The Brookfield Farmers Market was voted number one in Illinois for as part of America’s Farmers Market Celebration, an award given by the American Farmland Trust.
The farmers market also took second place in the Midwest and fourth place nationally out of 2,000 contestants.
Gina Sharenow is the marketing manager for the farmers market. Sharenow said she was thrilled when she heard the news that the farmers market won first place in Illinois.
“It was pure excitement. We celebrated with the community by giving patrons free popcorn at our booth. We also had balloons and we decorated,” Sharenow said.
Since its inception in 2006, the Brookfield Farmers Market has been organized by the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, which has long been a mainstay in the neighborhood.
Every Saturday from the first weekend in June through the second week in October, the market is held in the parking lot of Village Hall and is sponsored by the Village of Brookfield.
Each week farmers, artists, and entertainers come together to serve the community in the market. Market attendees have the chance to buy local produce and goods, as well as interact with local artisans and enjoy music while catching up with friends.
The market experienced measurable growth in 2023.
“This year we have doubled in size hosting 40 plus vendors per week with a rotation of 80 vendors throughout our season,” Sharenow said.
The market created a new teen committee with the assistance of Riverside-Brookfield High School to work on the market’s overall development. The teens in this committee were able to sell some of their items all while learning different business principles.
“When I took over as the marketing manager, it was a big step, and I created the teen committee. I incorporated a young entrepreneur tent to sell their items. They paid a $5 fee to sell their items and they were able to make a profit,” Sharenow said.
A new program also was developed for young musicians that gave them a weekly opportunity to perform in front of an audience.
“Young musicians perform so they can get experience with performing and to get their name out there,” Sharenow said.
Sharenow said she created these opportunities to build community and bring the younger generation to step out of their norms and comfort zone by creating an environment that gives the teens exposure.
Sharenow stressed the importance of community.
“The market is on village property. They are open to having us there and working with us. The police department works with us on making sure people are safe in this market,” Sharenow said.
Village members and the police are present and interact with the community members attending the market.
“We have volunteers from business owners for people who want to volunteer and help out at the market. It takes a village to do that, and people step forward to make this market happen,” Sharenow said.
Sharenow added that this incredible recognition is shared by the village, the police department, the market committee, the sponsors and the volunteers who they could not do without.
“This is an inspiration for all of us to continue to grow the market for ourselves and the local communities to enjoy in 2024 and beyond,” Sharenow said.
The market is looking to grow next year by adding a scholarship program for the teen committee. Also, two people are retiring from the adult committee and the market is looking for fresh new faces.
In terms of the community response, the market has received lots of praise.
“It is a great honor for me being the first year we competed in this. It is definitely motivating. It also brings awareness to our community and vendors. It is a promotion to all the local businesses that partake in the market,” Sharenow said.