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It's farmers market season again in Riverside and Brookfield, with each operation continuing to add new and varied vendors.
The Brookfield Farmers Market began its 2012 season last Saturday in its traditional location in the parking lot of Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave. The market, which marks its fifth anniversary, is held every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October.
"I think on the whole the emphasis has been about not only being a natural market but a community gathering place," said Patricia Weber, the market manager.
This year the market plays host to more than 20 vendors and includes new offerings, such as meat and cheese from Nickels Distribution, produce from Jeffrey Farms and pickled specialties from That Pickle Guy, as well as returning favorites like Chuck "Eggman" Barman from Swingbelly's, produce from Hardin Farms' orchards, and honey from Dennanne Farms.
In addition to the fresh produce, which is the centerpiece of the market, fresh-cut flowers and plants, natural granola, brownies and baked desserts, sweets, bread, salsas, sauces, soups, coffee, natural soaps and dog treats are for sale.
The market has grown through the years from drawing 200-300 people each Saturday to bringing in more than 850 on some weeks last year.
"We hope to grow and bring to the attention of people going to the market what's out there," said Weber. "People always look forward to it because they love the ambiance and the mix of people. And I love the fact that we're drawing in an educational component and drawing in the community."
The Brookfield Public Library on Saturday was signing up people for their summer reading program and will return weekly for storytimes and other events. There is also live music on a weekly basis.
Another change this year is a sponsorship campaign, which was rolled out to help cover expenses for the growing market. Each sponsor has the opportunity to pass out materials and meet market-goers personally.
Last Saturday, for example, Route 66 Aquaponics was at the market demonstrating how to grow organic herbs indoors.
Riverside market doubles in size
While the Brookfield Farmers Market has been steadily growing since its debut in the fall of 2008, Riverside's market in 2012 has simply exploded.
After hosting about a dozen vendors in 2011, the Riverside Farmers Market - now 24 vendors strong - will already be spilling out of its space in the parking lot next to the Riverside Public Library and onto the sidewalk along Burling and Riverside roads when it kicks off on Wednesday, June 13, from 2:30 to 7 p.m.
Just a year ago, the market was teetering on the brink of extinction. But it gained momentum throughout last summer, growing from a half dozen to roughly 12 vendors by the end of the season. With a cadre of nine volunteers working on the market since last year, it appears to be stronger than ever.
More than 400 people responded to an online survey and that information was used to recruit vendors that respondents said they wanted - cheese, more variety in produce and mushrooms.
"In know several vendors are really excited about coming back because it's a place where people care about them and their products," said Cathy Haley, the market manager.
Returning favorites this year are Farmer Nick's (meat/eggs), Lyons Fruit Farm, Wild Sands Farm and Primo Pizza. Coming in for the first time is a Montalbano Farms, which will have a varied selection of produce; Countryside Produce, an Amish farm selling vegetables, fruit and jams; River Valley Mushrooms; and Roedger Brothers, which specializes in frozen blueberries.
Also participating for the first time is Riverside Foods, which will be the market's cheese vendor.
"We're very excited to have Riverside Foods participate," Haley said. "The top item people who took the survey said they wanted was cheese."