of vegetables on the farm. We do have some apples, we have pears, we have peaches, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, a lot of micro greens. And then, we do pasture raised chicken, both broilers and layers.
Joey Thurman: What are you excited about in your industry going forward?
Kyle Jacobson: Well, so for us at the farm it's, it's actually, we're not trying to get bigger, we're trying to get a little bit smaller and tighten things up and, the way that we're able to do that is growing, going under plastic, growing in greenhouses.
Joey Thurman: Where can people find more about the Lincoln square farmer's market?
Nicole Benjamin: They can go to Lincolnsquare.org is our website and we have a farmer's market under our event tab, or they can look at our Instagram, @LSRCC_Chicago, and just see all our beautiful photos and more info about our vendors.
Joey Thurman: Beautiful. Beautiful photos, Instagram, eating plants, Nicole, thank you very much.
Nicole Benjamin: Thank you.