DeKalb Farmers Market gears up for June return

All about community: Vendors talk success of downtown farmers market, benefits to vendors and patrons

The owner of Slow Smoke BBQ & Catering Dan Dietz, seated alongside DeKalb Chamber of Commerce employee Virginia Filicetti and Country Financial agent Gavin Wilson, talks about his experiences as a vendor at various farmers' markets in northern Illinois during a hybrid Brown Bag Lunch and Local Lore series event hosted at the Ellwood House Museum on May 2, 2024.

DeKALB – A panel of DeKalb Farmers Market stakeholders recently said the weekly summertime event is an opportunity for residents to find fresh food, support small business and enjoy community.

The May hybrid Brown Bag Lunch and Local Lore series at the Ellwood House Museum included a panel discussion between the market organizer, a well-known vendor and a vendor who’s become a market sponsor about how they’ve found value in the summertime tradition.

The DeKalb Farmers Market will be held from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. every Thursday starting June 6 through Sept. 19 in the Van Buer Plaza at the corner of Second and Locust streets in downtown DeKalb.

Dan Dietz, owner of Slow Smoke BBQ & Catering, 265 W. Peace Road, No. 102, Sycamore, said his family operates a food truck at the DeKalb Farmers Market on a weekly basis. He said he provides “good food, timely” to market patrons, but he also appreciates the fresh produce farmers markets are known for.

“Being able to get stuff fresh that’s locally grown, there’s just nothing better. If you want to make sure that your health is the most important thing and you’re eating the best, you’ve got to buy local,” Dietz said.

DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Marketing and Events Manager Virginia Filicetti has organized the DeKalb Farmers Market since 2019. She said the market averages about 25 vendors and has live music thanks to the Egyptian Theatre.

Gavin Wilson used to be one of those more than two dozen vendors. The co-owner of the former Hillside Restaurant was known for selling pies but now he’s known as a Country Financial agent, whose office, 213 E. Locust St., is walking distance from Van Buer Plaza.

“It’s actually my No. 1 source of new business, and it’s my responsibility to maintain my current customers and it’s my No. 1 random way of seeing my current customers,” Wilson said. “That’s why I started sponsoring it because it’s bringing me, I’d say above average amount of exposure just being out in the community.”

Wilson owned the now closed Hillside Restaurant in DeKalb from 1989 until 2023, and said he’s happy to no longer be laboring over his pies, although he said he often gets requests to return his pie booth to the market. He said he’s proud of his involvement in the market, both as a vendor and a sponsor, but said DeKalb Chamber of Commerce is the reason the market persists.

“The reason the market is so successful is because we have a really good Chamber of Commerce, so I’m proud of my connection and being an ambassador,” Wilson said.

Ellwood House Curator of Education and Interpretation Aubrey King moderated a panel discussion between DeKalb County Farmer's Market stakeholders Dan Dietz, Virginia Filicetti and Gavin Wilson on May 2, 2024, inside the Ellwood House Museum.

Filicetti said there are aspects of the DeKalb Farmers Market she’s particularly proud of, including the fact the market allows consumers to use an Illinois Link Card. The card is issued to anyone receiving cash assistance or is a part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Usually you can only use those at a grocery store, you can only buy certain items with them, and it’s not as easily accessible for customers with a Link card to go to a farmers market and get local produce,” Filicetti said. “A couple of years ago we signed up for the program and now anyone with a Link card can purchase produce and other eligible items at the market from local vendors. So not only are the Link customers getting fresh local produce, but the vendors are also gaining income from their purchases.”

Ellwood House Curator of Education and Interpretation Aubrey King asks Dan Dietz, the owner of Slow Smoke BBQ & Catering; Virginia Filicetti, with DeKalb Chamber of Commerce; and Gavin Wilson, a former restaurateur turned insurance agent questions about the DeKalb Farmers' Market on May 2, 2024.

Filicetti said that’s a “win-win” for local vendors and consumers, but the efforts to help food insecure individuals don’t stop there. DeKalb Farmers Market offers a Link card match program. Customers who tell someone at the market’s information booth that they’re spending $25 on a Link card will receive an additional $25 to spend on more Link card eligible items.

“They can get $50 worth of produce for just $25, so again they get more fresh produce, healthier foods and the vendor gains more income,” Filicetti said. “We’re allowed to do that through a grant program through the state and, again, it’s a win-win for everyone involved and it is a large draw to our market.”

Camden Lazenby

Camden Lazenby

Camden Lazenby covers DeKalb County news for the Daily Chronicle.