Homemade, homegrown products to return for the summer in McHenry County farmers markets

Woodstock Farmers Market kicks off summer season while some other McHenry County markets to open in June

By the end of opening day at the Woodstock Farmers Market Saturday, at least eight vendors were completely sold out, a pick-me-up many local vendors needed after a hard year, a market spokeswoman said.

The Woodstock Farmers Market is one of a handful of markets returning for the upcoming season after a yearlong financial hardship for some of their vendors. Crystal Lake Farmers Market and Crystal Lake’s brand new Open Air Farmers Market+ will follow in early June.

The award-winning Woodstock farmers market began its summer season Saturday, said Amy Fowler, its social media and marketing coordinator.

“Opening day was phenomenal. 10 times better than last season. People not only came out, but they came to buy stuff and support our local vendors. At least 8 vendors sold out completely,” Fowler said in an email. “In talking with the vendors, we all agreed we really needed a day like that. After the struggles last year, it certainly lifted spirits and gave us hope for the upcoming season. Just plain heartwarming.”

The market added seven new vendors this year, now offering 48 to browse on the Historic Woodstock Square, Fowler said. Added to the list was Holzlager Brewery, located right in town. The local craft brewery was joined by elk meat supplier, Golden Bear Elk, and five others.

Local farmers are some of the most popular vendors, Fowler said. Among those returning will be Von Bergen’s Country Market of Hebron and Van Laar’s Fruit Farm of Capron.

Downtown Crystal Lake will host its farmers market starting June 5. Set to run until Sept. 25, this farmers market will have 12 vendors to choose from.

“I think one of the great things about our farmers market is that we have a mutual benefit between our farmers market and the other downtown businesses,” said Jen Martin, events coordinator for the nonprofit Downtown Crystal Lake. “People come down for the farmers market and then stay and visit other shops and retailers and restaurants.”

The farmers market benefits the community as a whole, Martin said. It has been able to keep some businesses afloat, including Rosie’s Gluten Free Sweets.

The farmers market helped out Rosie’s Gluten Free Sweets tremendously, owner Pamela Strelcheck said. The total farmer’s market sales for last year was about $10,000.

After COVID-19, the bakery – which is dedicated to gluten- and peanut-free baked goods – had to open up to retail, Strelcheck said. After taking a hard hit, the wholesale was not making enough to keep it in business.

The bakery sells its pastries in different coffee shops, including Aroma Coffee & Wine in Crystal Lake, Grounds Coffee Bar in Crystal Lake, Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters in all four locations, and more as well across the border in Wisconsin.

“A lot of people say you can’t tell the difference. You would never know it’s gluten-free, and they ask me what’s the secret. I always say I make it with a lot of love,” Strelcheck said.

Customers were encouraged to pre-order and pick up the day of, but extras were available to buy on the spot as well. However, they sell out quickly, Strelcheck said.

Two new vendors, Teshuva Fields and Joe + Dough, plan to join the Crystal Lake market this year.

Teshuva Fields, located at 624 Leonard Parkway in Crystal Lake, has been in business for a year. Owners Elaina and Garrett Fales offer local fresh-cut flowers from their farm.

They act as a wholesaler for florists around the area but also welcome customers to their farm to pick their own flowers.

“We just love doing farmers markets and little things on the side,” Elaina Fales said.

Although it’s the business’s first year with Crystal Lake, Teshuva Fields operated a booth in Barrington the year before for a couple of days. The customer base in Crystal Lake has been built and the farm expects a good turnout during the market.

This year, Crystal Lake and the surrounding community get a second chance to attend a farmers market. The Dole is hosting its first-ever Open Air Farmers Market+. Manager Linda Wozniak currently is in the process of arranging the weekly Sunday event which will kick off on June 6.

The farmers market will have live music, vendors, a bar, food trucks, and hopes to work as another place for the community to gather.

“In anticipation of being approved by the city, we’ve been working on contacting vendors, getting our website set up, getting flyers created, reaching out to musicians, and getting everything ready for June 6,” Wozniak said.

There’s a lot of excitement, Wozniak said. Vendors especially have been excited.

Vendors contacted Open Air Farmers Market+ to get an open spot in the market, she said. The approval process is ongoing and no vendor names have been announced, but the market will have between 25 and 30 booths.

“Our goal is to create a relaxing Sunday experience where our friends and families and neighboring communities can come to shop, relax and listen to music and have some food and drinks,” Wozniak said.

In addition to shopping, local farmers markets will offer other activities – such as craft projects for kids at the downtown Crystal Lake market and live music and story time for children at Woodstock’s.

“It’s great to see the families that come every week,” Martin said. “We are so excited to see them, and they get excited to see us. It’s very much like a hometown setting, and I think we’re quite lucky to have this in our town.”

Woodstock also offers a virtual market, which began last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I ran weekly events on Facebook. We had a really hard time when [COVID-19] hit,” Fowler said.

At the time, the market was held at McHenry County Fairgrounds. Some residents wanted to close it down because of COVID-19, Fowler said.

“We have a hard time having people understand what a farmers market really is. They were fine with Jewel being open, but they wanted the farmers market shut down.”

The virtual market gave options to those who felt more comfortable buying local without having to be at the site, Fowler said. It will remain as a permanent tool for the market’s website.

Many individuals are anxious to get out after a pandemic, and a safe way to do so can be by attending some of these farmers markets, Fowler said.

All three farmers markets require their customers to mask up, social distance and follow to public health guidelines.

If you go

The Woodstock Farmers Market is located at the Historic Square. It currently is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and will expand to Tuesdays with the same hours starting June 1. The market will be open weekly through Sept. 28.

For information, go to woodstockfarmersmarket.org.

The Crystal Lake Farmers Market is located at Depot Park downtown. It will open on June 5 and run 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until Sept. 25.

For information, go to downtowncl.org/annual-events/farmers-market.

Open Air Farmers Market+ at The Dole in Crystal Lake opens June 6. It will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday until Sept. 26.

For information, go to www.farmersmarketatthedole.org.

Carina Lopez

Carina Lopez working as a reporter for the Northwest Herald as part of a spring 2021 intern. She is currently also reporting for the Royal Purple at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Carina has a year of professional experience in the media industry. She is a local in the McHenry County area and enjoys community events.