Farmers Market
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To Market We Will Go

Fresh produce abounds at Chesterton's European Market

Fresh produce abounds at Chesterton’s European Market.

Abbondanza! The Italian word for abundance and wealth comes to mind as I stroll farmers markets. Who doesn’t feel abundance and wealth with a sack of green in hand? Today my green includes zucchini and cucumbers. No labels or wax. Fresh from the farm, where great meals begin.

One of the area’s largest—in variety and bounty—farmers markets is Chesterton’s European Market. “The name European Market came about because we intended to create a place to buy not only fresh produce and baked goods, but also find cheeses and wines, arts, fair-trade goods and more,” says Allyson Baughman, market manager. What started out as a handful of vendors has become 92 vendors. “We’re actually sold out now. Completely booked,” Allyson says.

The full house includes Ron and Mary Brooks of R&M Sunrise Apiaries in Portage. For the past 10 years as R&M, the couple has been keeping up to 100 beehives in Porter County, selling honey at markets and directly to local restaurants. “People love honey in their tea, their barbecue sauce or just plain old peanut butter and honey,” Ron says. I like his strategy for avoiding stings. “I try to handle the bees on good weather days when they’re out working,” he says.

Ron Brooks of R&M Sunrise Apiaries

Ron Brooks of R&M Sunrise Apiaries

Another regular vendor is J&J Organic Farm in Kouts; they offer pesticide-free produce in 11 grocery markets and to restaurants. Owner and farmer Andy Vasquez prides himself on his natural approach to farming everything from asparagus to zucchini. “If it didn’t come from the Great Spirit, don’t put it in Mother Earth is the philosophy behind our family farm. We also like to say that we offer organic produce; not organic prices,” he says with a grin.

I also love the European Market for gourmet vinegars and oils from Good to Go by Chesterton’s own Lucrezia Cafe. This time I choose an olive oil infused with cilantro and roasted onion for a vinaigrette.

A market patron admires a necklace from Jewels in Bloom

A market patron admires a necklace from Jewels in Bloom.

You can find specialty cheeses, coffees, wines, plants, fresh flowers, art and more from vendors from Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. I search unsuccessfully for a letter K among the vintage typewriter key charms at the Jewels in Bloom display by Valparaiso artist Jenni Holm. “It’s one of the first to sell out,” Jenni says. I’m more successful with my search for lunch, enjoying a wood-fired margherita pizza at the Homestead food truck.

I catch Carly Bachman, 6, sharing her Italian ice with sister Natalie, 2. The fresh market concept brings out the best in all of us.

Carly and Natalie Bachman enjoy some Italian ice

Carly and Natalie Bachman enjoy some Italian ice.

Freelance writer Kim Ranegar lives in Valparaiso and keeps an empty shopping bag in her trunk for farmers market shopping.