Ramona Smith busily turned out piece after piece of avocado toast Saturday morning at the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market.
But if avocado is not your cup of tea (or rather, your topping for bread), you could have gotten grilled cheese on a huge piece of toast, or topped your toast with homemade strawberry jam.
Smith’s business, Mima’s Toast Bar, is one of seven new merchants among the 55 or so vendors selling produce, plants, cheese, or food such as sandwiches at the market, which opened Saturday morning at 7:30.
Despite some rain and overcast skies, market manager Myra Gorman surveyed the crowd, and predicted that by closing time at 1 p.m., attendance would top the usual average of 5,000-7,000 shoppers per Saturday.
“Even if it was pouring today,” Gorman told Evanston Now, “we’d still get people because the market symbolizes the change from winter to spring.”
Ramona Smith started her Toast Bar three years ago. She was making chocolate in a bakery in Naperville, when the owner “asked me if I would make avocado toast.”
Now, Mima’s Toast Bar is making the rounds of several Chicago area farmers markets, and will be at the Evanston event every week.
If Mima’s was a new business, there were also new customers exploring the market.
Britta Schnieder and her husband Thilo Herzog are originally from Germany, and live now in Chicago.
The couple came to Evanston to get a picture framed.
“We saw the sign about the market,” Schneider said. “They also told us about it at the framing place,” so the pair took the short walk to the market location at University and Oak.
While there are, of course, farmers’ markets in Germany, “American markets are better,” Herzog said. “More things seem to be home grown or home made.”
And as the season progresses, there will be even more home grown items. Some of the 29 farmers who have stalls won’t show up until after harvesting their produce in the summer or fall.
The only negative was some complaints about the potholed-and-patched parking lot where the market is held.
One customer said that her elderly mother, who was with her, “loves the market,” but it’s challenging to navigate the lot for someone who uses a walker.
And, said the customer, who did not want to give her name, “it’s getting worse.”
The parking lot is owned by Northwestern University, not by the City of Evanston. So any potential upgrading would probably have to be some sort of joint project, and it may seem hard to justify such an expense, when the market only uses the lot one day a week for half the year.
Despite that one downside, there’s no question that the Farmers’ Market is a huge draw.
It was even open in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, in May, 2020.
People “stood in line to get in,” Gorman recalled, “but they stood eight feet apart.”
No need to worry about that now. The market is open every Saturday through Nov. 4.
And just about everyone who shows up will likely agree with Britta Schneider, who said “I love farmers’ markets.”